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The American history has continuously changed in the past centuries. This can be attributed to the social changes caused by the emerging technologies and the efforts put towards the realization of the American dream. As the history changes many writers continue to explore the unfulfilled promises of the dream for some segments of the United States population. As the writers in this piece of work show, the stories of the minority groups and the migrant struggle in the American culture and history are diverse and many people live in such struggles all days.
Many writers, from Henry Thoreau to Susanna Rawson have written literature exploring the human relationships with the land and the environment, especially in the West. They expose the struggles and suffering among migrants and other vulnerable groups, for example, women, who have played a crucial role in the journey towards achieving the American dream but end up being denied access to the promises the US has to offer. Thoreau celebrates America in his ecological writing, while criticizing its faults in his call for civil disobedience. Rowson addresses the miseries existing in women, who she suggests as not having any legal or political identity.
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Literary sentimentalism or sensibility feeling emerged in England in the mid to the late eighteenth century, and reflected a similar trend in that continental literature. It primarily developed as a middle-class phenomenon, stressing on the emphasis on feeling or compassion as a desirable character trait in the emergent middle class. One of the reasons of the rise and spread of sentimentalism was that the readers took pleasure in the feeling itself, but it was also linked to the growing activism. Activism is the concern for and awareness of the suffering of others as reflected in, for instance, concerns about child labor, the antislavery movement, charity schools, police reform, campaigns for better hospitals as well as in response to suffering caused by the rapid rise in industrial capitalism and urban the urban misery that was caused by exploiting labor practices.
Susanna Rowson published her novel Charlotte Temple in 1794, which became America’s first best seller. The novel inspired feeling; generations of readers from all classes, men and women, wept over Charlotte’s fate. In this novel, Rowson portrays a remarkaly common and realistic situation: it is about the seduction and betrayal of a young, innocent and ignorant girl leading to her subsequent death in childbirth. Rowson, addressing the young female, assures her that there are many others in a world where there is no political or legal identity, where sexual double standard prevails, and women are trivialized.
In her preface, Rowson terms compassion as her inspiration in writing the novel and hopes that her words will eventually help in preventing some of the miseries that she addresses. The mid nineteenth century is the period that is most commonly associated with sentimentalism in the American history. This sentimentalism has been characterized as conservative and a rationalisation of the status quo, and a means of affecting social change. Most critics agree that it is associated with domesticity and femininity. More recent studies, particularly among female critics have addressed the aesthetic and cultural value of the mid-19th century sentimentalism.
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Henry David Thoreau is the writer of the book called Civil disobedience that was published in 1849. Thoreau asserts that governments cannot be justified because they are generally more harmful than helpful. In his opinion, democracy cannot cure this, because majorities by virtue of being majorities, also, do not gain the virtues of justice and wisdom. An individual’s conscience should not be seen as inferior to the decisions of the majority, or that of a political party; and so it is not desirable respect the law so much just because it is right. He suggests that the only obligation a citizen has a right to assume is doing what he thinks is right at any time. People do not have to obey the law; law does not make men any more just. Moreover, by their means of respecting law, even the well-disposed are made agents of injustice.
The writers in the above content share an interest in the effect of political and economic systems on workers, activists and writers. In their work, the losers mostly tend to be the ethnic vulnerable groups in America; unskilled workers, ethnic immigrants, those at the bottom of the business or industry hierarchy and the American society itself. Many of these groups have been and still are lower class color laborers. Migrant workers, who are mainly African Americans, work at planting and picking jobs that the middle-class white Americans would want and even today they are denied the basic employment rights and benefits.
Many writers and commentators have been fascinated at the power of fiction in Charlotte Temple to unravel the social fabric. More recent readers of these and other early novels have concluded that reading fiction has consequences going beyond the purely aesthetic. Modern writers recognize the importance about how the writer achieves the effects she does, questions about technique and form and questions such as why Susanna chose to use an intrusive narrator in this novel. However, such questions cannot address the ways in which the novels discussed in this paper and other forms of literature have been products and agents of social change.
To address this, broader questions have to be answered as to how significant it is that the development of novels in the 18th century is coincidental to the current understanding of individualism, selfhood and democracy and how we can account for the fact that a majority of the novels written in US advocated for greater access to education for the poor and women. By responding to such questions, we are reminded that the practices and ideas we sometimes take for granted such as sexuality, democracy, self and marriage do change over time.
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In conclusion, this paper interrogates the private and public past of the Americans.A more thorough and imaginative examination of history can change people’s perception of various issues. Most of the past novels were rich in form and content and points to the wide social, economic and the geographic diversity of the readers. This is because most of them were centered on men women and life situation that are much like those of the readers facing the questions of work, economic security, family, faith, relationships and values.
The novels were studies in character, in both senses of the word. As readers see the elements of themselves in the wide range of fictional characters, they get an opportunity to experience their own selves that are separate from their stations. Imaginative identification with the characters in those books formed of class, gender, nation and ethnicity allow readers to practice alternative selves. Thus, reading contributes to a growing sense of personal autonomy as presented with the new frameworks for selfhood that is embodied in fiction. For instance, Rowson says that she intended to encourage those who felt low just because they did not have friends.
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