Take Home Final

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Levi Fox Page 12/12/2017

Take Home Final

Part I
Villages of Ether is found within one of Emily Dickinson’s unnamed poems written in the 1860’s. It refers to the light, airy feeling which the speaker of the poem gets when listening to music. This is one way in which the speaker is uplifted by the arts.

Faction is found in James Madison’s Federalist 10 written in 1788. It refers to differing interests (political parties) formed by people with different agendas. Madison unlike most earlier thinkers, felt that since these factions will balance each other out and can thus be tolerated.
Deidrich Knickerbocker is found in Washington Irving’s 1819 story “Rip Van Winkle.” Knickerbocker is the persona which Irving adopts in telling a number of his tales (though it is not strictly a pseudonym). The use of the character legitimizes these stories to a certain degree, since Knickerbocker is created as an old Dutch gentleman who collected such stories as “Rip Van Winkle”
In pace requiescat! comes from Edgar Allan Poe’s 1846 story “The Cask of Amontillado”. The phrase means roughly “may he rest in peace” and is the last line of the story. The phrase likely refers both to the death of Fortunado and to the difficulty which Montressor may have had (in the years since he murdered Fortunado) in living with what he did.
Michigan is found within Caroline Kirkland’s 1839 account of Western life entitled “A New Home: Who’ll Follow?. Michigan is the territory to which Kirkland has moved, and is the background to the incidents of life on the frontier which she recounts. As the title of her work suggests, the stories were written partly to attract settles while at the same time functioning as a sort of critique of life in the west.
New Birth of Freedom is found within Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address of 1863. The phrase refers to the new freedom (including the abolition of slavery) which shall come about as a result of the Civil War. He uses this phrase as part of a larger message that those who have died in the war did not die in vain, but were fighting for something great which shall be achieved as a result of their efforts.
Cherokee Nation is found in the Cherokee Memorials of the Cherokee Council and Cherokee Citizens written in 1819. This phrase is found in both memorials and refers to the whole of the Cherokee people which are being hurt by U.S. governmental policies. The use of the phrase nation is intended to demonstrate that the Cherokee’s are a people with a government and a culture just like European America, and that they should be treated as such.
Mistress Hibbons is found within Nathanial Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter published in 1850. Mistress Hibbins is the sister of the governor who tries to tempt Hester Prynne to come to the forest to participate in Devil worship. Her refusal demonstrates that her sin is not really representative of any underlying ‘evil’ nature, but was the result of circumstance.
Sophia Auld is found within Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass published in 1845. Sophia Auld is the wife of Douglass’ owner who starts to teach the him to read before being told that she cannot. Teaching slaves to read was both illegal and considered harmful, since it was viewed as making them restless and unhappy.
Poll-tax is found within Henry David Thoreau’s 1849 essay “Resistance to Civil Government.” Refusal to pay the poll-tax was what caused Thoreau to be thrown into jail. His refusal was based on his opposition to the Mexican War and demonstrates the trancendental notion that one shouldn’t do things one opposes on principle simply to conform.
Part II

This passage from Bartleby is reflective of much of the overall theme of bleakness which Melville creates throughout the story. His use of imagery with regard to the wall is the first step in creating an overall bleak picture. He describes the wall as both “lofty” and “black” thus creating an imposing and dark image. He further describes the wall as being covered in “everlasting shade”, adding to this bleakness. His use of such terms as “unobstructed” as well as the way in which he states that the wall is clearly visible to his “near-sighted visitors” since it is “pushed up” to the building indicates how omnipresent this wall is. Melville’s use of the term “lurking” demonstrates the creepy feelings which such a wall would create in the viewer. The coming together of the description of the wall itself and the description of its extreme proximity function together to bring home an overall feeling of exactly how present (and pressing) this bleakness is for whoever must view it. The fact that Mevlille’s character of Bartleby must work day after day staring at this wall (and that he often times simply stares without working) works both as a partial explanation of Bartleby’s growing detachment, while at the same time function as a sort of metaphor for the new economic world which is driving Bartleby to dismay.

This passage from Emerson is reflective of many of his prevailing themes as well as the style which he often made use of in conveying those themes. His style is straightforward, terse, and declarative. At certain points he uses long sentences constructed of short modifying phrases (such as “at twilight”) in order to convey the seen and the feelings he wishes to associate with his imagery. These feelings are laid out in such phrases as “perfect exhilaration.” Emerson also uses very short sentences and metaphors in order to convey his message. Sentences such as “I am nothing” and “I see all,” are juxtaposed in order to show diametric oppositions coming together in Emerson’s becoming one with the universe. This oneness is one of the major themes of Emerson’s trancendental writings, as he sought a state where one could escape the confines of the constructed world and get back to a more natural state. In this more natural state people would become a part of God, as the “universal being” (a term used by Emerson in part to convey his conception of God as more a force than a person) would “circulate” through them. In such a situation, “all mean egotism” would vanish, and the person could be “uplifted into infinite space,” achieving a trancendental tranquility and complete unobstructed vision of the world (as “a transparent eye-ball”) that was Emerson’s dream.


Harriet Jacobs in this passage appeals to Northern middle class white women to try to understand her going against the ideal of feminine virtue by taking on a white lover of her chosing. She starts by presenting an image of the Northern white women “whose purity has been sheltered from childhood” and who is protected by law and enabled to choose who they will marry. The contrasts this with her life as a “poor desolate slave girl” who wishes to act like them but, because of the institution of slavery, cannot. In so doing her appeals for compassion go much further into an all out attack (in terms which Northern white women can understand) of slavery. Her dichotomizing of the opportunities and permitted virtues between slavery and freedom are used to show how she did not have the oppurtunity to behave in the same way that white northern women were expected to (and expected others to as well). She thus presents slavery as an institution which is evil because it takes away women’s virtue and purity. She adds a biblical flavor to her argument by using such words as “blighted” and “sheltered” to present the idea (only slightly beneath the surface) that while Northern women are protected by God, female slaves are made to suffer. Thus she argues in the ideaogramattical language of her audience that slavery must be abolished while asking for personal compassion (and increased credibility) at the same time.


Harriet Beecher Stowe also uses terms familiar to ante-bellum northern women in her anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She uses both religious imagery and appeals to prevailing notions of family in order to advance her arguments. In the midst of her story she interjects references to the “soul immortal” that Jesus died for, and how that soul can be bought, sold, or traded in the same was as “groceries or dry goods.” She thus presents the idea that slaves are as much the creation of God as whites are, and that the way in which blacks are enslaved and treated simply to suit “the fancy” of slave owners, is an example of man attempting to go against God’s wishes. This passage also contains anti-slavery appeals based upon the idea of importance of the family. Stowe makes mention of how family members are torn apart “to suit the convenience of the purchaser.” Her use of quotation here is quite effective, as she contrasts the idea of family with the whim of slaveholder, by quoting directly (one is meant to assume) from a handbill advertising a slave auction. She presents here arguments (and her attempts to create moral outrage in her readers) all under the auspices of describing a slave auction, an event which created such moral outrage amongst Northerners that it was actually outlawed in Washington D.C. by the Compromise of 1850 (alongside major territorial determinations). The imagery and allusion used by Stowe in this passage are indicative of the way she used her story to argue strongly against slavery on (ante-bellum Northern) moral grounds.


Walt Whitman in this excerpt from “Song of Myself” celebrates the greatness of humanity by a frequent use of the word God. The word “God” is repeated 4 times in these four lines, yet not in order to revere him or make arguments on his behalf. Whitman states that he sees God in the faces of others and of himself, presenting a picture of men and women as being created in the image of God, yet at the same time having his power. Indeed, his lines convey more of the image and idea of people as gods, then of God as displayed in people. At the same time that these lines are an extollation of humanity, they are also a trancendental picture of God as represented in nature (and in society). He states that God is in “each hour” and “each moment” of the day and that he finds signs of God “dropped in the street” all the time. The message here is not that God is omnipotent but simply that the world is his creation, beautiful and wonderful in and of itself. This idea combines elements of God as divine watchmaker and of God as trancendental oversoul who can be most clearly seen through nature. However, in the context of Whitman as a city dweller (as well as by the idea that God’s letters are dropped in the urban “street”) the nature which God created is not Emersonian nature of undisturbed forest, by culture and society built by man. In this way Whitman’s lines about the presence of godly power in men takes on new meaning, since it is men who have built society and it is as much (if not more) man’s (as God’s) letters found in the street.

Part III.

3. America

In contemporary society, the term America (and its derivatives) is used to describe a number of things, including the continent, government, and people of the United States. However, the meanings of this word have been far from static in the years since the continent was first explored and colonized. The different ways in which the term America (as well as its derivative American) were used in the period up to the end of the Civil War can shed much light on European American (and Native American) understandings of the North American continent and their place within it. In addition to looking at the way in which the word is used, the frequency of its use over time can also say much about how ‘Americans’ understood the physical, political, and cultural makeup of the North American continent.

One of the most striking facts about the use of the term America in the early 17th century is in the infrequency of its use. The term does not appear in the writings of many of the Puritan founders and is absent in John Smith’s writings about the New World as well. One of the few places in which the term does appear is in Roger Williams discussion of the native languages of America. His use of the term in this fashion demonstrates how, at this time, the use of the term America was most often reserved for discussion of Native Americans. “America” was the uncivilized, unconquered wilderness, peopled by “Americans” who were savage heathens. In contrast ‘civilized’ places such as Virginia (named for the Virgin Queen Elizabeth) and New England were peopled by Englishmen and other Europeans. This understanding of what “America” was extended late into the century and only changed very slowly. Cotton Mather uses the term to refer at least as much to the wilderness of the continent as he does to those parts which had been settled by Europeans. However, this understanding of the word would change in the century to come, as European settlement skyrocketed and the alien “America” was slowly but surely conquered and peopled by the new European “Americans.”

Over the course of the 18th century America went from being a term used to describe the ‘otherness’ of the continent and its people, to one embraced as a sign of the distinctiveness of the Europeans who lived there. The increasing use of the term (and especially its new use to refer as an umbrella to all the land occupied by Europeans) over the course of the century (and especially in the years after the Revolution) betray these changes in peoples understandings of the word. When Benjamin Franklin created his “American Philosophical Society” in the first half of the 18th century, he was not creating an organization of Indians. What he was building was an organization meant to represent “America” as a distinctive place with incredible minds of its very own. Significant changes in ‘American’ understandings of themselves in relation to Europe underly the use of the term in this manner. Even before the Revolution European Americans had begun to see themselves as culturally distinct from their Old World cousins. In drawing out this distinction these new “Americans” co-opted their own earlier understandings of the word in order to better demonstrate their distinctiveness. At the same time that the term America was being used to define a group of people in opposition to another, the term “American” was coming to have its own meanings with regard to what those people really were. The Frenchman Crevecoeur, who lived for a time in the colonies, wrote a series of ‘Letters from an American Farmer.” In one of them he asked the question of what it was to be an American, and cited the coming together of various ethnic groups and religions, and especially the peaceful co-existence of these groups due to their liberalism and tolerance, as distinctive factors. For Crevecoeur (and for many people during and after this period) an American was defined as much (if not more) by his distinctive traits than by the simple fact that he as not a European.

The terms America and American were used remarkably frequently in the years during and after the Revolution, just as the terms themselves were beginning to take on the meanings we associate with them today. Thomas Jefferson in the “Declaration of Independence” uses the term United States of America for the first time. The use of America in this way demonstrates how the areas populated by Europeans who now sought their independence, were viewed by themselves as being “of America” rather than of Europe. The new government was to be representative of these various American states who were now drawing closer together and beginning to consider themselves a single entity. Moreover, in the years to come the terms America and American would become understood to mean white America and American even by the Native Americans. In the Cherokee Memorials, the Cherokee government and people (while arguing for their own freedoms and rights as an independent group) looked at themselves not as Americans but as people of America. Combined with their mentioning of the American president as the “White Father” this understanding seems to indicate that, by the early years of the 19th century, the unmodified term American was understood by all to mean white American, while the concept of America was no longer wilderness (or the frontier as it was then called) but the settled areas under the control of the American government. The transformation of the term was thus complete, as the Americans had become “Native Americans” or “American Indians” while Englishmen and their fellow Europeans had become “Americans.”

The shifting understandings of the terms America and American (as well as the increasing frequency of the use of the term American up to the early part of the 19th century) help to show some of the cultural transformations that took place on the road to the formation of America as we think of it today. From a rarely used word, used to mean Native Americans and a frightful wilderness, the term became one used frequently in celebration of the cultural distinctiveness of the new Americans who had fought and won their freedom from Europe. In the years to come these Americans would further refine their own definitions of self (such as Whitman did in Leaves of Grass) and begin to define their own institutions and practices (such as the American Slavery which Lincoln refers to in his Second Inaugural). In each case the way in which the people of this continent used and understood these words can be looked at as a window for their own conceptions of themselves and their place in the world, and as a way of viewing the changing cultures of North America as displayed through American Literature up to 1865.

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