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 American Literature

Final Project Example: Stereotypes

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Crevecouer's paper stereotyped the American frontiersman as a barbarian. Franklin helped this fix this picture in the minds of peoples of other continents. Poe stereotyped the English in The Fall of the House of Usher, leading Americans to believe that even though foreign cultures thought the people in the New World were raw, there were worse things. Douglass wanted the world to know the actuality of being a slave. His autobiography was the story of a man, not a slave. He tried to take America by its shoulders and shake the nonsense out of it. Twain also tried to break through the misconceptions of blacks being less than whites. Pudd'nhead Wilson put a black man into the position of a white man, proving that heritage does not control destiny. Fanny Fern's Ruth Hall tried to break women out of the role of dominated, fawning sheep. She used her own life as a struggling female writer to demonstrate how hard it was to be a woman and to be thought of as less than a man. Petry stereotyped black men, white men and black women in The Street. She showed how people will do nearly anything to be free of what their pre-chosen unfair roles are. John Hassler used the conventional view of small town life to show how American Indians were unnecessarily feared and misunderstood, and also to show how small town life itself is stereotyped.

Throughout this semester we've been given peoples views of other people. We've been shown stereotypical behaviors and reactions that have damaged entire peoples. We have a long way to go to reach a perfect sense of equality for all people on this planet, but reading the assigned works has made me understand that we have made advances. It sometimes doesn't seem that there is much improvement when we see how minorities are treated today, but condensing the last two hundred years down into a semester's worth of reading shows that we have come quite a distance. I think we've come to realize how easily people can be placed in categories. It's a slow process undoing the damage, but maybe we're going in the right direction, after all.

My bulletin board is titled "200 Years: A Beginning to the End of Stereotypes." The background is a human brain with shelves. There are labelled boxes lined up carefully on the shelves. One box is titled "Early Settlers" and it's inside walls are covered with pictures of wild men covered in blood, killing game and eating raw meat. The center of the box is filled with rocks with a little dirt mixed in and a toy tractor. Another box, titled "Blacks" has chains inside, a bloody bill of sale, a copy of "Ebony", a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and pictures of Harlem today. The "Women" box has a mouse in it, along with a Barbie doll wearing an apron with tape across her mouth. I'd probably put in a scorched bra on top of an applicaton for N.O.W. I'd put copies of famous Indian raid accounts in the "Native American" box, along with a tomahawk, feathers and a recent photo of any reservation home. The bulletin board could have hundreds of boxes to represent what typical ideals are of the Irish, Italian, Mexican, German, teenagers, older folks, handicapped people and people of all faiths. Down at the bottom I'd put one large box, the "America" box, painted traditional red, white and blue. Inside that box would be thousands of pictures of people from all walks of life and a pair of eye glasses.