American Character - Then and Now Essay

2127 Words May 3rd, 2005 9 Pages
American Character - Then and Now

A notion that still holds strong today, Fredrick Jackson Turner's idea of American character was one based on trials and experiences. Unlike Crevecour, Turner believed that American character was not simply a product of English character transported to America, but rather another idea altogether (Faragher 63). He expressed this opinion the best when he said, "In the crucible of the frontier the immigrants were Americanized, liberated, and fused into a mixed race, English in neither nationality nor characteristics" (Faragher 64). How exactly did American character form and what defines it? Turner answered this question with the Turner thesis, using the concept of the pioneer and the immigrants who
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Like The Virginian, Ranch Life and The Hunting Trail involved a series of challenges that tested each of these men's manhood (Cullen 132). Coincidentally, this added on to the sense of American character by further stressing the idea of the rugged individual. Novels and western movies or plays were not the only sources which depicted the essence of American character; Paintings and museums were very influential. Charles Willson Peale, founder of the Academy of Fine Arts, introduced another element to American character which had not been recognized as much as that of the rough, outdoors man. By showcasing plants, animals, and the infamous mastodon, Peale associated American character with intelligence, imagination, practicality, and independence Philadelphia Meuseum of Art). While providing all of this visual stimulation, Peale believed his museum provided an opportunity for rational entertainment so that those who visited the museum would not only be entertained, but would also walk away with a greater knowledge than they had when they walked in. Aside from the intellectual and practical aspect of his museum, Peale's paintings greatly illustrated another aspect of American character already mentioned: manliness, dominance, and power. Examples of paintings that showed this side of American character included The Artist in His Museum and Washington after the Battle of

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