The United States of America—a melting pot of people, but more specifically, a melting pot of opinions. From Native Americans to later European settlers, America’s people constantly disputed about their beliefs of government and religion. Wars were even fought over these differences in opinions. One conflicting topic many may not think of is people’s differing viewpoints of the American wilderness. When one thinks of nature in American literature, Transcendentalist texts may come to mind, but in reality, the American wilderness played a very important role in early American writings as well. America’s wilderness continually surrounded its ever-changing people, which as a result, influenced early American authors to interpret and write their own significance of it in their texts. The representations of nature varied widely from sacred to devilish to finally, beautiful and awe-inspiring.
The American wilderness’s first representation originates from America’s first people, the Native Americans. In short, the Native Americans believed that the wilderness was sacred and deserved the upmost respect since it connected them to their ancestors and supernatural beings such as the Great Spirit. According to the Navajo creation story, “…a sacred rainbow was placed around Diné bikéyah, our homeland, for protection and as a blessing and a reminder of the sacredness of this land” (Norton Vol. A 34). The Holy People in this story continually watch over and protect the Navajo people and their homeland, and as a result, the Natives believed that the nature around them was blessed. Similarly, in the Iroquois creation story, the sun and moon were made out of the sky woman that descended from ...
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...t nature, but instead, use it in a sustainable manner and acknowledge its magnificence.
The American wilderness was always there, surrounding the American people. Therefore, it inclined many early American authors to write and interpret its meaning. As seen in Native American creation stories, nature was sacred and served as a refuge. For the Puritans, the “devilish” American wilderness functioned as a scapegoat or something to place blame on since they associated their fears of the unknown and their fear of the devil to the wilderness. Finally, around the early 1800s, there was the philosophy that nature existed to be observed for its beauty and wonder. Although these representations of the American wilderness contrast one another, they still provide insight into the different cultures at the time and allow 21st-century readers to understand life in early America.
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