What is an American?

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by FlashGordon86
Last updated 8 years ago

Language Arts

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What is an American?

After reading an reflecting on the seven different authors we have studied the past few weeks, taking characterstics from each, I have deduced that an American is someone of their own making. That's the beautiful thing about being an American; we cannot be defined. There is no stereotypical "American". We are self made.

What is an American?By: Garrett Gordon

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Washington Irving

William Bryant

Mark Twain

Edgar Allen Poe

Jack London

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Ralph Waldo Emerson is probably the biggest supporter of my claim. The idea of nonconconformity that was heavily supported by his trancendentalist movement screams idividuality. In Self Reliance, Emerson says "The virtue in most request is conformity. Self reliance is its aversion."

Irving also hints at individuality with his character Tom Walker. The story describes Tom Walker and his wife as miserly, derelicts, and outcasts of society.Tom and his wife chose a different path in life, but that is what sets them apart. Tom Walker is a dreary example of individuality, but an example nontheless.

Bryant's naturalist beliefs and his perspective on death reflected heavily in his poem "Thanatopsis". In his poem, Bryant advises us to "Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night, scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed by an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave like one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him and lies down to pleasant dreams." This is a very uinique way to look at death. Many people cannot accept death as easily as he describes.

Mark Twain describes a young boy dreaming of becoming a steamboat pilot. He shares this dream with dozens of other boys in town, but he seems to be the only one that preserveres through the hardships of becoming a steamboat pilot. Twain gives us his view of an independent American through this boy. He views an American as a strong minded and determined person. With these qualities, the boy was able to seperate himself from the crowd as an individual.

Although this is the most disturbing and twisted story we have studied all year, Poe's view of an American stays true to my claim. In the story, a nameless narrator travels to the house of his childhood friend; Roderick Usher, to try and help provide him with some mental stability. After hearing the description of the residence, no sane person would take up residence at this house. This does not deter the narrator. Once again we see that strong mindedness is a characteristic of an American. This man came to the rescue of an estranged friend when no one else would. That is what sets him apart. From further actions of the narrator, one can deduce that Poe also viewed an American as someone who is kind at heart, even when the world around them is filled with evil.

Jack London's message in "The Law of Life" is very similar to that of William Bryant's. That is, that death should be accepted gracefully, as it is a part of nature. London emphasizes that when the the prey becomes to old and slow to keep away from their predator, their time has come. That is the law of life. The main character, Kaskoosh, new this and accepted death nobly. Many people cannot accept death that easy, which sets kaskoosh apart from other men and as an American.

Longfellow's "Paul Revere's Ride" depicts the midnight ride of Paul Revere and is an exaggeration of sorts to to it's "sing song" format. In his interpretation, Longfellow shows Paul Revere as a glistening hero, when in reality, he was just a common messenger chosen for the job. This especially reflects Longfellow's personal view of an American. He believed that an American is someone of their own making and patriotism who people can lookup to and cherish. The preserverance of Paul Revere through his ride is another quality of an American that resounds through the other authors.


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