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Rising Tide

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It only takes a moment for us humans to remember our humility. In the past few months alone our Earth has reminded us more than a few times of our humility- from devastating tsunami's in Japan, mudslides in Brazil, hailstorms in China to serious flooding right here in New York City. No one can say for sure what causes such events, whether it is indeed the apocalypse or simply science. Different groups and different cultures will give you varying explanations for these natural events and phenomenon. In John M. Barry's novel "Rising Tide" he explores this very thing: man vs. nature, how man is effected by nature and how he tries to control it. Throughout the book, Barry examines different groups of people- people from different eras and different social classes. What all of these people have in common, however, is that they are in someway connected and effected by the Mississippi River. Even with this close connection, many of them provide different explanations and ways of dealing with this natural force- the River. These people lived in a time when it was thought that science could solve and explain any problem. In "Rising Tide" Barry says that the science [of the river] does not compromise. Instead [it] forces ideas to compete in a dynamic process. This competition refines or replaces old hypotheses, gradually approaching a more perfect representation of the truth (90). In this essay, I will examine two different individuals, both experienced with the river, who are seen throughout the book; James Buchanan Eads and LeRoy Percy.

Barry begins this book with James Buchanan Eads and the way in which he first, literally, fell upon the Mississippi River. The river defined Eads from an early age, beginning on a boat to St. Louis that exploded near the dock, leaving him, his sisters and his mother physically in the river, swimming to shore. After this first intimate encounter with the Mississippi, Eads grew up in St. Louis, impoverished but determined. He began working at 13, teaching himself and learning the ways of science and engineering. We begin to see Eads' real passion for the river and his desire to control it at age 22 when he, "without introduction of any kind but with drawings in hand...asked them [the St. Louis Offices of Boat Builders] to build a ship and several diving bells for him- for free" (30). According to Andrew Carnegie, it was impossible to not be won over by [Eads] (30), so as it was, Eads got his ship. The diver he had hired to help was too cowardly to enter into the river so Eads himself was the first to enter into the Mississippi depths with his diving bell. Thus began Eads' journey to understanding the Mississippi. Throughout the years, Eads and the Mississippi grew quite a relationship, and Eads accomplished many things -one being the bridge that he built on the Mississippi. Around the same time, Eads also proposed the addition of jetties to the mouth of the river



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