Tim Dixon’s book The Clansman reads like ‘a shadow’ that opens ‘a long lost door’ into the soul of a nation. This is a story that gives the reader an opportunity to better understand the complex factors that would follow the Civil war and the base pychologies that would play a role in shaping the ‘vibrational nature’ of post Reconstruction time era. Yet the heart of this novel gives insight into the aesthetic ‘disposition’ of genesis American culture- and the reader is spared nothing. From a distance of almost one hundred years Mr. Dixon’s story can still evoke emotional reaction and intensity. The thrust of his story takes the reader into a time and reality-platform that gives ‘hint’ of the old order and the ‘scent’ of Ante-bellum ‘dreams of splendor’. In the dark recesses of this novel, Dixon seeks to remind his European and American readers of a time of greatness and gentility that is the mythical projection and ’cause of existence’ of the post- colonial extended ‘pure Aryan’ man. His writings begin in the backdrop of a ‘missed opportunity’ (i.e. the loss of the Civil war by the south) and the destruction of American national unity. The Clansman is significant because of its role in extending ( and in some cases clarifying) the dominant motivic themes that would come become axioms for the new resurrected southern identity ( and mythos). This book reads like a call to arms that must have had quite an effect on a regional community that was already in the throngs of economic devastation after the war.
The experience of reading the Clansman would establish six areas of subject focus that gives insight into the ‘vibrational fabric’ of American culture; including 1) the historical backdrop associations Dixon seeks to establish 2) the hint of polarity logic complexities 3) southern honor 4) the image of the ‘Negro’ 5) the image of women and 6) the dynamic implications of extended Christianity. In the first category, the Clansman seeks to establish the relationship between early European Americans and their mother country. Mr. Dixon takes great pain to remind his reader of the spread of various European peoples to the new regions in the new world- and he also establishes a mapping history of various European peoples to different parts of the eastern coastal areas. He most certainly wants the reader to see the extended European groups that came to the American shores as one phonomenon- a movement that left Europe for freedom and exploration (Mr. Dixon really wants the reader to embrace the wonder of composite Europe- the cultures that produce the age of enlightenment- leading to the scientific revolution that brought on the modern era). But the main connection of his novel is reserved for the Scottish Irish settlers who would be the genesis pioneers that explored the eastern middle regions of the country- later moving into the southern areas (i.e.. North and South Carolina, and finally the most brutal state of all, Mississippi). The connections Mr. Dixon seeks to emphasis in this context are the extended implications of the convenant philosophies that developed during the Inquisitions and later Crusades. He mentions for instance the effect of the Calvinist movement and the Catholic Church. He is seeking to connect his vision of Aryan superiority with a notion of divine right. In this regard Mr. Dixon establishes a) a linkage factor into Christan documentation that down grades the image of the African man b) establishes a connection to the language aesthetic of ‘light’ – as in the light of Christanity against paganism c) equates the role of extended southern culture to the fulfilment of Christian dictates ( and the will of the God). The Clansman novel can also be viewed as a consistent structure that encapsulates a ‘docu-drama’ fantasy state that projects a vision that has both political as well as aesthetic dimensions. This literary approach can be viewed as related to the imaginary writings of Frances Bacon, Hermes Trigmagistus and later, Adolf Hitler. The concept of fantasy in this context seeks to lay the ground for an aesthetic and actual response on the phyical universe level. Dixon wants the reader to see his European character as noble elevated people who are really waging a battle among themselves- (and the inhuman treatment of the African American and Native American was a convenient trade-off experience). In this novel, the reader is literally told that the American slavery phenomenon started in the north and was ‘dumped’ on the south. Mr. Dixon has decided to redefine the terms of debate. As a docu-drama fantasy, The Clansman gives an interesting spin between actual and fantasy history. The negative images of Africa and the African man can be traced to the Judea Christian writings that first established the connection between black and sin ( as well as the concept that the Africans can never be trusted). Dixon has picked up on this viewpoint and expanded it.
I found the phenomenon of southern honor to be a primary point of focus throughout the book. Starting in the beginning of the story, the reader is giving a starting fantasy picture that draws ones attention to a world of dynamic loyalty and civility. One would never think of the people from the south as ever having anything to do with slavery in this novel. Dixon writes of his southern characters in a style that had me thinking of the movie ‘Gone With The Wind’. Everyone had such good heart! The readers attention is not directed to the horrors suffered by the Union solders but rather, Dixon immediately targets in on the noble qualities that underlie the southern disposition. Eve knew President Lincoln was a good man- why, he had southern hospitality and kindness ( indeed says she, “he is from the south”. Even Phil, who in the beginning of the novel was not necessarily interested in the ’cause of the south’ would later come to see the southern viewpoint. The phenomenon of southern honor is really the second degree of solidification in this novel ( and this is one of the real points of the book). Because Dixon is really saying that the civil war was a dis-agreement between European American men of different value systems – but at least they were white! Because nothing else really matters if this is not the case. The ‘under-implications’ of Dixon’s argument is that the southern gentleman was an honest merchant done in by unscrupulous northern merchants.
Needless to say Mr. Dixon does not express ‘the cause’ of the early American slaves on any level. It becomes clear after reading this novel for two minutes that Mr. Dixon is a profound racist who seem to see only buffoonery and stupidity whenever the subject of Africa comes up. At least his hatred for African Americans would serve to help him develop a new ‘extended language sensibility’ that suddenly seem to find the ugliest words possible when describing any African American (i.e.. he is consistent, at least I can say that much for him; the word ‘sweating’ seems to flow from his pen whenever any mention of an African American character – or should I write ‘nigger’- appears in the novel. I would have thought that Mr. Dixon’s portrayal of African Americans would have ‘put off’ even southern readers- that this was not the case is even more frightening. And what about African Americans?- let me see. Mr. Dixon establishes a) that African Americans have flat feet(!) b) that African Americans smell primitive (!) c) that African Americans are intellectually inferior to the Europeans ( “haven’t I heard these arguments somewhere before”?) d) that the African man is a savage- he is an animal ( which is interesting, because the complexities of this argument have more to do with the ‘superior human status’ model that Europeans have given to themselves in the Medieval Period- as a species somehow ‘separate from and superior to composite nature and finally e) the reader is given a viewpoint of the African American as a coward and bully; a person who would mis-treat the tenets of the Constitution and instead reap havoc on law and order all over the land. Throughout the book Mr. Dixon paints a horrible picture of the new African man. And we know of course the greatest fear on earth- ( mix marriage – ‘the thought of the European woman being with an African man invokes a ‘raw passion’ that lays underneath the surface psychology of our culture – even though of course, the image of the European man with the African woman is other matter altogether). This vibrational sentiment is not only true for Mr. Dixon’s novel, but in seeking to understand this subject we are staring right at the heart of a ‘major sentiment’ ( I’ll write it that way).
The women in Mr. Dixon’s novel are all saints and goddesses. This is especially the case for the southern women- who are the most beautiful women of all (he tells us). In fact, it is because of the honor of these most special women that the Klan was needed in the first place. Mr. Dixon paints a picture of women of honor – a) women who are happy at home b) women who demonstrate what southern hospitality is all about c) women who are proposed to three and four times a day ( and before the Civil War could go for walks at night without fearing any harm). And of course, these women wouldn’t dare think about marrying any guy unless dad approved- after all, they had their priorities clear. As for the sexual nature of the southern women- well ‘making love’ for them was kissing out back in the woods (at least that’s kind of how Mr. Dixon writes of the dating scene). The sub theme of honor runs through this novel in a most unusual way. For instance, I was taken by the mother’s total understanding of her daughter’s decision to commit suicide because of the rape by an African man ( not to mention that mom herself joined in the act – but at least she was ‘mom’- that is, she had already lived a ‘life’, but what about her daughter?). No, it was a question of honor, by a regional people who the author writes of as ‘the personification’ of honor. As a docu-drama fantasy, I found mr. Dixon’s writing to be very intersting- and ‘after putting my foot in his neck and killing him ( twenty billion times, to start with’), I would then ‘thank him’ very much for his unique approach to literature.