Actuality of the Dream

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Actuality of the Dream At the onset of an emerging American society, J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur comments on the principles of American social organization and the new consciousness that was arising in Letters from an American Farmer. Crevecoeur incorporated not only his own personal feelings and thoughts into this work, but also integrated depictions of ordinary American life using the “important philosophical, political, and economic theories of the Enlightenment” (850). The images of a picturesque American farmer whose life is seemingly perfect and filled with abundant happiness in his “new” world is the foundation, but this vision is abruptly transformed into complete despondency when “perfection” is contaminated with slavery and Revolution. The detailed illustration of this dream world, gone array, is filled with intense accounts of utter bliss and happiness to those of horrific brutality and desolation. In Letters, Crevecoeur effectively utilizes imagery in scenes of farming, slavery and war, and progressive changes in tone to portray the actuality of the new “happy” land of opportunity, America, that entitles each to “entertain new ideas and form new opinions” while also depicting a complete divergence from English traditions (857). Thus, producing the formation of the American, the destruction of a notion of the ideal life, and the development of the American consciousness. Crevecoeur poses the famous question, ‘What, then, is the American, this new man?’ (850) He also addresses some of the most pressing concerns of the time: the issue of American identity, self-interests, and freedom from institutional oppression. While celebrating the largeness and fertility of the land, this narrative also introduces darker elements, including slavery and war that casts a long shadow over the new nation. During a time of monarchial rule where free choice and independence were not even considered, Crevecoeur created a setting through images of freedom, where pursuit of self-interest is the way of life and the only governing landlord is “the lord of all the land” (852). This is an extremely problematic notion because James is still a British subject, loyal to the throne, only reaping the benefits of a fertile America while claiming no steadfast allegiance to either country. Although it appears he is loyal to America as he states, “I felt myself h... ... middle of paper ... ...Although America appeared to offer freedom from monarchial rule, it did not promise a society free from conflict and differing ideas. And it is this that makes for an effective work: the promise of freedom appeals to the masses that so desperately seek it in combination with the variations in imagery and tone on account of an altering society that prove extremely effective both literarily and rhetorically. Thus, the formation of the American was more than just the creation of a specific type of person. It was the development of a consciousness—an understanding and acceptance of the changes that are bound to face a society that allows for freedom of thought and the formation of new and diverse opinions. And this is what Crevecoeur is attempting to prove through the delight and tribulations in Letters from an American Farmer. No matter where James escaped to, there would be evils to plague his happiness. America offered the freedom to choose, and to be an American would mean to retain personal independence and pursue self-interests. However, even freedom has its downside. Bibliography: The Heath Anthology of American Literature Third Edition. Paul Lauter (general editor)
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