Grant vs. Capt. Keller
- I can't hear the pros and cons of U. S. Grant without hearing in my
mind the scene from the movie THE MIRACLE WORKER (1962,) so I had to
go and rent the movie again and thought I would share a transcription:
Captain Keller, who is quite the unreconstructed Rebel, shall we say,
is having a dinner table conversation with his son James. Cap. Keller
is also pretty much the tyrannical head of household who brooks no
[evidently James tried to say something favorable about Grant]...
JAMES KELLER: " No, but shouldn't we give the Devil his due, Father?
The fact is we lost the South two years earlier when he out-thought us
CAP. KELLER: " Out-thought is a peculiar word for a butcher."
JK: " Harness maker, wasn't he?"
CAP. K.: " I said butcher! His only strength as a soldier was in
numbers; led them to slaughter with no more regard than so many
JK: "But even if in that sense he was a butcher..."
CAP. K.: [cuts him off] " And a drunk, half the war."
JK: " Agreed, Father, if his own people said he was, I can't argue..."
CAP. K.: [cuts him off] " So what is it you find to admire in such a
man, Jimmy? The drunkenness or the butchery?"
JK: " Neither, Father, only the fact that he beat us."
CAP. K.: " HE didn't!"
JK: " Is it your contention we won the war, sir?"
CAP. K.: " He didn't beat us at Vicksburg, we lost Vicksburg by
stupidity verging on treason!"
JK: " Well, I would have said that we lost Vicksburg because Grant was
one thing no Yankee general was before..."
CAP. K.: [cuts him off, and is getting into his stride] : "Drunk!? I
JK: " Obstinate."
CAP. K.: " Obstinate? Wouldn't even any of them compare even in that;
with old Stonewall? If he had a been there, we'd still have
JK: " Well, the butcher simply wouldn't give up; He tried four ways to
getting around Vicksburg..."
CAP. K.: [ cuts him off and really becomes vociferous] "He wouldn't
have gotten around had a Southerner been in command instead of a
half-breed Yankee traitor like Pemberton! [at this point the young
Helen Keller and her new teacher cause a disruption] ...
(unfortunately! I would have loved it if they had gone on.)
The sub-theme of the scene is that Helen's new teacher is as obstinate
as Grant was, in fact is a "Yankee;" James (alone) recognizes this
and encourages her at the end of the scene saying to go ahead and do
what it takes "... if it takes all summer!"
I am not sure why I like this scene so much... I guess it is partly
because I can picture some of my relatives having just such a
conversation during my childhood. Captain Keller is not supposed to be
a sympathetic character, but even though he is making an ass out of
himself, I also enjoy that he is getting his licks in!