“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” “Resistance to Civil Government,” and “Success is Counted Sweetest” are but a few volumes out of thousands of others that are interlocked and related in some form or another. What binds these texts together? The American Dream, the ideal which not only adapts to social stimuli or occurrences, but also shapes the motives of every protagonist or antagonist --archaic or contemporary -- in their respective tales. Said theme in American Literature evolves to suit and reflect society -- from the Colonial and Revolutionary periods to the Post-Modern Ages -- and is prevalent in both molding modern culture and addressing such’s issues. In short, the American Dream reverberates through the ages, changing as it endures time, and allowing observers to address both their wishes and the desires of their community. It is a time of discovery -- both of self and land -- and legions of settlers disembark from their former, British lives to partake in the delights of the New World; these are the Puritans, and they exist in a time devoted to theology and other deity-based interests. From dawn to dusk, earning the favor of God is of critical concern; those who denounce this lifestyle are ostracized, and above all else, Science bows to God. This, however, changes in the middle of the Colonial Era, when settlers begin to harbor an unyielding desire for the Sciences. The pilgrims stray from prior teachings, and adopt new ideals of literature and thought to accommodate this. In time, these once-unacceptable concepts evolve to reject Britain’s tyranny, and actively speak out against the parent nation’s draconic nature; a call for Revolution has been sounded, a want for science established. It can be seen of the changes in thought of the colonial peoples that such ideas would bleed into the fields of literature. With the rising of alchemy and science, American Colonists denounce the humility and spirituality of the early settlers’ lives in favor of more logical explanations to life. To combat this, a Zealot Puritan launches a campaign against such ethereal perversion with speeches of force, fury, fear: the priest’s name is Jonathan Edwards, and he is largely successful in his endeavors to rid the pilgrims of their audacity. Such is seen in Edwards’s highly acclaimed speech, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” in which he claims the very maw of Tartarus wishes to claim the souls of the impure, and an enraged God would gladly pass the lost spirits into the inferno if not for repentance and an engrained fear of the Puritan’s deity. A fear spreads across the colonies as a divine plague, and all who encounter Jonathan Edwards’ sermons take in their own primal fears of the earned eternal torment. Hopes of decadence and corruption fade, and are replaced with an American Dream of humility and terror. Such is both to fear and aim to appease God in a lifetime of both active spiritual service and simplicity. A life of scarcity is expected, and any attempts to revive the Sciences are met with suspicion of a denouncing of society’s American Dream as a whole. As a result, xenophobia and overzealous Christianity became accepted in order to preserve the Colonial American Dream of spiritual service and unparalleled humility, and a diversion from this is met with outrage and fear, as in Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, or in The Crucible. However, the American Dream of the Colonial Era expanded and evolved in time to accommodate the life-long directives of the succeeding generation of Americans: those who exist in the Revolutionary Age. In a chronological period of oppression and alienation, the soon-to-be Rebels seek out secession from the British Empire due to high, province-biased taxes and draconic rule enforced by the monarchial rule of King George III. Faced with a jealous state bearing down on the fledgling America, a new dream is borne forth by Thomas Paine and fellow insurrectionists,
American Ethnic Literature
March 1, 2013
American Ethnic Literature
American literature is written by writers who are American. The novel must be about American culture and social values. Also having an American style setting that only a citizen would know. From the beginning of America, we have had a unique philosophy of life and freedom which is always reflected in our literature. American literature allows others to view and understand that Americans have made…
The Early American Colonial and Revolutionary Era Literature
From the early American Colonial era to the Revolutionary era, the dominant literary theme changed gradually from religion to science. In the early Colonial American period, Puritans were a group of people who wrote letters, poetry and autobiographies. Later in America came the Revolutionary period when writers left behind the puritan literacy. They would no longer write about religious themes. By this period people were fascinated with…
Immigrant Literature and the American Cultural Identity
The rich cultural diversity that characterizes America today stems from the successive wave of immigrants that landed on its shores in search of the "American Dream": the promise of freedom, equality, and economic success. However, for those leaving their homes behind for opportunities turns out to be "very unlikely to be realized" as a change requires unique struggles for the search of an identity, cultural conflicts, and challenges of integration…
century before the founding of the United States in 1776, and continued mostly in the South until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1865. Most slaves were black and were held by whites, although some Native Americans and free blacks also held slaves; there were a small number of white slaves as well.
. Slavery spread to the areas where there was good-quality soil for large plantations of high-value cash crops, such as tobacco, cotton, sugar, and coffee. By the…
Cassandra H. Ivey
July 8, 2012
My Life will Speak For Me
When I had to choose a topic to write a response for this time, it was difficult to find something positive to write a respond on. Being an African American Woman and looking back through history I found myself sadden by the details of what happened in our history. The Harlem Renaissance, for instance grieved me to read some of the poems, short stories stating what happened during that era, and how many lives were…
Disillusionment in the literature of the World War I era
The years before World War I were marked with practical optimism. The U.S. society had come of age and many developments in weapons and transportations made their future seem brighter.[endnoteRef:1] However after WWI ended in 1918, many Americans began to feel a growing distrust in political leaders and government officials. The war had ended; however, nothing was solved. A negative outlook on life was adopted after the people experienced…
Short Paper Assignment #1
American literature is not studied because it is related to any one occupation, but instead because it boosts our ability to understand the world and how we impact and interact with the world. Literature reflects human ideas, beliefs, and societies, and studying it allows us to discover common human ways of understanding life. Additionally, when we read literature we are able to determine significant differences between works which allows us to explore another’s lifestyle…
Postmodernism in American literature
The novel Beloved by Toni Morrison often makes us question the credibility of what is being told, and uses many striking, sudden shifts between the past and present, making it difficult to distinguish between reality and fiction. This blurring of the truth is a common element of postmodern fiction. In fact, many scholars would say that Beloved is a great example of postmodernism. (Ebrahimi 2005) Morrison uses this technique to bring about the suffering…
"Man is his own star; and the soul that can
Render an honest and a perfect man,
Commands all light, all influence, all fate;
Nothing to him falls early or too late.
Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,
Our fatal shadows that walk by us still."
Epilogue to Beaumont and Fletcher's Honest Man's Fortune
Cast the bantling on the rocks,
Suckle him with the she-wolf's teat;
Wintered with the hawk and fox,
Power and speed be hands and feet.
After reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Essay, there…
John Steinbeck had a significant impact on American Literature because of his contribution to the modernism movement, and his style and themes of writing. He provides a solid voice in his books as well as a very American theme that is about overcoming obstacles.
Steinbeck fuels the modernism movement, especially with big works such as Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. I read The Grapes of Wrath last year, and it is a grim take on a farmer’s life; it rejects traditional norms. He does use some…