The United States: A Cautionary Tale
Jose Enrique Rodo’s essay Ariel is a call to the people of Latin America to recognize that they face a great fork in the road of their development. Down one path is the way the United States has taken with its pursuits of material comforts and progress for the sake of progress. Down the other lays the potential Latin America has to be something better than that, an opportunity to not only emulate the great ancient societies of Athens and Rome, but also improve upon them by striving towards a sort of utopia where the soul is nurtured and the highest form of human evolution is searched for. In his essay, Rodo urges the youth to take the United States as a cautionary tale, and instead use Shakespeare’s character Ariel as the image of perfection, as he exhibits the virtues of reason and higher truth that Rodo so highly values and believes is of the utmost importance for the emerging society that is Latin America to reach its full potential.
Although a good portion of this essay is an attack upon the culture of the United States, Rodo does have quite a bit of praise for the U.S. He views the U.S. as having done a great number of things right, just failing in taking the next step, instead succumbing to marveling at its own progress and an attitude of materialism. To Rodo, it begins with the United States English origins. He believes that the British culture possesses “a rare poetic genius and a deep respect for the finer sensibility…an extraordinary exaltation of the emotional qualities.” (108). He continues by citing Taine’s claim that “since Grecian times history has presented no example of a society more fit to breed noble men and a noble spirit.” (109), which is perhaps the highest praise Rodo can give a society given his ultimate goal for Latin America. Rodo readily admits that this foundation has caused the U.S. to have some grand and praiseworthy accomplishments that he would wish Latin America to follow. For...
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