Caught in the Act

Lincoln the Man

By Jared Bowen

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Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln (DreamWorks)
 
In the arts right now, this is very much a Lincoln moment. Wrestled free of his many marble monuments, the 16th President is portrayed as humanistic, relative to his pursuit of equality.  Local author William Martin’s novel, The Lincoln Letter, finds modern day treasure hunters on a race to find a reported Lincoln diary detailing his most intimate thoughts about ending slavery.  And Steven Spielberg’s majestic new film Lincoln focuses on the president in the final months leading up to the passage of the amendment abolishing slavery.
 
Less myth and monument, the Lincoln portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis is a tall, sensitive figure with a high-pitched voice.  He’s not above churning the politically charged waters of Washington for ideological gain, all the while contending with his complicated family. 
 
This Lincoln is based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 2005 book Team of Rivals—which also brought the Lincoln administration’s machinations and maneuvers to a palpable level.  They are works that exalt Lincoln, but from the flesh and not carefully sculpted stone. 

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About the Author
Jared Bowen Jared Bowen
Jared Bowen is WGBH’s Emmy Award-winning Executive Editor and Host for Arts. 

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