John Gast's Painting, American Progess, Shows Human Progress Requires Sacrifice, Suffering, and Struggle

John Gast's Painting, American Progess, Shows Human Progress Requires Sacrifice, Suffering, and Struggle

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Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning. This is why the Americans held the belief that they were destined to expand across the continent. One thing that the American settlers did not acknowledge was that all progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem—the Native Americans. Within the painting, American Progress, John Gast incorporated these ideas, beliefs, and problems all onto one image. The painting, American Progress, employs pathos and logos in an attempt to convince the audience that it was the heavenly duty of Americans to expand the country all the way to the Pacific Ocean. It portrays Western expansion by Americans as a glorious and righteous thing. In reality, however, expansion may not have been as just as the painting makes it seem.
American Progress is positioned on an American landscape with the left half of the painting representing western America, while the right side of the picture represents eastern America. This painting is filled with numerous colors all throughout the image, but the left side of the painting is noticeably darker than the rest. In fact, as you move towards the right of the painting, the colors get lighter and brighter. The meanings of the light and darkness within the painting symbolize the known and unknown of the land in America. The west is viewed as dark and mysterious, while the east is welcoming and prosperous.
American Progress contains multiple characters all ...


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...several audiences to gain majority of the people’s support for moving west.
Overall, American Progress purpose was to convince Americans that it was their destiny to stretch across the land from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean in order to make the society a better constructive place. American Progress portrays western expansion and Manifest Destiny as a glorious and righteous thing. This painting presents a very effective persuasion to the American people. The painting played off the American emotions present at the time regarding patriotism and manifest destiny, and by incorporating American innovations such as telegraph lines into the image he paired the idea of expanding westward settlement with the idea of innovation. The painting truly hints at the past, lays out a fantastic version of an evolving present, and finally lays out a vision of the future.

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