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American Culture - Essay Example

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Puritans was the name given in the 16th century to the more extreme Protestants within the Church of England who thought the English Reformation had not gone far enough in reforming the doctrines and structure of the church; they wanted to purify their national church by eliminating every shred of Catholic influence…
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American Culture
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Puritan Political Contributions to America Puritans was the given in the 16th century to the more extreme Protestants within the Church of England who thought the English Reformation had not gone far enough in reforming the doctrines and structure of the church; they wanted to purify their national church by eliminating every shred of Catholic influence. In the 17th century many Puritans emigrated to the New World, where they sought to found a holy Commonwealth in New England. Puritanism remained the dominant cultural force in that area into the 19th century.
English Puritans were known at first for their extremely critical attitude regarding the religious compromises made during the reign of Elizabeth I. Many of them were graduates of Cambridge University, and they became Anglican priests to make changes in their local churches. They encouraged direct personal religious experience, sincere moral conduct, and simple worship services. Worship was the area in which Puritans tried to change things most; their efforts in that direction were sustained by intense theological convictions and definite expectations about how seriously Christianity should be taken as the focus of human existence.
After James I became king of England in 1603, Puritan leaders asked him to grant several reforms, of which, mostly are rejected and the repressive attitude of Archbishop William Laud caused most of the Puritans to emigrate. Those who remained formed a powerful element within the parliamentarian party that defeated Charles I in the English Civil War. After the war the Puritans remained dominant in England and during the whole colonial period Puritanism had direct impact on both religious thought and cultural patterns in America. In the 19th century its influence was indirect, but it can still be seen at work stressing the importance of education in religious leadership and demanding that religious motivations be tested by applying them to practical situations.
"The Scarlet Letter"
Often in society people are criticized, punished and despised for their individual choices and flaws. In the novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author attempts to show the way society casts out individuals simply because their ideas and deeds differ from the common values. Nathaniel Hawthorne uses Hester Prynne to symbolize that those who challenge social conformities can benefit society as a whole. Though she has been banished for committing adultery, she sees that the community needs her. Through her generous accomplishments the community realizes she is a person who, regardless of her sin, can affect the community in a positive way
the beginning of the book Hester Prynne is publicly humiliated as a punishment for breaking a Puritan belief and one of the Ten Commandments; adultery. She is then forced to stand in front of the town for hours as the crowd tries to break her down with criticism and shaming words. After her release, "the scene was not without a mixture of awe, such as much always invest the spectacle of guilt and shame of a fellow creature" (63). They almost took a delight in her punishment, having thought they cleansed the town, and therefore only leaving a "pure" society. They thought that if they treated her so horrible that no one would ever even think of breaking the law again. As the story begins the townspeople do not see her as a necessity but as a nuisance to get rid of. They do not realize the need for which they have of her. And that she is just as much a part of the community as they all are. So in a sense when the banish Hester they are banishing a part of themselves. After this she is given more punishment by having to wear the letter "A" embroidered on everything she wears as a reminder to everyone that she has committed adultery. She is thrown out of town and is no longer a community member. She suffered these ordeals and punishments because she was an affront to them; she is an individual and that scares them. These perfect Puritans threw her out of their lives because she was not a drone to their ways, but a distinctive person.
Fear was the motivation that drove the Puritans to exclude Hester Prynne from society. This new society was afraid that their community would fall apart "in a land where iniquity is searched out and punished" (68) if they did not seek out those individuals that were immoral in their eyes. Their fear of sin and wickedness drove them in their quest to do what they felt was right. The society had to protect itself from its own judgment. Their fault was that they only saw Hester for the crime she had committed but not as the woman she was. When the community banished Hester Prynne they succeeded in upholding their morality but lost an individual. The community is nothing more than a collection of individuals. Although they do not see this point now perhaps they will in time. Since everyone within the community was subject to scrutiny, when someone was caught being bad, everyone could be glad it was not he or she. This closed mindedness could only see hatred for Hester Prynne and the need to identify her with the letter "A". This way everyone would look at her rather than one another.
Moby Dick
Moby Dick, the whaling ship is both a traditional village and a modern factory. It felt the persistent burden of his Puritan ancestry and explored both the loneliness and nobility of the individual separated from traditional community. The story of the captain of a whaling boat, Ahab, and his relentless hunt for one whale, Moby Dick is also about the mysterious forces of the universe that overwhelm the individual who seeks to confront and struggle against them. Written in a powerful and varied narrative style, the book includes a magnificent sermon delivered before the ship's sailing, soliloquies by the ships' mates, and passages of a technical nature, such as a chapter about whales.
The Crucible
Salem Witch Trials tells us that, in effect, the trials were a bi-product of the adulterous conduct of a servant girl, Abigail Williams, with a married man, John Proctor. The girl accused Proctor's wife of witchcraft in order to rid herself of a rival. Another servant girl, under the power of Abigail then accused Proctor. The latter, according to Miller, could have been saved from execution if he had been able to prove that he was an adulterer. His wife, Elizabeth, to whom Proctor had confessed his adultery, could have testified to this fact and thus saved his life. She chose, however, to lie to the court, thinking that it would be better to preserve her husband's good name rather than his life. Miller uses this made-up story to depict the triumph of good over evil. He makes Proctor, the adulterer, his hero and his symbol of good in society. The playwright's symbol of evil is the Puritan faith personified in Cotton Mather, the learned New England Puritan and author of The Great Works of Christ in America.
The Last of the Mohicans
The colonies stuck together to fight off the French, who were trying to become dominant in North America (the french were allied with the huron indians). The British colonies wanted to be the major controller of North America, but when the French came down from Canada to the Louisianna area, it started conflict and the French and Indian War started. It had nothing to do with them breaking away from England.The Muh-he-con-neok (the People of the Waters That Are Never Still), now called the Mohicans, were almost totally wiped out by disease, battles with the white Americans and cultural erosion. The few that remain can be found in the Stockbridge-Munsee band.
The Song of Hiawatha
Longfellow spent nearly a year and a half on Hiawatha, finishing in November of 1855. The meter he used was based on a Finnish epic poem called the Kalevala.The Song unfolds a legend of Hiawatha and his mate, Minnehaha. The poem closes with the approach of a birch canoe to Hiawatha's village, containing "the Priest of Prayer, the Pale-face." Hiawatha welcomes him joyously and the "Black-Robe chief"
Told his message to the people,
Told the purport of his mission,
Told them of the Virgin Mary,
And her blessed Son, the Saviour.
Hiawatha and the chiefs accept their message. Hiawatha bids farewell to Nokomis, the warriors, and the young men, giving them this charge: "But my guests I leave behind me/Listen to their words of wisdom,/Listen to the truth they tell you." Having endorsed the Christian missionaries, he launches his canoe for the last time westward toward the sunset, and departs forever.
Emerson's "Concord Hymn"
Emerson identifies the "Shot Heard Round the World" as the shots fired by the Minutemen at Concord. The event referenced in the Emerson poem which was written for the dedication of a monument to the battle in Concord.
American Patriotic Song
The music of the United States can be characterized by the use of syncopation and asymmetrical rhythms, long, irregular melodies, which are said to "reflect the wide open geography of (the American landscape)" and the "sense of personal freedom characteristic of American life". Some distinct aspects of American music, like the call-and-response format, are derived from African techniques and instruments.
Throughout the early part of American history, and into modern times, the relationship between American and European music has been a discussed topic among scholars of American music. Some have urged for the adoption of more purely European techniques and styles, which are sometimes perceived as more refined or elegant, while others have pushed for a sense of musical nationalism that celebrates distinctively American styles. Modern classical music scholar John Warthen Struble has contrasted American and European, concluding that the music of the United States is inherently distinct because the United States has not had centuries of musical evolution as a nation. Instead, the music of the United States is that of dozens or hundreds of indigenous and immigrant groups, all of which developed largely in regional isolation until the American Civil War, when people from across the country were brought together in army units, trading musical styles and practices. Struble deemed the ballads of the Civil War "the first American folk music with discernible features that can be considered unique to America: the first 'American' sounding music, as distinct from any regional style derived from another country."
American Transcendentalism
Thoreau is placed in a context of the usual suspects: his white and usually male contemporaries and inheritors. One would hardly guess from reading this volume that slavery and racism played rather important roles in shaping the landscape of antebellum America. Race is mentioned in Susan Lucas's essay on writing and activism and Richard Schneider's contribution on the philosophical underpinnings of manifest destiny, though the latter explicitly sidesteps the "racial implications". of Thoreau's enthusiasm for western expansion
The Civil War
The character "Uncle Tom" grew up on the plantation of his first master, Mr. Shelby, a Southerner who was kindly disposed toward his slaves. In the course of events, Mr. Shelby incurs such large debts that he must either sell Tom, his most valuable slave, or sell all the others. This dilemma allows Mrs. Stowe to demonstrate how the economic realities of the slave system itself often precluded humanitarian considerations.
Uncle Tom's second master, Mr. St. Clare, was also a Southerner and a compassionate slave owner. Mrs. Stowe uses St. Clare's Vermont cousin, Miss Ophelia, to illustrate the Northern view of slavery. Miss Ophelia chastises St. Clare: "It's a perfect abomination for you to defend such a system - you all do - all you southerners." But, annoyed by the slipshod manner in which the house servants conduct themselves; she calls them "shiftless." Miss Ophelia is also offended by the close companionship of St. Clare's daughter, Little Eva, with Tom and the other slaves, which she deems inappropriate.
Uncle Tom's third and final master is perhaps the most famous villain in American literature - Simon Legree: a New England Yankee. Legree amasses enough money pirating to purchase a plantation in Louisiana. As a plantation owner, he regularly beats, curses and abuses his slaves. In one of his beatings of Tom, Legree's rage boils over and he accidentally kills the noble slave.
Toward the end of the book, an escaped slave, George Harris, realizes he can now achieve his dream of joining the colony in Liberia: "Let me go to form part of a nation, which shall have a voice in the councils of nations, and then we can speak. We have the claim of an injured race for reparation. But, then, I do not want it. I want a country, a nation, of my own." Read More
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