Sample Essay Paper on John Henry (Folklore)

John Henry (Folklore)

“John Henry” is an American Folksong, which is about a man, John Henry, who is believed to have worked as a ‘steel-driving-man’. It is believed that in the ancient times, John Henry was given the task of hammering a drill made of steel into a rock. The major purpose of drilling the steel into the rock was to make holes that would allow the penetration of explosives that would help blast the rocks for the construction of a railroad tunnel. The performer of the song is Bill Monroe, an American singer. ‘John Henry’ is a work song used by people at the workplace, and it gives encouragement to workers as they proceed with their day-to-day activities at the workplace (Sims and Martine 8).

The performance exhibited by Bill Monroe can be described as a musical performance. Performance is defined as an expressive activity that has participation as an integral or key component and leads to the heightening or enhancement of enjoyment of a particular experience (Sims and Martine 130). Performance invites a response, particularly from the audience. It is mandatory that a recognized setting exists for performance to take place. In the situation, Monroe expresses a musical activity that together with the participation of the audience, results in the heightening of the audience’s enjoyment of the musical experience. Bill Monroe’s musical performance also invites a response from the audience.

In Monroe’s musical performance, verbal lore is being used. This is because he articulates words and accompanies the articulation with dances and body movements (Sims and Martine 12). The characters that appear in the song are heroic. John Henry is considered by many as a hero of his time, and the song thus motivates people who listen to it. The heroic characters in the song are necessary because they make the song interesting. Besides, they help tell the story by stressing the need for hard work in day-to-day life.

The belief system being passed on in the song is the need for hard work, particularly at the workplace. The passing on of the belief system is evident in the fact that the song revolves around the hard work exhibited by John Henry while he was hammering a steel drill into a rock to prepare it for an explosion. Bill Monroe and the audience are hardworking; and this is evident in the manner Monroe and the audiences participate in the performance enthusiastically.

The song makes a political statement that politicians should embrace hard work if they are to achieve their political objectives and ambitions. The statement also stresses that politicians should meet the expectations of the common man. It is common for politicians to relax and delay in the delivery of services to voters, and this has been a huge challenge in most countries. In a bid to address the challenge, several avenues have been used, and one of them is the use of songs as seen in this case. The use of songs is a prudent strategy and way of having things done correctly.

Bill Monroe was performing the song during the early years of the labor movement in America. At the time, some of the most violent labor battles and movements were being witnessed in America particularly on the railroads. Railroad workers had formed groups to protest against the cut or reduction of their wages. During the movement, a serious destruction of several railroad cars took place, and this was coupled with the death of over 25 laborers. The railroad workers celebrated the life of John Henry, and were prepared to go through what their hero had gone through during his life, and it is only through this that they could secure their livelihoods. 

Work Cited

Sims, Martha C, and Martine Stephens. Living Folklore: An Introduction to the Study of People and Their Traditions. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 2011. Print.