Analysis Of Edward Lengel's Inventing George Washington

1031 Words 5 Pages
Katlyn Wlodyga
Dr. Ritter
25 September, 2016
Inventing George Washington To this day, George Washington remains one of the most influential figures in the history of our country. He has been revered throughout time and continues to inspire people even today. In Inventing George Washington, Edward Lengel explores the myths that have been created surrounding who Washington was as a person; myths that were created in order to carry our country through rough times in history. Lengel takes these myths and uses factual evidence to contradict them, also providing the reader with reasons Americans created this persona of Washington. Biographers sought to portray a noble hero who was all-knowing and pure. Lengel’s purpose is to show that
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His death occurred when political divisions and external threats were at an all-time high, leaving America feeling more vulnerable than ever. The word of his death traveled rather slowly, spreading only by word of mouth. Lengel writes, “People sought details from other sources. These included storytellers and rumormongers, who subjected Washington to the proverbial thousand deaths by fire, famine, and sword” (12). Explanations immediately began to spread, each giving a different account as to the events surrounding his death, despite the fact that the real story was printed in the newspaper. People used his death and created fabricated stories in order to make a profit. Businessman P. T. Barnum, for instance, bought a slave, Joice Heth, who he exploited due to the fact that people from all over the United States were willing to pay to meet the woman who supposedly raised George Washington. She took on a new identity as “Lady Washington” and was told she was “a former African princess who had been shipped to Virginia and sold as a slave to Augustine Washington, the father of George Washington” (28). She worked long, demanding hours even at the age of 161. Even after her death, he continued to make money off of her by having a public event where he charged each person who came fifty cents to watch Dr. David Rogers perform a full autopsy on her body. This is one of many examples …show more content…
In this story, a young Washington gets a hatchet and cuts down his father’s beloved tree. When his father confronts him about it, he contemplates lying; however, his guilt gets the best of him, and he decides to come clean and confess that he did, in fact, cut down the tree. Washington’s father appreciated his son’s honesty and was no longer angry. While this is an inspiring story and a great lesson for young children, Lengel brings to light the realization that this is a fabricated story created by money-hungry author, Parson Weems. Lengel writes about him, “Weems was the father of popular history. A superb storyteller, he knew his audience- and gladly collected its money” (19). He realized the infatuation the American people had with Washington and ran with it in order to make a profit off of a counterfeit Washington story, much like Barnum did. Lengel uses Weems’ reputation to characterize him as one of the “celebrity-seeking pests”; therefore, discrediting his motives for writing “Cherry Tree” and proving his story to be fictional

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