This past Sunday marked the return of PBS’s hit series Poldark with its third season. For those unfamiliar with this British historical drama, it depicts the return of Ross Poldark to his home in Cornwall after fighting in the American Revolution. Upon his return, he is met with the news of his father’s death, the sight of his estate in ruins, and the fact that his longtime sweetheart is now engaged to his cousin. Having hit rock bottom, Ross’s attempts to start over and rebuild his life are chronicled in Poldark.
In honor of the third season’s release, Casey Chalk recently wrote a compelling article called “‘Poldark’ Celebrates Hard Work, Fidelity, Common Law, And Community” for The Federalist. The piece discusses how the show promotes and praises traditional values, hard work, and innovation. Though Chalk relates these aspects primary to British culture, as the story is set in England, there can be no denying their value in American culture as well. Chalk begins by providing examples of the series’ affirmation of traditional rites and customs:
Another cultural custom often presented positively on the show is that of common law. Poldark is a man of deep convictions, but also one prone to combat the cultural and institutional powers of 18th century Cornwall for the sake of the common man. This at times leads Poldark into the courtroom, defending marginalized members of the community, or even at times himself. Poldark often appeals to the traditions of British common law as his defense.
This tradition is exceedingly important in the United States because the nation is an heir to the common law tradition of British law. Though America does not practice pure common law, it does incorporate interstitial common law in which courts analyze cases utilizing the Constitution, legislative statutes, and precedents.
Law is not the only area in which tradition matters, however. Traditions and customs help to preserve culture and unity among citizens. This is especially important in today’s American society as many people seek to redefine the nation by leaving tradition in the past. Moving on from tradition, Chalk goes on to describe hard work and innovation in Poldark:
Poldark’s finances and lands are in a state of disrepair when he returns from the American colonies. It takes many years for him to draw any real wealth from his ancestral legacy. The way he achieves via hard work, innovation, and entrepreneurship signifies a deep respect for personal responsibility.
While other local gentry attend parties, pursue personal hobbies, and engage in fruitless rounds of gossip (all the while becoming indebted to the villainous Warleggan family), Poldark remains acutely focused on rebuilding his estate. Many episodes show him down in the mud, boots and pants covered in dirt, working alongside his tenants in the fields and in the mines. He is a man capable of both gentile sophistication and long, hard labor, with hands as calloused as the poorest peasant.
Ross’s resiliency and resourcefulness are key elements in his success along with his motivation to be personally responsible. These qualities are also customarily prized among Americans in regard to achieving the American dream. We need more Ross Poldark’s today, with society shifting away from such values. He is by no means perfect and consistently struggles with his flaws, but it is his constant striving to live up to his ideals that makes him such a great role model. After all, America, though having a history fraught with flaw, represents a people making a conscious effort to fulfill aspirations of individual liberty and justice for all through hard work, innovation, and tradition.
Read the full article here.