American Literature-ENG 201-40

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Literary Analysis Research Paper

"This paper on Thomas Jefferson, I feel, is my favorite. Although, I didn't receive feedback on this paper to allow me to make changes, I made some very valid points on Jefferson's behalf. It shocked me to find out that he owned slaves and the ones that he freed was HIS CHILDREN that he bored with Sally Hemming. I really wanted to elaborate on this particular aspect of his life, but I wanted to focus on the government. This part of his life that stills haunts us today"

Thomas Jefferson?

Why is Thomas Jefferson mentioned in The Heath Anthology of American Literature? What is contribution to America? It is extremely difficult to identify a more accomplished American and one with more curiosities about the human and natural worlds—than Thomas Jefferson is. Jefferson served as the third president of the United States from 1801- 1809;he was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and influential Founder of the United States. "But this tall, red-headed Virginian was an architect, a musician, an inventor, and a scientist. Above all, he was America’s foremost champion of freedom and democracy (Grolier Books 1)".

Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743 to one of Virginia’s most famous families. Besides being well born, Jefferson was well educated. "Jefferson was graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1762, then studied and practiced law (Thomas Jefferson 990)." Thomas Jefferson was no stranger to the national scene. He was elected to the House of Burgesses showing to be an effective committeeman and skillful draftsman. As a member of the Continental Congress in 1776, Jefferson was chosen together with John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman to draft, what he is best known for, The Declaration of Independence. The Declaration established the United States as an independent nation, which declared our independence from Great Britain. "…Selections form his prodigious letters-reveal an individual, and a young nation, struggling with issues of slavery, racial and cultural distinctiveness, political and national identity, the shape of government, modes of economic development, and the processes for creating a responsible, educated citizenry. (Thomas Jefferson, 990)" Jefferson did not try to be original in the Declaration; he only tried to state clearly what everybody believed. Jefferson "…emphasized the self-evident character of the principals at stake (Ellis 4)". Jefferson tried to write the common sense of the subject. On July 4, 1776, Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was approved by second Continental Congress signed by John Hancock, and certified by the secretary. After many versions, Jefferson finally had written an eloquent birth certificate of the new United States.

The Declaration of Independence, like many other documents that live and shape our history, have had the magical power to be filled with new ideas. Whereas, Jefferson’s accomplishments holds relevance of today’s America; his failures do also. The examination of Thomas Jefferson provides us with our nation’s racial legacy. "Congress’s decision to remove Jefferson’s condemnation of Great Britain’s role in the North American Slave trade, with ins implicit criticisms of the institution itself, points to the turbulent political atmosphere that Jefferson negotiated (Thomas Jefferson 991)." The horror of slavery and subsequent discrimination is found in Jefferson’s home. Jefferson’s philosophy of human nature with his ownership of several hundred slaves has always been a challenge. For years, Jefferson having a slave mistress, Sally Hemming, who bored several children for him compounded this challenge. Despite his affair with Sally and his wife awareness it "…remains elusive, but their association attests to the dissonance between public and private engagement with the institution of slavery (Thomas Jefferson 992)".
The events of Thomas Jefferson early life and career contributed to America’s political landscape. "Jefferson’s political successes were matched by innovation in policy and administration (White, 7)". Jefferson’s strong legacy in America has been used to support and refute ideas, movements, and policies throughout our nation’s history. Although much of his life was spent in the public service, Jefferson had served his nation as: a member of the Continental Congress; Virginia House of delegates; governor of Virginia; member of Congress; minister to the court Louis XVI; and Secretary of State. After a brief retirement he becomes President of the United States. Thomas Jefferson became president of sharply divided country.

Thomas Jefferson inauguration in 1801 transferred power in the United States from one political group to another that was just. "The achievements of Jefferson’s first term bore directly on his great objects of quieting party antipathy and reducing the activities and the cost of the general government. The "monarchy-minded leaders of the Federalist he believed could be attached to the Republican Party by forbearance and skill". 1 In his inaugural address Jefferson tried to play down the differences between himself and his opponents: "we are all Republican, we are all Federalist" in their devotion to the Union. Jefferson promises were (1) equal and exact justice to all men of ever shade of political and religious opinion; (2) friendship with all nations but no alliances; (3) respect for the rights of the states while still serving the "constitute vigor" of the national government; (4) encouragement of agriculture and commerce; (5) freedom of speech, press, and elections; (6) economy and honesty in the management of country’s finance. Jefferson felt as though "…governments is established by free individuals and limited to preserving their natural rights, if it ever ceases to perform its function, those individuals that formed it may dissolve the government and establish one that will properly serve their interests (Sheldo 11)". This liberal view meant that a limited government is devoted to preserving rights, is evident in his inaugural address: "America requires a wise and frugal government which shall restrain man from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement (Brodie 386)." Jefferson felt as though the Federalist was unhappy with their leaders and was ready to become Republicans if he followed a moderate course. Jefferson believed that his election had turned the country away from militarism and monarchy. "Jefferson's term was marked by his belief in agrarianism, individual liberty, and limited government, sparking the development of a distinct American identity defined by republicanism (Wikipedia 2)".

In the 1800 presidential election, Jefferson and Aaron Burr deadlocked, creating a constitutional crisis. However, Jefferson received sufficient votes in the Electoral College. Jefferson called his election triumph "the Second American Revolution". Jefferson unlike Hamilton did want an industrialized nation of cities. He hoped the country could remain a community of farming who governed themselves in local assemblies. Political philosophers were concerned about the balance between the restrictions needed to make a government and the individual liberties guaranteed by that government. Jefferson’s idea on the government in Washington should confine itself to managing the nation’s dealings with foreign powers. Pursing this policy, Jefferson aimed to reduce the army and navy, and to apply the public revenue to paying off the public debt. Albert Gallatin, secretary of the Treasury, insisted on strict economy in government. .

Many American thought their rights to govern themselves would be safer if these were stated in writing so that the government official could see them and citizens would never forget them. The new state constitution followed a pattern. It began with a brief declaration of independence. This section declaring rights in which citizens reserved for themselves against any government. These rights included but are not limited to the following: the freedom of the press, the right to petition the government against abuse, freedom from unreasonable search of the homes.

Although Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence, asserted that "all men are created equal", there were many ways in which the government treated people as if they were unequal. "…Jefferson’s revolutionary statement that "all men are created equal" came with significant caveats during his day but laid the philosophical foundation for a modern acknowledgment of universal rights, a concept that continues to serve and challenge, the United States today (Thomas Jefferson 993)". "…To acquire for the Federal government more consistency that the constitution seem to promise, to the end that triumph altogether over the states, Jefferson, on the addition of the ten amendments of the Bill of Rights, pronounced it "unquestionably the wisest yet presented to men (Bowers, 145)." Jefferson believed that every individual has certain inalienable rights. "Out of such a complex environment, Jefferson crafted a text that stands with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as foundational documents of United States nationhood, an articulation, as well, of international concepts of person and civil liberty (Thomas Jefferson 991)." That is, these rights exist with or without government; man cannot create, take or give them away. The right of liberty is one that Jefferson is notable for expediting.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." (Boyd 3) Even though the government couldn’t create a right to liberty, it can indeed violate it. A proper government, for Jefferson, is one that only prohibits of other individual society from infringing on the liberty of other individuals, but also restrains itself from diminishing individuals’ liberty.

Although "…Jefferson was opposed to "monarchising" the Constitution, and in favor of there preservation of all states rights "not yielded by them to the union. He was for a "government rigorously frugal and simple, and for "free commerce with all nations, political connection with one (Brodie, 386)". Jefferson lived up to the quotation "That government is best which governs the least." Thomas Jefferson was a fervent believer in State’s rights. He felt strongly that unguarded concentrations the Federal Government would ultimately lead to destruction of the United States. Jefferson wanted to be remembered not for his presidency, but for the roles he played in the creation of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom and the University of Virginia.


Bowers, Claude G. Jefferson in Power. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1936 p.145
Boyd, Julian P. The Declaration of Independence: The Evolution of the Text. Ed.Gerard W. Gawalt. (Library of Congress and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, Inc., 1999.)
Brodie, Fawn M., Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History, ed. Richard Burton. New York: WW Norton & Company. P.386
Ellis, Joseph J. Founding Brothers, The Revolutionary Generation. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2000. p.4
Grolier Books. The Story of America, (Connecticut: Danbury, 1996) p.1
Sheldo, Garrett Ward. The Political Philosophy of Thomas Jefferson. Baltimore & London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993. P.11
"Thomas Jefferson." The Heath Anthology of American Literature. 5th ed. Paul Lauter. Vol. A. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. 991-993
White, Leonard D. The Jeffersonians. New York: The Free Press, 1965. Pg 1, 7-8

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Overall Perspective of American Literature

My overall perspective of American Literature is that I learned some things about some of these authors that I never knew. I have always had a hard time with Literature and writing analysis. I would rather speak my opinion than write it. I really feel that literature should be a necessity in life to learn, because it gives insight on were the world has been and were it is going like history. I really struggled with this course online both technically and intelligently. Although my weakest subject, I really enjoyed the reading assignment. Being a black woman, I really felt a connection with Frederick Douglass and his struggle with slavery, freedom, and reading. I feel that black non-slaved Americans have an advantage in life because of people like Frederick Douglass and others who not mention in this anthology of literature. Also, I really enjoyed the and the Spirit written by Anne Bradstreet. My connection with this piece is more personal and real. I constantly have to battle the good and evil in my life. I have through the course of my life that evil shouldn’t overcome good at anytime in any given situations. American Literature speaks to me, although it’s hard for me to interpret what the writer is trying to say. American Literature, I feel, is a very biased subject. I really worked hard in the literature course and hope my hard work reflects my dedication for passing this course

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Final Essay Exam

"The literary analysis I kept thinking of one song, Proud to be an American. Being an American I know that I'm free. Often I complain about the government and situtation that we are faced with in our daily lives. I heard a song by India Aire, she was talking to this man from African and he asked her how was America, and all she did was complain. He responed by saying, "You shouldn't complain because he has to pretend that he is in paradise." I really enjoyed this particular assignment, but there were different avenues I could had went with writing this paper."

What It Means To Be an American

When asked, what does it mean to be an American; there are many questions that come to mind. You are sometimes faced with the meaning of individuality and whether it has meaning outside of America. Based on individuality, Americans tends to want freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom from slavery, and freedom of equality as they are written in The Constitution. Many times you are faced with obstacles of how does one feel if he or she wasn’t born here, but lives in America regardless? These are just a few of the question explored in the redesign of American literature. Throughout the readings of this course we find different views of what it means to be an American. According to Crevecoeur, “The American is a new man, who acts upon new principles; he must therefore entertain new ideas and form new opinions (Crevecoeur 931).”

Several authors throughout American history has spoken on their American experience and views through the eyes and voices of their literary characters, or have represented the living experience of other Americans who experience life in this country. This has been done through literature because it contains the potential for the connection of human. These authors were in many ways associated with the shaping of today’s America and some were associated with in the early shaping of our government as it is today. Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca’s first contact between Europeans and Native Americans was on his exploration about the New World. However, his experiences in the New World endured many anxieties.

“This combination of historical specificity and emotional accessibility makes La Relacion (1542), Cabeza de Vaca’s account of his role in disastrous Spanish expedition of 1527 of the years he spent searching for a way home, was on of the most compelling text about the Old World/New World .” It also signals the first exploration of a new literary subject-America-and the beginnings, of uniquely American forms of literary expression-such as the captivity narrative-derived from European traditions, but responding to novel landscape, peoples, religion, and circumstances (Cabeza de Vaca 139).”Through individuality Cabeza de Vaca produced a new identity for himself in order to fit into the New World as an “American.”

Though many authors in The Heath Anthology of American Literature, came to America to fight for freedom, religion, and freedom from the governments which ruled them in Europe. These writers believed that America was a land of freedom. To be an American you have to right to pick and choose your government and after that government is chosen, as an American you have the right to disagree with it. Also an American you have the right to dispute injustices and burn a flag in disgrace for the reason that we have freedom of speech. Although some of our rights are not in agreements with all Americans but they are rights and often they acted upon. To those that disagree when rights are acted upon, they still realize the wonderful freedom that we possess as an American.

America was founded on principles of firmness and hard work and these principles were created to protect our natural rights. These rights include free speech, free press and the ability to think for one’s self. America was established as a proud nation, whose outside influence is to become great and unquestionable. In America today there are many questioning the high opinion of our voices and the rights we are given. America is encountering massive call outs from its citizens demanding their freedom. While this is happening it appears that the Government has forgotten its own heritage. It is apparently clear that our nation’s leaders should keep in mind and recognize the significance of every citizen outlook and position. America was constructed for the people and by the people, as a democracy.

We as citizens of America are accountable for instilling the values of what it means to be an American in our children and keeping our heritage alive. This may be done through history and the constant readings of literature. If not done in this manner our lives as our forefather and writers of literature put forth for us will be lost and their efforts will be ineffective.

Work Cited

St. John de Crevecoeur, J. Hector. “Letter from an American Farmer.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed.Paul Lauter. Ed. Paul Lauter. 5th ed. Vol A . Boston: Coryell, 2006. 931.

Cabeza de Vaca, Alvar Nunez. “ Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter. 5th ed. Vol A . Boston: Coryell, 2006. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006. 139.

Relation of Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, trans. Buckingham Smith, 1871; rpt. 1966. (First published in Seville in 1542.)

Literary Analysis Essay 2

"This piece was my greatest challenge because I had a hard time finding my focus. I found myself concentrationg on the biographies of Frederick Douglass. My concentration should have been more on the struggle of overcomming slavery through him learning to read. This would be one paper that I would try to do differently."

Frederick Douglass

In Frederick Douglass narratives he demonstrates how white slave owners continued slavery by keeping their slaves ignorant. During the era in which Douglass wrote his narratives, it was believed that slavery was a state of being natural. It was also the belief that blacks were not capable of functioning in a general society and since this was believed, blacks were kept as workers for whites. Douglass’ narrative also enlightens all types of plans and measures the whites used to gain and keep power over their slaves from the time they were born, until they were adults or dead. In Douglass’ narratives will learn how slave owners kept their slaves ignorant of key facts in relation to themselves, such as their birth dates and their paternity. This imposed ignorance took from slave children their natural sense of individual identity. This imposition prohibited slave children a learning right, because whites seriously felt literacy would give blacks a sense of self-reliance and capability and deep within they felt assured that; if the slaves were kept illiterate, the white Southerners maintain control over the rest of America’s knowledge regarding slavery.

Hugh Auld gave Douglass the insight that knowledge was the key to being free. Auld’s wife was forbidden by him to teach Douglass to read and write because being educated would ruin slaves. Once Douglass realized the strategy that whites were using to keep blacks as slaves and by which blacks might free themselves, Douglass used the strategy to educate and free him and to make a way possible for all slaves to become free.

Douglass also demonstrates in his narratives that slaveholding doesn’t only damage the slaves, but their owners are damaged too. This damage was done by the unpredictable and dishonest influence that slave owners enjoyed over their slaves. Douglass describes in his narratives and gives a picture of typical behavior patterns of slave-owners, depicting the damaging effects of slavery. Within his narratives he also give facts on how many slave-owning men have been lured to adultery and rape and fathering children with their female slaves. On many occasions concerning adultery and rape the unity of the slave owner’s family were threaten and sometimes caused the slave-owner wife to become hostile with the slaves.

In Douglass’s narrative he builds up a difference between true Christianity and false Christianity in relation to whites. In his appendix, he gives clearness to the point, calling the former “the Christianity of Christ” and the latter “the Christianity of this land.” He also showed that with slave owners Christianity is not proof of their natural goodness, but just an insincere show that serves to support their self-satisfying cruelty. He also points to the major challenge between the charitable, peaceful tenets of Christianity and the violent, immoral actions of slave owners. This part of his narrative is centered on his slave owners, Thomas and Lucretia Auld.

Throughout his narrative, he is concerned with showing the disagreement between the fact that slaves are human beings and the fact that slave owners treat them as property. He also illustrates how slave-owners often pass slaves between owners, despite the fact of where the slaves’ families are. There’s also a depiction of how slave owner, treat their slaves as property and animals.

Literacy played an important role in promoting American history, but it also supported Douglass’ narrative. Douglas succeeded in learning to read from white children, and by observation of writings of the men with whom he admired. Although, slavery was an issue throughout the course of history Douglass did not subject himself to it. Frederick Douglass and his narrative, we were able to see slavery from his mental state. Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of his life is about his experiences both during and following his life as a slave. His narratives help him to escape slavery and become an abolitionist leader as well. Douglass worked hard his whole life on self-improvement. Douglass came to terms with being a proud black American slave man.

Work Cited Douglass.Retrieved 5 July 2006
Foner, Philip Sheldon. The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass. New York: International Publishers, 1950

Weidt, Maryann N. Voice of Freedom: a Story about Frederick Douglass. Washington: Lerner Publications, 2001.

Douglass, Fedreick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter. 5th ed. Vol A . 1889-1940

Literary Analysis Essay 1

"I really enjoyed this piece of literature. "The Flesh and the Spirit", I fell was my best work because I like to analyze the good and bad in any given situation. The title itself reminds of the saying you can't serve to master. My preacher always states the "You can't be of the spirit and of the world." You either love one or hate the other. Anne Bradstreet really spoke to me in this poem."
The Flesh and the Spirit

Once it is understood that literature is not throwing words together in the hopes that they will someday become a story, it will be more appreciated. Literature is work carefully generated by authors that worked hard with at putting their material on paper. These authors not only look to bring a difference to their method of telling their story or poetry writing, but they seek to tell, on many occasions, their own experiences and values. As we continue to study literature we will maintain the intelligibility and enthusiasm of the author’s fight to succeed in a literary society. Let’s look at the eloquent work of one of Anne Bradstreet’s poems.

“The Flesh and the Spirit” is the conflict showing feelings and wants. That the Spirit and the Flesh are “Sisters” who are linked until death suggests that this poem be read as the internal struggle of the narrator. One sister dwells in the world with a materialistic attitude and the other stands for things of the flesh. One sister represents the world including pleasure, fame, wealth, and things of the flesh. This sister is materialistic and takes consolation in her worldly possessions. She also takes fulfillment in her earthly desires. The other sister represents the Spirit. She represents satisfaction in God. She stores her treasures in Heaven. Their relationship is a constant battle. The Spirit sister sees the flesh as her enemy. She is constantly at war with the flesh. This is a battle of good and evil. These sisters are one of God and the other of the world. Bradstreet gives the earth’s portrayal as dull with an unseen force: “Earth hath more silver, pearls, and gold than eyes can see or hands can hold.” On her portrayal of the flesh, it is beyond being dull. She gives a description in (L.74). Also in (L.85-86) Bradstreet shows a city in which she someday wants to exist. She portrays the city as not being similar to Earth. The Spirit confesses that she has given into the kind words of her sister and let down her guard. She then states that the flesh will never overcome her faith in God. But they are still sisters. Even though Spirit wants to be free from the flesh, she cannot because they are sisters. She then says the only way to be free is if Spirit takes her fill of Heav'n and flesh takes the world. The only way to separate these will be in death. Rather than reconciling their differences and ending the dual, Spirit suggests that they will remain in “combat”:
Sisters we are, yea, twins we be,
Yet deadly feud ’twixt thee and me;
For from one father are we not,
Thou by old Adam was begot. (L.43-46)

Bradstreet’s “The Flesh and the Spirit” describes the internal, psychological struggle that existed because of their strict religious beliefs. The conflict between the sinful self and the redeemed self coincide with the conditions, according to Puritans, humans, who are wounded by the sin, must always be aware of their depraved status. In the poem she make obvious she can only win the war between the flesh and the spirit, by destroying her “Flesh.” Bradstreet understands that she can’t satisfy the world and her religious denomination. Having to master you will love one and hate the other, destroying the “Flesh” means getting rid of her ungodly attributes.

Works Cited

Bradstreet, Anne. “The Flesh and the Spirit.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed.Paul Lauter. Ed. Paul Lauter. 5th ed. Vol A . Boston: Coryell, 2006. 403-05.