Alexander Graham Bell – Personal & Canadian Connections

“[…] all the signs of [tuberculosis] were there. His headaches had intensified, and he coughed repeatedly […] You don’t really think you are going into the backwoods, do you?” (20). “Like Alec, Carrie was blossoming in the Canadian air; her cheeks glowed with health, […]” (33)

When my parents decided to move to Canada over 10 years ago, one of the biggest factors that influenced their decision was the healthy environment Canada had. It was interesting to read that Alexander (Alec) Graham Bell’s parents also made the same decision purely due to Alec’s poor health conditions; it reminded me of how I got to Canada. Additionally, Bell feared that he would live in backcountry Canada. Before I moved here, I also thought of Canada as a kind of backcountry – this idea was quite exciting to me as a child.

This passage reveals how Canada’s fresh air and untouched environment is one of the its biggest characteristics. Both in this book and for me, Canada’s identity is closely tied to nature. Alec hasn’t done much in Canada yet; most of his story so far has taken place down south in America. Canada has only acted as a safe-haven for Alec when he gets sick from overworking in Boston. Additionally, Canada wasn’t as urbanized as the States. Going back to the present, Canada has always been behind America in the international scene and in influence. This passage shows how Canada was, and still is, perceived as less intimidating as America.

 

“The disagreement between father and son created a rift between them […] and as much as he loved his father, he was not going to be bullied from a distance into abandoning his plans.” (40)

Many people argue with their parents about their goals and/or focuses. Alec’s father, Alexander Melville Bell, is the creator of Visible Speech, an alphabet created with the intent to help deaf people, and has urged Alec to keep it his priority to promote and teach it. However, Alec has different ambitions and does not want to get bullied into discarding his plans. This stood out to me because it isn’t uncommon for parents to want their children to do a certain thing with their life. Because my parents are very relaxed and give me a lot of freedom, rarely pressuring me to do things their way, I thought of how fortunate I am to be in my situation.

This passage describes a will resolving to never give up on its beliefs, regardless of who opposes it. This attitude is likewise to that of Canada and America during the American Revolutionary War; America fighting for independence and Canada loyal to the crown. Both sides did not give up their beliefs and struggled, but in the end, they both succeeded. Focusing on Canadian Identity, Canada is currently trying to become more independent from the U.S. The Canadian Government aims to trade more with other countries and rely less on America as its only major partner. These actions show that Canada will not ‘be bullied around’ by U.S tariffs and how they wish to be different from the states.

 

“After only eight months in Canada, Alec was Boston-bound. […] New England was the cradle of American Industry, and Boston was its capital. Inventors, electricians, engineers, machinists, educators, and skilled artisans congregated there.” (33-34)

Alec travels to Boston because that is where the resources he needs to work are. It’s not in Canada. Why? Well because Canada just didn’t have the industry there. I have been thinking about universities in Career Life Education, and a similar thing seems to be happening there, too. American universities have a different level of legacy, respect, and honor compared to the Canadian ones. And although this feeling may be unfounded, it’s hard to argue that the difference is not there. And this idea that the best place is in America forces some people to think they must go there to get educated – which isn’t true. I thought this passage was interesting because Alec could’ve done research in Canada, but he moves because the crowd and people he need are in Boston.

I talked about this earlier, but Canada just didn’t have the same resources, people, and opportunities the U.S did. Otherwise, why would Alec travel so far to work and not somewhere in Canada? It would’ve likely been better for his health and easier on his mother’s worrying. Canada was more focused on nation and community building, a perfect place for individuals to live peacefully. This contrasts with America, where the focus was on developing and growing the economy and progress in scientific achievement. This shows Canada’s identity and value of protecting/providing a safe, peaceful, and calm home for many people.

 

“When Alec told his parents that he had applied for American citizenship so he could patent his work, […] The Civil War was still fresh in most people’s memories, and Eliza fretted that Alec might be summoned for military service.” (79)

This passage really interested me because it got me thinking about how close these events occurred apart from one another. I was under the impression that historical achievements and checkpoints such as the ability to fly, the civil war, the industrial revolution, the invention of the telephone, etc. were farther apart and took place over a longer timeframe because I learned about them separately and thought them as different times. This biography does a great job representing the time and got me really thinking about how fast humans have really advanced through the past 200+ years. On another note, this passage reminded me how I had to renounce my Korean citizenship otherwise I would be called to the serve in the Korean military.

Canada abolished slavery in 1834 and so thousands of enslaved individuals made their way to Canada during the civil war, and many stayed after. This shows the beginning of Canada’s value of diversity and welcoming identity. Additionally, this passage shows how, at the time, being Canadian means not running the risk of being called to the military. Alec’s mother worries about him being called to the American army, but not the Canadian army. This piece of information alone shows how much more of a peaceful country Canada was compared to America in this time.

 

“Most of the self-taught inventors he had met were wild-eyed eccentrics who shouted orders at everybody and treated metal-shop workers like servants. […] He liked his soft-spoken new boss’s “punctilious courtesy to everyone” and his “clear, crisp articulation.” […] Thomas began to appreciate that Alec was very different form the other customers he had met.” (84-85)

The instant I read this passage I thought of the stereotype of Canadians being polite. I found it intriguing that Thomas Watson, a metalworker and Alec’s first assistant, found it a rare occurrence to meet a nice person in that field of work. I do not think being Canadian really has played a role here. Perhaps Alec was truly a special snowflake, or perhaps it’s not Canada, but America that just attracts people driven by money and other selfish intentions which makes it normal to meet rude people.

Stereotypes aren’t factual, but they aren’t always 100% unfounded. This passage reveals why Canadians gained the stereotype of being polite. Canada’s identity being related with politeness is due to the contrast with Americas un-politeness. This passage shows that Alec isn’t special for being kind; Alec is special because he is the only one that is kind. It’s the same thing with Canada.

 

THEME: Pushing your boundaries and exploring the unknown will often lead to discoveries that you never expected

Alexander (Alec) Graham Bell had a great mind, but who knows what would have happened if he stayed in Edinburgh, Scotland. If Alec had not gone to Canada, he may have never recovered form tuberculosis; if he had not gone to Boston, he may have never found the competitive drive to invent; if he did not share his party trick at his students house, he may have never found an investor. Each one of these events required Alec to step out of his comfort zone and explore something he isn’t used to. However, by doing these difficult things, sometimes without an obvious benefit,  coincidences occur that just may change the course of your life.


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