American Literature: The Meaning of American

Topics: Native Americans in the United States, United States, Culture Pages: 3 (832 words) Published: January 8, 2014
There are few places in the world where one could find a college classroom that is home to an upper class, middle-aged caucasian male, a young Mexican immigrant, and a poor but brilliant eighteen year old girl, each one striving to educate himself and succeed in a world where the odds are so often against him. America is just that. Beginning as a British colony, America quickly uprooted the conservative tree planted in its soil by the Europeans, and ever since has progressed into an ever-modernizing and unique society. The unique attributes that America is known for, however, did not sprout up out of nowhere. The culture of the African-Americans, the Native Americans, and the Europeans provided us with the customs and culture that we today call our own. Through centuries of exposure to different cultures and ways, America has become, in the words of Jimmy Carter, “not a melting pot, but a beautiful mosaic.” (Carter and Shapiro 137) In this sense, the word “American” takes on a unique meaning, in that to be an American means to be part of this mosaic, and to have the ability to create yourself as an individual as a result of the society created by the contributions of these three cultures. Since the first colony settled in Jamestown over four hundred years ago, there has been cultural diversity in America. The first influential force in America came from Europe. European culture imposed the values of hard work and perseverance on that of America. Throughout history, this influence on the work ethic of Americans still proves prominent. In his novel The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck says, “The last clear definite function of man—muscles aching to work, minds aching to create beyond the single need—this is man (Steinbeck 151).” Steinbeck’s description of American western farmers during the 1930’s is a perfect example of how Europe’s early influence on American culture persisted long after European power disappeared from the country. This desire to work...
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