The literature chosen for this credit really helps the reader to understand what life was like during the early American time period. The reader is shown many different voices and many different views about America. Today America cannot be described in comparison with any of the literature in this credit. However, anything in life must start from somewhere and let itself grow and develop. American’s respect the steps that were taken to mold our country into what it is today.
America was a young, inexperienced, growing nation. The early colonists had a lot to prove to the whole world and this continued throughout the Civil War era. There were many intelligent people that were trying to form a democracy. They wanted to form a country that was unlike any other. In The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Franklin was described as a brilliant man that helped to develop our nation. It was difficult for Americans to break from old traditions and allow room for individualism. However, Americans tried and fought for what they believed in. Sometimes American citizen’s beliefs were (and still are) split because of their ability to think freely. The early colonists struggled to get to where they are today whether a man, woman, or black. Americans all struggled to be find freedom.
The literature for this credit defined many issues about what it was like during that time period. In "What is an American" by Crevecouer, he discussed what it was like at the very beginning of America. He expressed the amount of freedom he felt at having an equal chance at a good life as others had. Douglass showed readers in the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass how hard it was to succeed as a black man. He showed the nasty side of white people that had power and how they used it to hurt other human beings. All of these authors fully tried to describe the struggles. The authors described the bad and the good of an American life. They also tried to show how hard it was to step out and succeed. In Thoreau’s "On the Duty of Civil Obedience" and Emerson’s "Self-Relience" they both talk about fighting for what they believed was right. Thoreau even went as far as to go to jail to prove a point. Fern’s entire novel Ruth Hall expressed women’s boundaries at that time and how hard it was to overcome such boundaries. She also expressed how women were harassed even from people that were suppose to love them.
The entire concept and idea of America is about diversity. America is a very diverse nation and it’s all right. America had many different cultures that came together which allowed for diversity to take place. However, it took Americans a long time to get that way. It was hard to move away from the European customs when that’s all that was known. America was a huge melting pot for ideas and the literature of that time shows that. Thoreau and Emerson were more philosophers, while Hawthorne, Irving, and Poe were more fiction novelists. Emerson stressed how important individualism was in America, while Douglass and Fern (who were also more novelists) gave readers an idea of how life was for all different types of people. Studying or learning about diversity in a culture helps a reader to fully understand what that culture is about. Diversity allows for different thoughts to be acknowledged. Literature helps readers understand what the culture stands for.
These different voices added diversity that Franklin, Poe, Irving, and Crevecouer did not. These were all successful men but Douglass and Fern did not always have it so easy because he was black and she was a woman. Douglass and Fern showed readers how difficult it was to not be a white male in early America. Douglass was a slave and didn’t have any rights. Fern was a woman and her feelings, thoughts, and ideas didn’t seem to matter to anyone but her husband and children. Fern had to work hard most of her life to be acknowledged as a good writer because she was a woman. Douglass and Fern show readers a different side of America. A side that most people wouldn’t want to see because it was more vulnerable. They show what life was like at their lowest point, while the other authors talked mainly about their success, their ideas, or they entertained readers.
Douglass’s view of freedom was completely different than the other authors because he was a black slave. Most of the authors of this module discuss freedom but it’s freedom for themselves. It’s freedom for white people and not slaves. Crevecouer talks a lot about how great it is to be free and how different America was from Europe. Douglass was treated more poorly than any of these authors because he was a slave. Douglass was beaten and left starving a lot of his life. Many white people did unto him what was done in Europe to them or their ancestors without even blinking an eye. Douglass was suppose to be living in a country where every man is equal but it wasn’t that way since he was black. When he was finally free, it meant more to him then anyone else. Franklin, Irving, and all these authors had a chance to learn and do what they wanted with their knowledge. Douglass was not suppose to learn to read and write. However, when he did learn it was a source of freedom for him. It was something that no one could take away from him. Freedom for Franklin was for him to succeed and not follow his father. Thoreau’s idea of freedom was standing up for what he believed in and doing what he thought was right. Thoreau took a risk and went to jail for following through with this risk. Douglass took a risk and stood up for himself by finding ways to learn. If his slave-owners had known he would have gotten into trouble. Emerson thought of freedom in kind of the same way. He thought people should not be pressured into doing things but to be able to decide for his/herself. Douglass views freedom differently because he wasn’t free for most of his life.
Fern’s view of women was talked about all throughout Ruth Hall. She discussed how they were not treated well. Most of the early male writers barely discussed women. Fern had a hard life because she was a woman. She couldn’t even find a job to support her family. However, she was strong because she never quit and kept going. On the back of her novel Hawthorne commented that Ruth Hall was a great novel because Fern wrote like the devil was in her and that is the only way a woman could write a good novel. In most of this literature for this credit, women seemed to be ‘brushed under the table’. It was as if they were worthless to even be discussed. Fern was the only woman writer in this credit and that tells the reader that everything she described in Ruth Hall happened to her and other women. It also tells the reader that at that time women were looked at as worthless people that couldn’t contribute to anything outside of the home. Franklin barely even discussed his wife even though that wasn’t his purpose for the book. However, it’s an autobiography and should include his whole life, including details about his wife. Fern was a woman and that’s why her depiction was different.
These early American authors did show a lot of humor. Fanny Fern’s novel Ruth Hall was funny because she was getting back at all the people in her life that treated her so badly and that said she was worthless. There is so much irony in that because Fern became a success by writing about the mean things that people did to her throughout her life (mainly her family). Poe was another serious author who has a lot of humor in his works. However, he is stereotyped as being different and dark so many readers don’t see or understand the humor in his works. "Never Bet the Devil Your Head" is hilarious. The guy gets beheaded so it’s a dark humor but the story is a joke. The guy in the story cried wolf and got what he literally, unintentionally deserved. Emerson and Thoreau were very serious philosophers that had a lot of great ideas. I think it’s humorous because their ideas are so simple. However, no one thought about them before or had enough guts to express them.
All of the literature for this credit really taught me a lot about America’s early history. I had read a lot of these authors’ works but never really thought about the material as a description of the beginning of our nation. I never imagined that it could be a way to learn about America. Throughout the years America has went through a lot and it has been a long growing process. However, these authors were the early intelligent minds of America and helped the country to succeed and develop.