Vol. 43 (2023)
Literary Meridians

Way from the Days of US Marshals Escort to Idyll by Duane Bryers, or the Scenes from the Backstage

Gocha Kuchukhidze
Shota Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature

Published 2023-12-14


  • Roland Barthes,
  • Norman Rockwell,
  • Ruby Bridges,
  • Duane Bryers

How to Cite

Kuchukhidze, G. (2023). Way from the Days of US Marshals Escort to Idyll by Duane Bryers, or the Scenes from the Backstage. Literary Researches, 43, 250–268. https://doi.org/10.62119/lr.43.2023.7766


In 1960, for entire academic year, the United States Marshals Service protected Ruby Bridges, an Afro-American girl enrolled at a school that did not accept black children before; there is a photo, showing US marshals escorting little Ruby; this photo inspired Norman Rockwell, an artist, to paint a picture – The Problem We All Live With.

On one of the photos (taken in the studio), Rockwell imitates the marshal’s posture in comic style. On the other photo, Rockwell placed William Obanhein, the model for his picture, also into the comic posture, perhaps, he needed this to cause the very smile, resulting from tragicomic situation – the marshals had to be an escort, to protect a six years old girl (of not these photos,
some viewers would hardly perceive the creative originality of the painting correctly humor, – characteristic to the artist, style of friendly caricature, needed to pain the marshals, would not be apparent and the picture would cause only sadness).

On the other photo, off studio, taken in the environment, far from the large city, here Rockwell is a little older – the artist has the necktie looking exactly like the one he had when he expressed the marshal’s posture, he has the same pipe as well. These two photos are directly related to one another. On the photo made off studio, there are no comic gestures any more. It seems that by means of this photo, the artist perhaps says: “I am old, I live far from New York; as the danger of racism is lower, I am relatively calm, but still I closely watch, to prevent repeating it again” (in 1953 Rockwell left New York and moved to Stockbridge).

It seems that the photos (including those, taken in the studio) are not intended for work only – by means of them, Rockwell tells us something, they are made to influence the viewers as well.

On Duane Bryers’s picture – Croaking Frogs and Crickets, where we can see idyllic picture (peaceful summer night, woman, man and a dog on the balcony), in our opinion, there is Rockwell’s image and for this picture there is used Rockwell’s photo taken off studio; we see the idyll on this painting by Bryers, but, it seems, he wants to say also that Rockwell has completed his mission and deserved the right to peaceful life...The idea, clearly stated in this picture, of course, causes pleasure, but, we should also understand, what else the author wanted to say. The mentioned paintings and photos show whole history and we can say that what Bryers has told, is the culmination, final party of this history…

In our opinion, the story about Norman Rockwell and Ruby Bridges demonstrates, once more that Roland Barthes’s view, expressed in his essay The Death of the Author, according to which, the author’s idea is not interesting and only how we perceive his work is of significance, causes doubts – it is necessary to understand the author’s idea and frequently, the nuances of his/her covered beyond the stage gives us esthetic pleasure.