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The Changing Character of The American Frontier: Wilderness

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The Changing Character of The American Frontier: Wilderness
Introduction:
Wilderness is an aspect that is, always has been and always will be around, but societies view of it has constantly changed. As years have gone by society has changed and so has peoples beliefs, values and general outlook on life and what is important to them. Looking at the culture back at the start of American colonization and examinging it all the way until recent times, constant change is evident and I believe that the changing conception of wilderness is a product of that change in American culture.
John Winthrop-1630 city on a hill. RELIGION religious leader. pre revolution. writes about how he expects the lifestyle to function and what his plans and goals are for this new land that they will settle and how they will settle it. Instead of viewing america as a colony he views it as a religious destiny, the pilgrims were meant to be there, they were meant to arive on the shores and start their lives there. pg 20 "quote". city one a hill: New england is suppossed to be an example for the entirity f the owrld, not just for the community or for england, a model that all eyes are looking upon. It is on a hill because..... biblical reference.... closer to the sky and God, they are doing God's work and everyone gets to see them do Gods work. Religious aspect is hugely important, Puritans are religious in a very strict sense, no fun no happiness just work. Very religious model that is attempting to construct the future in stability of America, a model for everyone else to look for. In terms of democracy as well. This is what we should do, this is what we would like to do, a plan, before they even arrive on the island.
Mary Rowlandson-1682. theme of RELIGION AND DESTINY things are predestined.
Mary Rowlandsons autobiography A True History of The Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Rowlandson, written in 1682, continues to show the strict religious outlook of a Puritan. The intense religious structure and faith of the Puritans has an immense impact on their view of the wilderness. A great example of how strongly puritans believe in and rely on God is the way Rowlandson views her capture by the Natives and how she makes sense of it. On pg 37 of her autobiography Rowlandson writes about a day during her capture where she camped out with the native and she sees the englishmen but they are unable to rescue her because they are unable to cross a river to get to her. "On that very day came the English Army after them to this river, and saw the smoke of their Eigwams; and yet this river put a stop to them. God did not give them courage or activity to go after us; we were not ready for so great a mercy as victory and deliverance; if we had been, God would have found out a way for the English to have passed this River, as well as for the Indians, with their Squaws and Children, and all their luggage." Going on further to quote a biblical verse from the book of psalms about how God will subdue the enemy when it is the right time. She is essentially saying that she is not saved because it is not time yet. God allows the Indians to pass the river safely but not the English. Her state of mind is that it is not her destiny at this time and she must wait til the tim is right and God allows her to be saved. Which is the same reason why she hasn't tried to run away from the natives yet, it is her time to escape when it is her time to escape, God has a plan and everything is predestined.
A paragraph later on the same page Rowlandson expresses how this deep faith in God is the essence of how her view of the wilderness is shaped. completely isolted...."the Indians were as thick as the Trees; it seemed as if there had been a thousand hatchets going at once: if one looked before one there was nothing but Indians, and behind one nothing but Indians; and so on either hand; I myself in the midst, and no Christian soul near me, and yet how hath the Lord preserved me in safety! Oh the experience that I have had of the goodness of God to me and mine!" She makes sense of being completely surrounded by Indians justifying her whole mentality of Gods preservation of her and that if it had been any other will by any other power they would have just killed her and been done with it. But the fact that she is completely surrounded and yet the fact that she still lives on only exemplifies further to her that God is protecting her and she is fulfulling her destiny. It is very much about nature, and the idea of the frontier, as being a test of her faith. She doesn't give up, she keeps going because she sees the situation she is in as a test of her faith that God has placed before her. And keeping her faith throughout the test is extremely important to her because of her puritan mindset.
Emerson-1841
Emerson is a key proponent of transcendental philosophy. Transcendentalism is a group of thinkers that are very idividualistic and are very much interested in critiqueing market society, the idea of needing to adhere to social expectation in order to stimulate the economy. He is highly concerned with the idea of conforming, he wants to be an idividual. And that is his major critique of market society, is that you don't get to be an individual if you are just a worker. "pg 137 middle" In this he is going against conformity and promoting self-reliance. He is promoting independece, the indiviuals ability to speak out, not following society. We play into the system to feel secure but we eliminate our individual course.
He reinforces this concept by saying "top 137". The more of an individual you are the closer to God you will be. God made you to be an individual and that only in that state will you have communication with Him. (top 140) If man is at his highest potential as an individual, not conforming to society, and also is able to have some sense of spirituality based on that individuality then society .... we need people to express what they think even if its not popular at the time, we need new information not just the same information repaeted again and again. democratic push in terms of we want lots of individuals that have good ideas to work together to make a better nation. The transcendentalism represented here show nature and the wilderness becoming a place where you can hear God more clearly. If a person is busy in the factory doing the same repetitive motion over and over it is hard to have a good conversation with God, but if someone is out in the wilderness they can actually here themself think and is more likely to be that individual and more likely to then be hearing the things that they are supposed to be hearing from God.
Thoreau-1849
Thoreau esentially takes a lot of what Emerson talks about, in terms of individualism, and says we should be doing something with these ideas. He acknowledges the power of the individual and the market society is severly limiting our individualism by allowing the government to control and conform the people. Thoreau even compares the government to a machine by saying "pg 151" (saying) that the people that work in the factories are seen as no more than faceless, nameless gears in the system. He encourages people to protest and go against civil obedience, to be the minority not the majority. He reasons his argument of(striving) to be a minority by saying "middle 153". Saying if you have God on your side and you have something to say you are a majority of one, you are in the right because you are expressing yourself fully. We don't need the masses to agree, we actually want the people who arre on the outskirts, who are speaking up against the masses.
Fredrick Jackson Turner-1893 american dream idea of free land implies no one lives there .... no more free land... there was no free land to begin with, it has always been inhabited

closing of the frontier. "pg 187" basically saying that the frontier is closing, the frontier at one point symolized oppotunity, space and a clean slate, however due to it being over crowded and there being no more space to start fresh, there is no more tabula rasa. they can't start from scratch anymore they only option now is to build on what is already there. It is time to expand and push forward. We are constantly looking for something new. The view of the frontier starts to change from not just land but to larger political revolutions and emphasizes american identity.
Ronald Reagan- 1980 FREEDOM continues to show similar views to FJT. Talks about how different our views are now from Winthrops view in a city on a hill. Changes from a highly religious based view to a highly globalized view that promotes individual freedom. Freedom man, revolutionary leader, with the use of this concept he puts his concerns back on history. He talks about what they have accomplished, his view is that in a lot of ways the work has been done, it could continue to get better but as of now he is pointing out what we have already accomplished as an American society.
Conclusion:
From The Puritan view of Winthrop and Rowlandson to the transcendentalist view of Emerson and Thoreau to the modern view that Turner and Reagan express, we can see huge changes in the way wilderness is viewed, changes that correlate well with the changes that we see in societies culture. For the Puritans who were restricted by the strict laws of the practice of religion, wilderness was a place that was hostile and scary, a place where they were tested. For Transcendentalists who were focused on individualism it was a reguvinating space where they could go to hear things and figure out who they were, it was peaceful to them and and where they went to get away from society. And more recently

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