American Literature-ENG 201-40

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.)

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