Michael Chevalier: Society Manners and Politics in the United States

Michael Chevalier

Michael Chevalier

When studying and practicing literary Journalism it is of ones best interest to look into the writings of Michael Chevalier. Chevalier was a French engineer who was sent to the United States as a public opinions journalist. He was to inspect the public works in the states and make observation on nearly all parts of the union. After spending approximatley two years in the sates, Chevalier wrote this series of letter that are now used as prime examples of effective literary journalism. “His letters give the results of his observations, the impressions made on _his mind, his speculations in regard to the future destiny of our in- stitutions, rather than a detailed narrative of facts and events, which, however, is introduced when necessary for illustration or proof. (III)

We took a deeper look at two of these letter. The first being, XI titled Lowell and the second, XII The factory Girls of Lowell. The strength in Literary journalism comes from the “scene”, setting up the interaction, and building not the facts but the interactions in a descriptive manner. Chevalier does this right off the bat in Lowell. “there was a paper war between the committee and the directors of the Bank, in which the former were completely unhorsed, and had no better re- source than the brutal idea of ordering the President and directors to be taken into custody by the sergeant-at-arms.” He writes what he witnesses to make it seem as if the reader was present, this is affective in the sense that it sets up the American lifestyle at the time.

Chevalier remains consistent with his descriptions and continues to set up the scene in Lowell. He felt it was necessary to go through the development of the town “Twelve years ago it was a barren waste, in which the silence was interrupted only by the murmur of the little river of Concord, and the noisy dash- ings of the clear waters of the Merrimac, against the granite blocks that suddenly obstruct their course. At present, it is a pile of huge factories, each five, six, or seven stories high, and capped with a little white belfry, which strongly contrasts with the red masonry of the building, and is distinctly projected on the dark hills in the horizon.” (128). All of this contributed to his skills as a literary journalist.

He continues on to the Factory girls of Lowell, what I noticed to be the most successful part of this letter and possibly his style is the way he brings comparison into the story. He relates what he has seen in America with what he knows back in France. To state a few example he says “In Europe, work is often wanting for the hands ; here, on the other side, hands are wanting for the work.    While the Americans have the vast domain in the West, a common fund, from which, by industry, each may draw for himself and by himself, an ample heritage, an extreme fall of wages is not to be apprehended” (144).

Chevalier is among one of the greatest early journalist and has provided us with ample amounts of examples on how to produce a successful literary story.

Thanks for reading!

Written by,

Team LitJurnalism