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Gangs of New York

  1. What are the local conditions of the Five Points like? Why? How do these conditions differ from uptown New York (Upper Manhattan) where people like the Schermerhorns live? Why do they differ?The local living conditions of the Five Points were very poor. The town was in the pathetic and untended state. The reason was that in this part of the town, lived black people or migrants. The existence of blacks lowered the value of that area of the city; thus it was given less attention of the government.
  2. How is power understood by the gangs of the Five Points? What does it mean to be powerful in this local context? How does "power" evolve through the course of this film? In this area of the town, people perceived power on the ground of race. The immigrants conflicted with each other because of employment, while the natives clashed with the immigrants on the basis of race. White immigrants who came to America conflicted with the blacks since they competed for the same job vacancies.
  3. Why must the Dead Rabbits under Priest Vallon fight with the Natives under Bill the Butcher Cutting? Why can they not live in peace together under the rule of the law and order as dictated by the U.S. Constitution? The Dead Rabbits had to fight with the natives because the rule of law could not be applied. Non-Americans had no legal right according to the Constitution. Therefore, their grievances could not be listened to in the courts of law.
  4. Why does Bill make Priest Vallon a saint-like figure at the end of the ritual battle? What does he do to show respect to Vallon? Priest Vallon had challenged Bill, so Bill considered him heroic. It was rare for a black to challenge the whites who believed they were powerful. Bill commanded that Vallon should be buried properly to show his respect for him.
  5. Does Boss Tweed and his Tammany Hall conceive of "power" differently from Bill and the Natives? In consolidating their rule over the people, why does Tweed seek an alliance with Bill? Is Tweed's understanding of power different from Bill's? In what ways? Be as specific as you can. Tweed and the Tammany Hall had a different perception of power from the one Bill had. Tweed perceived power as having the influential position in the society. Tweed sought an alliance with Bill because Bill had a lot of influence at the ground.
  6. What does Tweed mean when he says that the "appearance of the law must be upheld especially while it is being broken"? When Tweed says, "appearance of the law must be upheld especially while it is being broken", he means that the law must be fulfilled regardless of pain or injustices it exerts on some people.
  7. What does Bill the Butcher think of the newly arriving immigrants? Why? How does that compare with the views of Tweed and Amsterdam? What are the primary racial and ethnic tensions in the film? Bill thinks that the new immigrants into America were hiking job competition. He feels that as a butcher, he faces a big threat from them in terms of competing for the jobs. Tweed, on the other hand, views new immigrants as people with no right and power in America. In Amsterdam's view, immigrants are people who should be respected just like the Native Americans. The primary racial tension in the film is based on job competition and law enforcement.
  8. Why did you see amateur Fire Brigades fighting each other for the right to put out fires? Who ultimately put an end to the Gang riots that finally erupt throughout New York? What does this tell you about the nation-state and federal power? The fire brigades fought with each other because each of them wanted to secure the territory (Fergus, 2002). Each group felt that the other is invading its jurisdiction of power. It is the union soldiers who managed to ultimately put an end to Gang riots; therefore, power in the nation state is vested upon offices. It is the government office that has power but not individuals.
  9. Why were so few people from the Five Points drafted to fight in the Civil War? Why do people pay Tammany Hall for business licenses, fire protection, garbage collection, protection, etc.? People from the Five Points were either low-class Americans or non-Americans. These groups had no access to good jobs in America; therefore, they could not fight. In every town, there must be arrangements to take care of it. In this side of the town, Tammany Hall has this obligation of taking care of the town. Therefore, people have to pay, for these services in Tammany Hall.
  10. Why does Amsterdam put the Constable, Happy Jack, on display after killing him? What does this tell us about the symbolic dimensions of power? When Bill finally comes to fight, what does Amsterdam do to organize against him? Why? Does this reflect a different conception of power? In what ways? Amsterdam puts Constable Happy Jack on display in order to say the public that not only those who seem to be powerful have power; the weak also possess power. Through Happy's dead body, a dynamic change in the state of things is expressed. When Bill comes to fight, Amsterdam organizes a riot which, he knew, would invoke the union soldiers to fight. With the union soldiers at work around the Paradise Square where they were fighting, Amsterdam would easily defeat Bill. This scene shows a different perception of power, where the true power is gained only when what one believes in is right (Fergus, 2002).