Harry Houdini's Affect on the American Identity

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  • Topic: Magic, Harry Houdini, Magician
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  • Published : February 13, 2011
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Harry Houdini’s Contribution to the American Identity

Breaking bonds in mid-air, slipping chains with a smile: Harry Houdini's greatest talent was not in performing illusions, but making any obstacle seem irrelevant (Rothstein). Life in the early 1900s was depressing and filled with extremely strenuous work. While watching Houdini, fans throughout America and Europe were dazzled by his escapism and were given a sense of hope as a result of his exploits. Nothing on Earth could hold Houdini a prisoner; every illusion achieved the impossible. To immigrants, he was an example of the freedom that came with the American dream. The magical achievements of Harry Houdini evoked a sense of limitless power and imagination that helped to inflate a belief in a limitless America.

There are certain arguments, however, that must be considered when examining Houdini’s contributions to the American identity. Like all illusionists, Houdini made the impossible appear to be not only possible, but easy to accomplish. As a result, many children attempted to emulate his intricate escapes, ending up injured or worse. In addition, those who believed in a limitless sense of the possible, using Houdini’s magic as a symbol for freedom from boundaries, were disappointed by the realization that the American dream was not easily attained. Contrary to this speculation, Houdini’s contributions to the American identity were overall positive because he gave hope for a new life. Even to this day his name is known for magic and inspiration.

Harry Houdini was born in the late 1800s with the birth name of Ehrich Weisz. The early twentieth century marked an era of both beginnings and endings. Americans of this time period had yet to make their mark in the world, and were very impressionable. Life for children of the early 1900s was work and school, so when they heard about the magic man, and saw Houdini, they gained a sense of imagination that had been deprived of them. Fans saw...
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