John Gast's Painting, American Progess, Shows Human Progress Requires Sacrifice, Suffering, and Struggle

Decent Essays
Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning. This is why the Americans held the belief that they were destined to expand across the continent. One thing that the American settlers did not acknowledge was that all progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem—the Native Americans. Within the painting, American Progress, John Gast incorporated these ideas, beliefs, and problems all onto one image. The painting, American…show more content…
When looking at the painting, this claim certainly seems to hold true. The painting features covered wagons, then stagecoaches, then trains, all moving west. This presents the idea of technological advancement being brought further West as American folk continue to settle the frontier, a thought which was very widespread at the time. These images represents the use of logos to make the Americans believe that in order to achieve technological advancement, they will have to indeed push the Natives further west. It also shows the Native Americans weak and escaping. It motivated people to move westward, helped them to make that decision. If you look at the picture you have to see the Native Americans pushed off in the corner. It could encourage the white people to think that they are doing the right thing. Native Americans will just go away and let the settlers to over take the new land. The purpose of seeing them weak is just another example of motivation. By incorporating these common ideals into American Progress, Gast immediately established common ground with any American viewing the painting at the time. By creating the heavenly woman in the center, who bears the innovative telegraph wire in her left hand, Gast introduces the main argument of the painting: the idea that it was the heavenly duty of Americans to expand the country all the way to the Pacific Ocean. This idea surely resonated with people at the time.
Get Access