Need a unique essay?
Order now

The Concept of the American Self in the Early Nineteenth Century - Essay Example

4 pages
931 words
George Washington University
Type of paper: 
This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

The early nineteenth century saw major transformations in the American history as different scholars developed various concepts of the philosophical and the cultural retentions in the country. The concepts were retaliatory as a reaction to the historical injustices that had been committed to the minority (Bercovitch 21). During the early periods, the natives of the land had also felt that they had been treated unfairly by the British settlers who had invaded the region and took command of the region. The people of color who included majorly the blacks were worst affected by the injustices and felt that it was their time to alter the traditions of the society and claim their place.

The period marked a moment of major transformation in the literature, religious, political, social and economic views of the region. As the region took a political transformation following the rapid rise of the Democrats, other scholars took to write and express their dissatisfaction with their literary works (Allen 14). Ralph Waldo Emerson developed his transcendental philosophies that aimed at putting into light the challenges facing the black Americans. Using his work Each and All, Emerson manages to give an overview of the situations that faced the blacks in the region and that they were claiming their position.

Henry David Thoreau followed suit in 1854 when he wrote his essay "Slavery in Massachusetts" (1854). Thoreau never liked the slavery that was practiced in the region and especially in the north (Bercovitch 42). He also hated the government for passing some laws that supported the vice. For instance, in 1950, the government passed laws that allowed for the capture of any slaves that had escaped to the north which was deemed to be a whites place. The slaves would then be returned to their masters in the south and also be punished for the escape.

In his poem Song of Myself the poet, Walt Whitman, gives his view of the happenings in the region following the civil war which motivated him to compose the poem. The poem which he makes it in dialogue kind of work makes his view of the nature of life and the need for democracy (Whalen-Bridge 27). He notes that there is an intense brutality in the region where people are killed for championing for their rights. He symbolizes various things such as grass to imply the graves that were dug after the world. He continues to express his dissatisfaction with the authorities and even though he feels threatened by speaking out the issues, he does not fear death since he states that death is a must and humans must all die at some time.

The poem, Hope is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson also highlights the changes in poetic literature during the early nineteenth century. She gives hope to the reader of the poem having experienced various challenges in Massachusetts (Allen 56). Her main theme is hope and she manages to present it as a bird with feathers that can perch on anyone. She inspires people to smile and have hope despite the challenges that they face majorly following the civil wars and the injustices that were practiced in the society as she was growing.

These literature works examine the challenges that faced the African society during the early nineteenth century. These vices stemmed from poor leadership, lack of democracy, racism, and separation in the society (Belgrave, Faye and Kevin 43). While the Native Americans felt superior to the Africans and wanted to continue with the slavery, the people of color were taking shape in the society and ready to fight for their rights. The government and other civil authorities, however, supported these injustices.

In his poem, Thoreau presents his disgust with the laws of the region that supported such injustices in the society. By passing the slavery laws, the leadership of the land was shrewd and did not have the interest of the blacks (Bercovitch 42). They supported the slave trade and the injustices. The literature takes a political point of view to show the cry of the people. Dickinson, however, manages to give hope to the blacks who were affected by the ill behaviors and tells them that despite the challenges they were facing, they would manage to rise again and regain their lost glory. They needed to be hopeful at all times and continue advocating for their rights.

The poems managed to alter the perception of the minorities so that they could know that they were equal to the natives who claimed to be more American than them (Whalen-Bridge 53). The literature works boosted the esteem needs of these group especially the African Americans who had been subjected to torture and ended up lacking their self-esteem. From the works which advocated for equality and the inspirations, the actual fight for the eradication of slavery and racism among other ills began (Belgrave, Faye and Kevin 28). The African American resistance took to another level as the concept of self-set in where there was the need to develop an identity and remain steadfast to this concept. The principles of humanity were upheld and the concept of individuality set in among the African Americans that resided in the regions most affected by the racial acts.


Works Cited

Allen, Richard L. The Concept of Self: A Study of Black Identity and Self-Esteem. Detroit, MI: Wayne State Univ. Press, 2001. Print.

Belgrave, Faye Z, and Kevin W. Allison. African American Psychology: From Africa to America. Los Angeles: Sage, 2009. Print.

Bercovitch, S. The Puritan Origins of the American Self. Yale university press, 1976. Print.

Whalen-Bridge, John. Political Fiction and the American Self. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1998. Print.


Have the same topic and dont`t know what to write?
We can write a custom paper on any topic you need.

Request Removal

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the website, please click below to request its removal: