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DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #8 (From CABIN IN THE SKY)

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What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song?

The direction of this scene brings the viewer to an intimate union of the love and unbreakable bond that Petunia has religiously. For me, the simplest form of existence is to love and have purpose. Petunia performs this perfectly. Praising God, get the preacher, and everyone...tell them Joe is fine. She doesn’t want/need a doctor to fix anything as her faith in love and purpose is all she needs in this moment. She nurtures him back to health therefore fulfilling her purpose as his wife. Petunia is in perfect alignment with her beliefs and dedication as she sings outside tending to her duties and Joe close by. 

How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How?

As for a child in place of her husband, the intimacy would not be as deep rooted. I feel it would be more uplifting and not as romantic. With a child it would be more of a hallelujah, possibly even seeing the town folk in the scene clapping and joining in somehow. 

What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era?

The clip is all I have seen, with that said, I see equality in a segregated time which is very progressive and amazing. It feels now as if maybe equal rights started with Hollywood, very interesting. Need to watch the film now. Goodnight all you Mad About The Musical Fans.....

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1. The bedside scene made for good close ups so you could see all of Petunia's facial expressions so the audience would know what she was feeling with every lyric. As we go into the outside laundry setting we see that it provides a much more open and mobile environment. Petunia doing laundry during the song gives her a natural action that she can use throughout the scene.

I think it tells us that she loves Joe and that he is very much a major part of her life. The song expresses that with a feeling of loyalty to Joe and to God. 

2. I think the sentiment would have been close to same, However, I believe the way she sang it would have been a bit different and obviously some of the lyrics would need to be changed.

I am not sure about the cultural meaning, because at this point we would have to ask if the storyline would be the same and how old would the child be. In short, it just depends because we are talking speaking hypothetically. 

3. The film was very important, every picture like this was another step forward in the right direction. It helped the public to view black Americans in a different light and I can only imagine that it must have been inspiring for the brave black Americans who served in WWII to see themselves represented on screen.  

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1.  What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song?

    I think the transition of Petunia at Joe’s bedside to hanging the laundry halfway through the song shows both the passage of time and also the happy, almost idyllic, simplicity of their lives, particularly Petunias as she’s a housewife who’s happy and content to keep house for her man. Her one conflict of concern is being assured that in spite of Joe’s attraction to gambling and noticing other women, he loves first and her above all others.

2.  How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How?

     Before seeing this film, I had identified “Happiness is Just a Thing Called Joe” since I was about seven or eight years old as one made popular by Judy Garland. I had first seen her sing it to her son, also called Joe, on her variety show from the mid-1960s, with the same lyrics in both Waters’ and Garland’s versions. Therefore, the transition from husband to child would be a very easy one for Petuinia as both roles of wife and mother in this case convey deep love and devotion.

3.  What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era?

     I definitely appreciate this great film for its great sensitivity towards giving black performers the opportunity to portray characters of a non-stereotype and to even go as far as making the character of Petunia a woman unafraid of being independent if necessary (the scene towards the end of the film when she confronts Joe about his buying Georgia all the finery and not considering her first). The importance of the film during the WWII era was of considerable significance as it had a consistent theme of loyalty and a relatable element of good vs. evil. Both can be perceived as patriotism and as an encouragement towards fighting the enemy.

 

 

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       The scene starts with Petunia (Ethel Waters) at her lowest point, as she believes her husband, Little Joe (Eddie Anderson), has died. When she hears his voice, she runs to his bedside and is overjoyed to find him alive. She sings "Happiness is just a thing called Joe" with a combination of love and happiness. Her happiness grows to giddiness, as she realizes that she has regained something she thought she has lost. Now more than ever, he is the center of her world.  As the song continues (and time passes), the scene shifts outside. Little Joe sits in his wheelchair in the sun, as Petunia pulls laundry from the line. She is still happy, but less exuberantly so, as she goes about her daily chores. While working (and singing), she still looks out for Joe and moves him into the shade. As the song ends, her earlier giddiness returns and she wraps his laundered shirt around herself.

          The individual and cultural meaning of the scene would change, if she was singing about her child, rather than her husband. In the sickbed scene, she is singing about being in love in a romantic sense. This would be inappropriate, culturally and unusual, individually.  When a mother loves a child and acts out of love towards that child, it is the unconditional love of a parent towards a child, not the conditional love of a romantic partner. This difference would show itself later, when Petunia breaks up with Joe over Sweet Georgia Brown.

        I've always liked this movie. There are so many great character actors in it - Rex Ingram, Willie Best, Mantan Moreland, and Eddie Anderson.  Also jazz greats Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, along with great singers, like Ethel Waters and Lena Horne. Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, in particular, was a beloved character who had been a regular on the Jack Benny radio show since 1937. As "goodwill ambassadors" for their race, these well-known performers were able to demonstrate that, even though we were ethnically diverse, we were really all basically the same and were united in the daily struggles of life - and of the war effort.  

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DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #8 (FROM CABIN IN THE SKY)

 

“You’ll have brains…heart…courage to last your whole life through/If you believe in yourself as I believe in you.”  (from The Wiz)

This is a musical fable of redemption. In this scene, Petunia rejoices that her prayer to save Li’l Joe has been answered.  She lies next to him, closes her eyes and then we segue to a scene of her folding linens on the line in the sunshine.  On first viewing, the cross-fade seems like just a time jump to a later time but on second viewing, we realize that we’re entering an extended dream sequence (similar to Dorothy’s in the Wizard of Oz).  We might also see the clean linen as a metaphor for Joe’s soul which was cleansed white by the blood of the Lamb (Rev:7:14) through Petunia’s intercessory prayer.  “Li’l Joe” is what rolling a hard 4 (two 2s) in dice is called. It’s the lowest you can roll without “crapping out.”  This scene (and the movie) shows how a husband’s and wife’s fate and happiness is intertwined through their strengths and weaknesses.  And how love and faith can redeem from transgressions and trials.

Petunia’s relation to Joe is of love and devotion but also of dependence on him for her happiness. And as Joe represents a sinner in search of redemption, he couldn’t be played by a child which would represent innocence.

To me, this isn’t a race movie but a movie about all humanity with what happens to be an all-black cast.  Like Joe, we all wrestle with our conscience and with temptation.  Like Petunia, we have all had to make sacrifices and forgive loved ones because their happiness is also our happiness because we are joined to them in love.

The wartime subtext being that as brothers-in-arms and sisters-in-arms, all Americans who love their country are all brothers and sisters joined together by that love and therefore their fates are united.

 

 

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  1. What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song?  The scene begins with Petunia waiting outside the door, clearly worrying about Little Joe.  She rushes to his side and is relieved to see that he is better.  She cares for him much as a mother does for a child, in a sense.  However, that was the traditional role of the wife in marriage at the time.  What I found particularly interesting was the lighting.  When at his bedside, there is a warm glow around Petunia that almost illuminates Little Joe.  How reflective of the emotions!  Petunia's love and devotion to her husband gives her a glow and illuminates him, as well.  When the scene shifts to outside with Petunia hanging laundry, the scene brightens and reflects her happiness that Joe is alright.  If Joe had died, she would not have had his laundry to do; so taking down his laundry (and caring for him in this way) bathed in beautiful light also reflects her love and devotion.  I also enjoyed the way the two characters "entered" the scene as Petunia pulls the sheet across the line.  Brilliant directing there!
  2. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How?  If Petunia were singing about her child, the lines, "Does he love me?  That's all I need to know," would not fit.  A mother doesn't really worry about whether or not her children love her.  Mothers typically have this incredible way of loving their children despite whether or not their children love them.  It's unconditional.  But, in the line referenced, Petunia shows that love between a man and woman is more fragile.  She can do anything and conquer all as long as she knows "her man" loves her.  If Petunia were singing about a child, the cultural meaning would definitely have changed.  Again, mothers love their children unconditionally.  However, the fragility of love between a woman and a man parallels the fragility of freedom in our country and the world; and it takes our absolute, unwavering love and devotion, along with prayer to protect it.  Loving Little Joe also shows Petunia's depth of devotion.  This man has behaved badly and she still loves him. 
  3. What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era?  I had not seen this film in many, many years; and I was simply delighted by it when watching it again.  It is a great exemplification of loyalty, love, and patience -- qualities that needed to be promoted and honored during such a difficult time in history.  In addition, I think it showcased many wonderfully talented actors and actresses, although it does involve some stereotypical themes.  However, the choice of good choices versus bad choices universally occurs in all humans lives.

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  1. What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song?  At the bedside her mood is a little more subdued, happy and excited but subdued.   Outside she is louder and dancing around some.  She seems to be very devoted to Joe and deeply in love with him.
  2. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How? If she were singing about her child it would be a little more tender.  The lyrics would need to be changed a little.  I don't think the cultural meaning would change,  having a loved one safely back to us is universal.
  3. What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era?  I haven't been able to watch this film yet, we are out of town. It is recorded at home. I will come back and answer this question. 

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1 - Until this week, I had never seen Cabin In The Sky an while I was familiar with the song, I had no idea it was featured in this film.  Seeing this scene gave the song new meaning for me.

This is a song of devotion; of Petunia’s deep abiding love for Joe.  It helps us understand their relationship.  While Joe is a bit of a scamp, Petunia is happy to overlook his habits as long as he loves her.  She is convinced Joe can change and, literally, prays for him with all her heart.  She is willing to sacrifice herself for Joe.  The song sets up the plot.

In the beginning, Petunia is forced to contemplate a life without Joe and she is devastated by that prospect.  Waters does a great job with body language and facial expression portraying the change from grief in thinking Joe is dead, to relief that he is alive and, in the laundry scene, outright joy that he is with her.  Joe’s love means everything to Petunia.  Because of it, life’s hardships are bearable.  I think it’s funny a bit later in the film when it seems the greatest gift he feels he can give Petunia is a washing machine - which would certainly relieve her daily burden - even if they don’t have the electricity to run it.

2 - The song would be different if it were sung from a mother to or about a child.  I’ve always thought of Judy Garland’s version as a song about her son, Joe.  Did a bit of research today and found she released that song in 1955, just a few months after Joe’s birth, so perhaps I’ve only imagined the link.

3- Cabin In the Sky offers what was at the time a typical version of African Americans.  Women were often portrayed as very religious (Petunia) or “bad girl” types (Georgia).  Men were a bit lazy and not necessarily bright.  

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Daily Dose:

1) I notice that in the first shot by the bed, they show a lot of close shots where they focus on her facial expressions when she is around Joe. In the second shot by the laundry, it's a wider shot showing her devotion to him through her actions.  This tells us how Joe is the center of her world and she is devoted and would do anything for him which connects to the song's message of him being the source of her happiness.

2) If Petunia was singing about a child, the devotion would be similar just a difference in how she expresses her love to her child. I think the cultural meaning would be similar in that it would be showcasing unconditional love but perhaps emphasizing how with a child theirs more of a responsibility of helping them grow into an adult.

3) I feel like the film is trying to promote unity by showcasing African Americans in a positive way so that they too can be connected with white Americans during the war sharing mutual goals and values. 

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It shows the passage of time. From being at his bedside in his time of need to doing the laundry while he recovers. You can tell that she loves him so much and that love will always win regardless of his nasty habit of gambling.

If she would be singing for a child I believe it would be angelic than sensual. - Obviously the lyrics would need to be fixed to be more innocent but the music could fit either way.

I believe the musical displays the AA culture and what they believe it represented at the time. For example the jazzy music, the lust and even the tone of their accents.  If this movie was made the same way today, people would probably lose their minds because of today's concerns and issues w/ racism and bias. I believe this movie became a success and a classic because of the specific time period it was made in.

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1.  I noticed her devotion to Joe.  I have seen this movie and my first reaction is Joe.  I recognized him from Jack Benny so I was biased.  I already loved him.  Petunia was speaking her heart, but when she was pulling down the laundry, I wondered if she loved him so much, why was she not standing next to him while she sang.  Or, had he died when the angel appeared and he was a ghost sitting in the wheel chair?  That confused me.

2.  If it was a baby, I would think she would be holding the child while she sang.  I don't think the song would fit for a child unless the actions were changed.

3.  The musicals were a life line for me.  I grew up watching them all.  Every Saturday for 20 cents I could see the newest musical.  But, that was a different world for me because I am an American Indian and called a Mexican.  I was not part of the world of musicals or any other media source.  So, I observed from the outside watching how white people created their world around these ideas.  It was because of those musicals, when in the 1970's women started to speak up, that I, too, decided I wanted to dance.  I went to college and at the age of 38 I started dancing because I saw it in the musicals and it was the best part of the white society that did not look down on color.  I am now close to 80 and still dancing.

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The shift from his bedside to taking in the laundry shows time has past.  Joe is in a wheelchair in this scene and even as she is doing her laundry, she is taking care of him.  She wheels him back into the shade when she notices the sun was too hot on him.  He is appearing to be unable to assist or walk, but she loves him just as much as ever.

The love Petunia has for Joe is just like a parent's love for their child, unconditional, undying, and all-forgiving.

The film did a good thing making it with an all-black cast, but they needed a black director or writer involved so it would move the black people forward and not be such a film of stereotypes of black Americans.  

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  1. This tells us that their relationship is one of her devotion to Joe, and that she was happy with this.  Life for her is simple, taking care of and loving Joe and she expresses it in her actions and words.  
  2. The song would change if it was singing about her child as the focus would change from the love of a husband/wife to the love of a mother/child.  The cultural meaning would change because the who she is singing about would change.  It would be showing that she is devoted to her children first and then everything else, including her husband, comes after.  
  3. I noticed they used a different style of speaking to make it more immersed, for example using "That's all I has to know."  The film showed Petunia was not rich and had to do a lot of labor around the house.  This film is important because it showed Americans in this era from a different perspective, black America, since the movie incorporated and represented black Americans.

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Upon considering this scene, I reflect on the stereotypes involved. Class has talked about this particularly in relationship to the narrow way blacks are perceived, and I admit that there only seem to be two options for women in this film: dutiful, loving and long-suffering wife vs. the manipulative sexy vamp. But honestly, these stereotypes for women seemed to fit in right along with all the other roles we've been seeing for women in these movies. In the Harvey Girls, there are only good girls vs. bad girls, and the good girls may be waitresses instead of laundresses, but the message is still that they should tend to domestic roles and serve. Marriage is still the only option for women, and the faults of the men don't seem to matter much. Ethel Waters puts love ahead of all the male faults and is quite aggressive in defending her marriage, not unlike the women who must do the chasing for their partners. I do see that black women seem to have less range of action and fewer options than white women, but Stereotypes hit me over the head, especially in these post-WWII productions.  

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the difference between the two scenes of Petunia at the bedside and her hanging laundry is one of part drama and  worry and fear for her man, and the laundry part is joyful and full of hope  that every thing is going to be  alright . her treatment of him will be no different if he were a child, in essence ,he is  her child as long as there is love between the two of them. since these two loves of life live a life not of poverty and not of wealth, Petunia is now overjoyed that Joe is alive and in love and this brings happiness to her world . Butterfly McQueen had a acting career for 50 years and was  a delight to watch she  also was in the 1939 movie  THE  WOMEN starring Norma Shearer.  the war years  were important for African-Americans fighting for and waiting and wanting and hoping for change.

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1. In this scene I notice that it’s night and Petunia is in a room with a little light from a lamp. When she runs to Little Joe it gets darker. Then the scene moves to daylight and outside and it’s bright. I think what this is saying is that Petunia is hoping that Little Joe still loves her and the lamp represents her hope. When she runs to him she passes through a shadow which would be her fear that he no longer loves her. But when she’s by his bedside she knows that he still does, which would be the moonlight through the window. And when she’s hanging laundry she feels their relationship is better than before.

2. If this song was sung by a mother to her child it would be about a Mother’s love and not about loyalty like when it’s sung about a husband. I don’t notice anything about the words of this song referencing any specific culture so changing the singer from a wife to mother wouldn’t change the culture.

3. I can see where a film like this had to be made. If you want everyone in the U.S. to feel united and on the same team, everyone on the team should feel important to the team.

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  1. It's really about Petunia. She's almost always favored in frame. Joe is an accent at best, even as the song is clearly about him. The switch to the laundry scene is interesting, as it implies a few things: that she is the caregiver, that she's able to focus on something other than impending death, and ultimately as you finally see Joe later in the scene, that he truly is OK. 
  2. The love from mother to child is almost always seen as eternal, so a song about a mother's love for a child wouldn't have as much weight. It would be expected. To love an errant husband, unconditionally, is something much different and more powerful in setting up a unique bond that goes beyond typical marital love. 
  3. What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era? It always seems amazing a film like this was made. And while it is great to see so many talented black performers in a movie, there are some interesting choices that reinforce perceptions. The biggest is probably the judgmental good/bad, heaven/hell nature of the movie. While all movies in this code era had a moral code, it's very heavy handed here, with the meaning seeming to be that you have to be exceptionally moral--especially if you're a black American. Separately, the choice of wardrobe for the angel--a very regal, yet very military in style uniform--may have been completely differently if this wasn't during WWII. 

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What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song?

For me the dark room represents her fear for Joe's health, and that he doesn't love her.  As he recovers, and her faith in his love is strengthened, the scene heads outside into the bright reafirmming sunlight.

How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How?

I'm not sure the lyrics of the song would work for a child.  The lyrics are about her husband's charm and his physical appeal making her forget his short comings.

What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era?

While touching on the poverty that many African American families endured during and after the war, this film's focus on the personal relationships makes this film accessible to everyone.  A truly special accomplishment.  

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1. The shift from Joe's bedside to the clothesline outside illustrates Petunia's role as wife and caretaker to Little Joe, and shows that even though it's hard, thankless work, her happiness is tied up in "a thing called Joe," and there isn't anything she wouldn't do for the sake of their love.

2. I don't think the meaning of the song would really change if sung about a child rather than a husband. The sentiment of maternal love and self-sacrifice for someone in your life who isn't perfect but who gives you joy because they are yours applies equally well to both. The only thing about the song that would need to be changed if the it were about a child would be to eliminate the romantic references about Joe's kiss, and maybe the moment Petunia wraps his shirt around her neck as if in his embrace.

3. I found the concept of using an all-black cast in "Cabin In The Sky" really interesting. It's not something that was common in that era of filmmaking, nor is it common now. I think it was an important film because it was one of the first opportunities that black Hollywood performers had to take on multi-dimensional leading roles in a big Hollywood film, as opposed to the usual minor, more peripheral parts. Nowadays, we're used to seeing black actors taking leading roles alongside white actors, but back then, lead roles in mainstream Hollywood films were much less easy to be found, and films like "Cabin In The Sky" were the exception rather than the rule.

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1) I can see in this scene someone who loves someone, the song she sang was kinda ( if not it was) a love song essentially. The way she rushed into his room when he awoke, to laying beside him smiling as if the room was just brighten. Not to mention the lyrics when you listen to them " He's got a way that make angels sigh, when they know my little Joe is passing by." And the way she does the laundry it just to me anyway show that she not only loves Joe but is dedicated to him and shows it in the way she sings the song.

2) If it was a women singing to her child then the song would have to change, When Petunia was singing it was like a love/confession of her love to Joe in a romantic sense, that would be really weird to sing to a child like that. Also I don't really see a cultural difference here, I mean if there was to be one then you would have to switch out the characters Petunia and Joe from African Americans to non-African Americans, even then I don't think there is a cultural change here at all.

3) I don't really have any other opinions on the film, I have seen this film before and I love the story it tells, good and evil and the way it represents faith seeing the devil, his guardian angel and the relationships and interactions you encounter and watch throughout the film, I really enjoy it.     

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1.  She's a devoted woman.  Her prayers have been answered and she has no words, she's so grateful and happy, it's a miracle he's alive.  She can't be happier that her love is with her and her devotion to him is clear.  She's there for him.  She's happy hanging clothes and checking on him.  She loves him so much that even holding his shirt gives her joy.  

2.  If the song was about her child it would be different because a mother/child relationship is more permanent.  A mother doesn't wonder if her child loves her.  Even when the child grows up and flies out of the nest their relationship continues.  Not the case with a romantic relationship.

3.  What a beautiful collaboration when black Americans were enlisted and to see that everyone was united and working together no matter their differences.   

 

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1. What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song?

Petunia is completely, hopelessly devoted to Joe. There is almost nothing he can do that will push her away. She forgives his gambling, and takes care of him, because he represensts everything that makes her happy in life.

2. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How? 

If it was sung to a child, the implication would be very different. Instead of romantic love, it would be reflecting motherly love.

3. What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era?

In spite of the racial stereotypes, the film stands as a surprisingly progressive product of its times. It represents Hollywood's first real attempt to cater to an audience other than white, middle-class Americans. Hollywood was starting to grow up, and diversify, just as America at large was beginning to do the same thing thanks to WWII.

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1. It shows a wife’s devotion to her husband as long as she knows he loves her and that his recovery puts her disappointments with him and the problems he’s caused her in a less important place.

2. A child brings a different kind of passion and devotion but still as srong but its all the same if the child brought problems or behaved badly these would be eclipsed by the childs well-being.

3. Gives black americans so ething to relate to in a time when they were being asked to serve their country amidst a past of racism that had changed much in the present.

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1. It shows that Petunia is a good wife and her desire to be loved by him. She wants to take care of him while he is ill and comfort him.

2. I don't think that it would really change, the song is about love, devotion, protecting, and caring about a certain person very strongly. This song could be sung to either a child or a significant other,

3. This film portrays African Americans during this time in a more positive light. It shows African Americans fighting for their country and unifying with white people. 

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Tis scene shows the love between them but also her strong belief in their love and her role in the relationship. Her taking care of the laundry is what she would normally be doing and watching over her Joe. To me the scene is powerful in that it dhows her love, her optimism and her belief that as long as they have each other all will be right.

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