An Inexplicable Nature of the American Identity

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In the early years of America’s foundation, a powerful air of uncapped potential, the desire for expansion and individual identification enamored the American people. Progress was inevitable as was cultural definition. But as time progressed, the feeling of unlimited strength, time and space transformed into something that, for better or worse, was no longer shared by later poets. Those of the “New World” came to realize that their world never really managed to leave behind the faults of the “Old.” Societal tension rose as different poets and authors struggled to pin down the direction of American culture and its ideals. When no solid idea was able to capture American culture adequately, the concept of an ever-evolving American identity was adopted. It became apparent that the American identity could not concisely be defined because its description transformed into something greater than itself. Despite the notion of defining something so incredibly wide and vast, society has become increasingly pre-occupied with explaining exactly what the American identity means. Even when authors such as Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Emily Dickinson navigate the American identity, their ideas, although similar in many respects, offer various nuances and perspectives on the topic. By investigating the various idiosyncrasies of their language and the focus each emphasizes, the complexities of the American identity can truly be highlighted. In the case of linear movement, Whitman brings forth a distinct perspective of time as he disregards the traditional idea of external reality. This loss is set off by a heightened presence within the realm of consciousness. Therefore, Whitman’s nonlinear form of movement is accompanied by a destruct... ... middle of paper ... ... lets the world file past him and assigns each object by its name. It is in this way he rediscover the idiosyncrasies of the world around him, which have been too long camouflaged by conventional attitudes. Unlike Adam, however, he is not merely a giver of names, but Whitman feels at one with what he creates. Hence, Whitman’s attempt to establish a new relationship with reality and contribute to the fundamental ideals of the American identity rests on two premises. On one hand, he wants to experience and appreciate each individual in its particularity, just as Emerson’s “centrality of things” (Emerson, Circles) and in celebration of the “sacredness” (Whitman, Leaves of Grass) held within the individual; on the other, his urge to identify himself with the objects makes him demand that everything has reference to the foundation of the world, and particularly America.
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