Edgar Allan Poe and the Search for the American Identity

1321 WordsJul 8, 20186 Pages
"From the first day that the United States won its independance, thoughtful Americans have attempted to define the new national identity" that decolonization invited. Becoming an independant political nation forced citizens to suddenly devise a "community and character" (Finkelman, 63) worthy of this newborn America. It was believed that, once free from Birtish fetters, a unique American character would emerge automatically. But this was not so, and it was left up to the artits, politictians, scientists, businessmen and women, and every other citizen to contrive the American identity. Those who were most accomplished at scrutinizing the American identity and what it was, were the many authors and writers of the 19th century. One of the…show more content…
Madeline is seen by readers as weak because of her illness, and this correlates to many women in that time period, weak and subservient. In the American South, where European values were still held in high regard, women were kept in the background, left in the house with no rights. Poe demonstrates the presence of European societal morals, such as the role of women, in his story "The Fall of the House of Usher." Gradually, the nation began to develop characteristics unique to America, such as a middle class dominated by business men and women, a sense of individualism and the idea of Manifest Destiny. The merchants and business people of the mid-19th century freed themselves from the cuffs of petty European values through the development and success of the middle class. This middle class began to influence the rest of the nation's ideals. According to Scott Finkelman on American charater and identity, "self made men and women ventured creativly into the [unkown], inventing themselves as they made social space for their unprecedented enterprises" (64). Social conformity was quickly falling out of fashion and the need to be one's own person, a rugged individual, searching for his own destiny wherever he may find it, was becoming more popular. Because of the mixed assortment that is America's heritage, citizens were not encouraged to be any specific way, thus the individual was born. This "unrooted individualism and unabashed enterprise"
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