Well, being the Civil War geek that I am, I finally found time to go see the movie “Lincoln.” I’m a guy who is almost always disappointed that something is not as big, grand, or awesome as my expectations – like, I thought Mount Rushmore was a terrible disappointment as so very small compared to my imagination.
I have just read a couple of critical pieces on the movie. They actually each admitted that their criticisms were truthfully rather nit-picking in light of the bigger picture of all that was done well and portrayed accurately.
A point that I might agree with the critics however is the amount of space given to the character of Mary Todd Lincoln. I believe it gave her more credit as a thoughtful person than she deserved, though it did indeed present her as a very troubled individual.
This is especially true surrounding the emotionally compelling story of her grief upon the loss of their son Willie in February of 1862 (though the movie begins in 1863). There is this incredible scene between Abraham and Mary, containing these excerpts relative to the pressures being applied to each to allow son Robert to join the war:
MARY: The war will take our son! A sniper, or a shrapnel shell! Or typhus, same as took Willie, it takes hundreds of boys a day! He’ll die, uselessly, and how will I ever forgive you? Most men, their firstborn is their favorite, but you, you’ve always blamed Robert for being born, for trapping you in a marriage that’s only ever given you grief and caused you regret! …
AB: Just, just this once, Mrs. Lincoln, I demand of you to try and take the liberal and not the selfish point of view! You imagine Robert will forgive us if we continue to stifle his very natural ambition?!
MARY: And if I refuse to take the high road, if I won’t take up the rough old cross, will you threaten me again with the madhouse, as you did when I couldn’t stop crying over Willie … I was in the room with Willie, I was holding him in my arms as he died! …
AB: Oh but your grief, your grief, your inexhaustible grief! … screaming from morning to night pacing the corridors, howling at shadows and furniture and ghosts! I ought to have done it, I ought have done for Tad’s sake, for everybody’s goddamned sake, I should have clapped you in the madhouse!
I have written previously in this Enfilading Lines web page about what has so surprised me is the #1 post all-time that I have written relative to the number of page views it receives. This one post is in fact the top-viewed page every week of every month since I wrote it a year ago. In total, it has three times more views than any other article of the 185 in this blog. That post is from 2/28/2012 entitled “The Burial of Willie Lincoln.” Here is a link to it: CLICK HERE
I had previously concluded that the fascination was because of the movie “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer” and that this post on Willie’s burial 151 years ago this month gets hit upon by people fascinated with that pop culture item of interest. I continue to believe that is true, though having now seen the “Lincoln” film, the emphasis there upon Willie Lincoln may also contribute to the continued stumbling across my blog due to searchable “tags.”
Whatever it is, I remain amazed at the fascination there is with this story from American history. It is indeed a heart-wrenching story of tragedy, which of course was but the beginning of the losses that Mary Todd Lincoln would endure – to include eventually the President, as well as Tad dying at age 18.