Crèvecoeur’s America

As an American myself, Crèvecoeur’s understanding of America is one that I would not wish to have a conflict with. By his definition, America is a bold and new society not backed by simply the resolution of its people, but by the very ideals it embodies. For Crèvecoeur, America was a long-awaited release from the debacles and forced loyalties of the Old World. Truly, America was indeed just this: a freedom from the binds of tyranny and oppression of any governing authority, where the balance of opportunity remains forever equal to each man. Property, rights, and liberty could all belong to one man, all of which was won over through work and was not fed him by the higher-ups of society.

In the eye of Crèvecoeur, America was not simply a nation or a rebellious colony, but a bursting forth of new ideals that would change the world. Crèvecoeur’s America resembled that of what America claims itself to be today, but the oppression of tyranny, of one man over another, was replaced with tyranny of greed and selfish ambition. Hence, the cornerstone of the American dream: Individualism. America may have rid itself of crowns, but it could not rid itself of the same hearts who originally elected to put the crowns on those heads. In this sense, it leads to oppose the predominant view of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men(OMAM). It is to my understanding that in OMAM, the benefit of a united effort could in any circumstance outweigh the combined individual efforts. In the novel Steinbeck shows the harsh reality of the futility of having hopes and dreams with no single character achieving one of their dreams throughout the book. This could be a metaphor for the uselessness and downfall of democracy and the appeals of communism or what he felt were the appeals of it.

“We have no princes, for whom we toil, starve, and bleed: we are the most perfect society now existing in the world.” While it may sound optimistic to believe in such an idea, this America was the kind of American the founding fathers were ultimately striving for. I believe that those who created our country knew that they could not create a perfect society, but in attempting to do so, they would eventually change the course of human history by bringing to light the pre-existing rights of every man.

And it’s time for the kicker:

Part of the beauty in Crèvecoeur’s America was in the fragile minimalism he depicted his country. He described America as a place where you take on a new identity and pursue new ideals, but in hindsight, how different is that from any other civilization that has progressed and stretched its border just a bit more? No, I believe that what J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur saw different in America is that the fundamental ideas behind which it is built is this: that America KEEPS “leaving behind ancient prejudices and manners, [and] receiv[ing] new ones”, new principles,” “new ideas,” “new opinions”; that the “new man” is never completed or perfect, just as the Founding Fathers understood. The difference between America and other great nations is that the American Philosophy never ended in perfection, nor in any state at all.

According to Crèvecoeur, America never stops.

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One comment

  1. This post brought Dickinson’s ever-distant “want” to my mind. You write “I believe that those who created our country knew that they could not create a perfect society,” and perhaps Franklin knew he’d never cultivate perfect virtue, and maybe George also knew this secret that he and Lennie would never have this perfect land, nor this perfect friendship. But the key to it all is that last vision George leaves with Lennie: “Look down there acrost the river, like you can almost see the place.” The American dream is always in the almost. And that is its secret. That is why it can afford to “never stop.”

    This is a bit of a troubling thought for me. Does this make the American dream nothing more than a delusion? A lie? Is it all a Pulcheria Alexandrovna (Crime and Punishment) belief that the murderous child is perfect? A comforting lie, “lest reality disenthrall thy soul?”

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