Through The Eyes Of An American Farmer English Literature Essay
For a deeper study of man’s relationship with nature as well as the social forces instigating the current of colonial America, it is essential to turn an author who emigrated from France to America by the name of St. Jean De Crevecoeur. His most vital work, the Letters of from an American Farmer, was not publicized until 1782 and depicts the colonies prior to the revolution. However his descriptions can be applied, with just a little adjustment, to the entire eighteenth century in America. The main focus of these letters was to take into account the ideas which Crevecoeur brought to bear in his effort to expose the character of the American man, newly settled on the eighteenth century frontier. Ordinary history text says little about the colonial events between 1700 and 1750. No significant political changes or any stimulating wrestles with Europe mark this disregarded half-century. Nevertheless, the population, wealth, and racial stock of the period brought forth vital changes. The middle colonies especially grew rapidly, even though they were founded later than Virginia and the commonwealths of New England. A diversified group of European races and religions came to these colonies; many of them were attracted to the policy of religious toleration. According to “Social History of the United States”, Crevecoeur believed that Europeans cast off Old World connections when they adapted to American culture. The bulk of these mid- colony-settlers became penny-wise farmers and merchants who, in their allegiance to business no less than in their varied racial stock, predict the typical American of the following century. Due to his extensive closeness with European culture and colonial life here in America, St. Jean de Crevecoeur was well appointed for the job of describing this mixed society. In the first three of the twelve letters written by Crevecoeur, the reader learns that this composition was addressed to an imaginary journalist inquisitive about the colonists’ ‘new manner of life’. In letter three, he goes on to elaborate his perception of ‘What is an American’ by using a grand scheme of comparing the lifestyles of England to America. His effort to forge a unique individuality for the ‘American’, with characteristics that would unify the settlers of this straggling country under one roof; while in the same moment it grounds its variations from Europe from whence it derives most of its figures. Crevecoeur also goes on to describe the country as the great melting pot of the world, a geographical location where a truly different set of people join together and forgetting social, religious, economic, national as well as linguistic differences are melted into one. The procedure of disregarding all differences calls for the common pursuit of what has since then become ‘the American Dream’. America, the realm of freedom, equality and opportunity invites all new arrivals to its shores with open arms. The new arrivals in turn are grateful for everything that this new territory has to offer, each one of them personalizing the American Dream, and while pursuing an honest, free and happy life becomes an American leaving their past lives behind. Since the time of Crevecoeur, America has come a long way. Today, obtaining a green card for the sake of legalizing an ‘American’ identity is maybe one of the most wanted commodities in the world. To be an ‘American’ is not just an opportunity to be obtained freely anymore, it is a privilege given to the best and brightest from all parts the world. However, some things hardly ever change. This country still stands as the great melting pot of the world. In the present, this is even more so, not like in Crevecoeur’s times where only the Europeans or varies groups of Christianity showed up on the shores of this wonderful ‘land of dreams’. Multitudes from all nations and belonging to every possible religion live together in peace partaking in on the modern day edition of the ‘American Dream. In the ninth ‘letter of an American farmer’, Crevecoeur elaborates on a trip to the Carolinas where he sojourns with plantation owners at Charles- Town. The beginning of the letter starts with a grateful description of the lavish culture that he discovered. However, no faster than you can blink, Crevecoeur breaks out into a long discussion about slavery. At one point while walking through fields of Charles-Town, he paused over a suffering dark-skinned slave and questioned the plans of both God and Nature in allowing these human beings to dwell and pass away under the unrighteousness of slavery. The vivid images that Jean de Crevecoeur depicted in letter nine, has surely left gruesome images on the minds of the many that have read his letters.
Crevecoeur’s sympathy for slaves was very exceptional and surely unwarranted by most of the slave owners themselves. But nevertheless, Crevecoeur understood the value each slave held and treated them as such. Junius P. Rodriguez said “It (Slavery) had a great impact on American culture, cementing racism and other attitudes that echo into the present”. During his visit to the plantation of Charles-Town, Crevecoeur stumbled upon a Negro suspended in the cage. He describe this event as “horrid to think and painful to repeat”, but at the same time he presented his readers with a vivid picture of the details. At one point he says “I shudder when I recollect that the birds had already picked out his eyes, his cheek bones were bare; his arms had been attacked in several places, and his body seemed covered with a multitude of wounds”. The heart of Crevecoeur was pure, and though he found himself “arrested by affright and terror”, he could not resist the notion to offer the Negro a cup of drink, and engage in a brief conversation with the slave hanging in a cage. According to Crevecoeur, he had to gather up enough strength to walk away and carrier on to his intended business. However, he later found out the reason for the slave’s punishment was because he murdered the overseer of the plantation. Nevertheless, the text does not give an account of whether Crevecoeur regretted giving the prisoner a drink or not. Based on his perception of man and nature, it is quite well possible that he did not regret his compassion for the slave.
Many readers are attracted to letter nine because of de Crevecoeur's anti-slavery rhetoric, but however, it has perplexed many minds as to why he chose, just as other anti-slavery writers, to produce an explicit description of the physical marks of slavery written upon the body of a slave. For instance, Alphonso Lingi, author of Abuses examined the body as a product of inscription, material to be further inscribed and re-inscribed by social norms, practices, and values. Basically, Lingi put forth the message that man is defined by the way he utilizes the tools around him. In his text, Lingi used "the savage inscription" of scarification to show a clear distinction between the savage body and the blank civilized body, which he reasons is culturally written.
De Crevecoeur truly concerned himself with the well being of nature and its creatures. He certainly made strong efforts to amplify American's ignorance towards nature and it products. He believed man had no care and concern for nature, and felt that it was unfair because nature has helped man in so many ways that humans think of as frivolous. According to farmer James, cruel nature is the primary creative force in human affairs, and human interaction and structures
of feeling are merely its derivatives. One quotation that essentially summarizes Crevecoeur's stance towards Americans and nature comes from Sketches of Eighteenth century America. "If bountiful Nature is kind to us on the one hand, on the other she wills that we shall purchase her kindness not only with sweats and labor but with vigilance and care". Crevecoeur has illustrated through his writings the theoretical edition of a free society, known as America. While the first letters describe a pristine conception of America through the eyes of an American farmer at his secluded farm called Pine Hill, the later letters show a land tarnished and ruined by civilization and society. One such reason for these mishaps was slavery, which has been described throughout the texts written by Jean De Crevecoeur.
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