American Literature in the 19th Century

Topics: Native Americans in the United States, United States, American literature Pages: 5 (1653 words) Published: April 16, 2007
Much has been said about America being the "Land of Opportunity" throughout history. From Columbus, to Walt Whitman, to present times, American society and its values differed quite a bit from American society and its values today. As these values have changed, so have the opportunities that present themselves within society, such as the ability to write about certain issues or topics. This means that the topics of literature have changed drastically along with the times as well. Much of the time, these issues and topics covered in pieces of American Literature are controversial: slavery, racism, ethnocentrism, women's rights, and the qualities needed to obtain the opportunities America provides for people. That is why in order to be considered American Literature, the piece must characterize or define American values, morals, ideals, or standards in some way, whether it is to represent them or to oppose them.

To Crevecoeur, who was not an American by birthright, but a visitor who considered America his home, America is the embodiment of opportunity. Crevecoeur marks America as a place where oppressed people are able to come and pursue their own freedoms, self-interests, and independence. It is a place where any hard working man can earn economic stability for his family; a place of humility and new ideas. Crevecoeur explains through his character, Farmer James, that an American farmer possesses, "freedom of action, freedom of thoughts, ruled by a mode of government which requires but little from us". He speaks of "national pride" when realizing there are no aristocratical families, no invisible power giving to a few a very visible one. The rich and the poor are not so far removed from each other as they are in Europe. And finally, Crevecoeur claims that Americans are "All animated with the spirit of an industry which is unferrered and unrestrained," which means that as long as the people of the nation work hard, they will be able to achieve whatever they wish. These are the reasons why America is the "melting pot" it is today, because people during Crevecoeur's time period that came from other countries viewed America as an escape to all their oppression and problems. This was the American dream or ideal: through industriousness, you could provide a better life for your family in America.

Since Crevecoeur believed he could have freedom of thought and action in America, he was also more sympathetic to the rights of African-Americans, who were being used as slaves during the time, and Native Americans. Crevecoeur found slavery to be a terrible institution, speaking out on behalf of the enslaved African-Americans by saying, "Forced from their native country, cruelly treated…They are neither soothed by the hopes that their slavery will ever terminate…mildness of their treatment…" Crevecoeur also asserts through Farmer James, "Though our erroneous prejudices and opinions once induced us to look upon them as fit only for slavery…With us they are now free…they are in general become a new set of beings," showing his general consideration for the African-Americans. As for Crevecoeur's standpoint on Native Americans, Farmer James makes the observation that, "they are as stout and well made as the Europeans…they are in many instances superior to us". Obviously, Crevecoeur held the belief that the African-American and Native American populations could provide contributions to society and should not looked down upon as inferior "savages" by the white man. Rather, the white man should be willing to set good examples through gentleness to make them socially acceptable. To Crevecoeur, a country could never truly flourish with an imprudent system such as slavery in place, which was quite a progressive stance for the time. It took a lot of courage to speak out for what he believed in, because it went against mainstream America's majority belief of superiority over the slaves and the Natives.

While minority cultures...
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