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Sonntag Vs. The Unabomber Essay, Research Paper

Expansion vs. Preservation

William Sonntag was acclaimed in the 1850s as a painter of the dramatic landscape. In his painting “Garden of the Gods,” Sonntag portrays a family in the time of the westward expansion. The very subtle painting, expressed by its loose brushwork, captures the shifting atmospheric contrasts of light and dark. Apparent in the painting is a family struggling to survive in nature. In the bottom left corner of the painting is a weather beaten shack, the home of the struggling family. This painting brings out the “live of the land” mentality, but it also incorporates the idea of expansion. When you think about life today, do we really need to expand? Does all this technology really make our lives better? Certainly, Ted Kazinski (aka “The Unabomber”) doesn’t think so. The well known advocate for a revolution against the Industrial system, the Unabomber believes the technological era will be a disaster to the human race. William Sonntag’s “Garden of the Gods” symbolizes expansion, as opposed to the Unabomber’s belief of preserving ones current way of life .

The Unabomber’s ideal society would be that of life in the nineteenth century. It would be characteristic of life without TV’s to brainwash us with, no scientists and engineers to try to simplify our lives, and no cars to pollute our mother earth with. It all comes together in what we see in the “Garden of the Gods,” hunting for food to feed your loving family, living in a shack made by ones own god given hands, and entertaining each other by storytelling in front of a campfire. Depicted in this painting is a luminous reflection of the sun on what seems to be rock formation in the background. This symbolizes gods intervention into human life, and the spiritual livelihood that is inherent in all of us. It is the heavens that helps us to overcome our everyday obstacles. Conquering new ground wasn’t an easy task for many expansionists, confiding in god is what brought many of these settlers to overcome their fears and hindrances. Even though there are similarities between these two pieces, they still have one monumental difference.

Expansion is what brings us to new levels. For many of these settlers, land wasn’t a necessity; they believed they were destined for more land. This brings out the whole idea of Manifest Destiny. Continental expansion by the United States revitalized a sense of mission or national destiny for many Americans. Instead of expanding, The Unabomber wanted life in general to be simple. Is there really a need for expansion? With expansion comes new businesses which leads to an a economy that needs nourishment which then leads to the manufacturing of new products to make life easier. The Continental expansion excluded those people who were perceived as being incapable of self-government. Thus, causing the Indians to be forced of their land and placed on reservations. Just like the Indians, the Unabomber believed that the government has invaded our lives with all these technological advances and that they need to make the public aware of what the technological boom has on our society.

The Unabomber would probably see himself like the hunters in this painting. But instead of killing animals to feed his family, he believed that he was helping out other people by way of murder. An example of the Unabomber’s slayings would be that of Thomas Mosser. The Burston-Marsteller executive who helped Exxon clean up its public image. The Exxon Oil spill caused the death of millions of animals just off the coast of Alaska. Exxon agreed to clean up everything, but that would of caused billions of the company’s profits to be washed away. Instead, Exxon cleaned up most of there accident and left the rest to Thomas Mosser to make people think the spillage was nothing but history.

The Unabomber’s belief of preservation is opposed in Sonntag’s “Garden of the Gods.”

Its hard to compare the Unabomber’s beliefs with such a beautiful painting. When I think about the means of him getting his ideas across all I think about are his killings. If he would of found a non-violent way of communicating his ideas I’m sure I would of respected him much more. I believe there is a lot of truth behind his Manifesto.


Sonntag, William. “Garden of the Gods”. Oil on Canvas. 1850

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