What Defines American Literature?

What Defines American Literature?

Huckleberry Finn could only be written in America. Why could it have not been created in any other part of the world?
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What is the truth behind American literature? What makes a piece American?

American literature, as a whole, depicts the diverse and revolutionary forthcoming of a nation to what it is today. The history of America is gifted with making itself from nothing, building on new and radical expectations, and rivaling the rest of the world for respect and independence. At one time, this ability to completely remake a country was viewed as a burden and the constant hardship and suffering it took to create this country is everything American literature is now known for across the globe. The ruthlessness and raw portrayal of the narratives, poems, and stories constitute all that America is, was, and will be. To define American literature is to recognize how harsh, detached, and insensitive it stands, and that it cannot even be defined fully. American writing consists of physical abuse, a lack of love, and a morbid character, all across the board from the Native Americans to the colonists, revolutionaries, explorers, to the Civil War, the American Renaissance, and beyond. Throughout American literature, each writer, poet, and author, not only sets a higher standard for the next, but adds to the mosaic it has originated and exemplifies a distinctly unsympathetic and unforgiving theme.

A cruelness and inhumane perspective was not only lived, but vividly illustrated in early writings of the 15th century and continuing up until the 19th century. Arrival at the New World is not nearly as immaculate and ideal as history constructs it to be. It is only the beginning of the physical destruction and wipe out of the Native American populations. The most lethal weapon to the Hispaniola’s people is the disease epidemics they were not equipped to fight against. Early American writers, like Thomas Hariot, fortified ignorance for the decimation of the Native populations. He believes they are dying off because of “invisible bullets." It was in God’s will for the Natives to be slaughtered. He is unfeeling towards them and his obliviousness to the reality of what is happening is sickening.

The insensibility to another human life is genuine to the start and continuum of American literature. Michael De Cuneo, who referred to the Native American people as “Cannibals," casually describes the rape of a woman, using bondage and stating it “seemed she had studied at a school for whores." The vivid detail and nonchalant attitude at which he relives the scene is enough to appall. The physical abuse illustrated in American literature does not end there and this unloving nature and numbness America puts up is a powerful force to try to reckon with. There is no need for love or romantic interest in American literature.

Two centuries later, the same unrefined depictions of human objectification continue. In Letters From An American Farmer, Michel-Guillaume Jean de Crevecoeur comes across an African American slave in the woods. He “[recollects] the bird has picked out his eyes, his cheek bones were bare, hollows sockets…Humanity herself would have recoiled back with horror." This is not only American literature, but American history in the making. This is what defines America’s past and its writing. The events that cannot be forgotten, the people that are not talked about, and the topics that are avoided is what America literature is. The literature calls out the lack of love, the aversion, and the loathing for other types of people that was and is still existing today.

There are other writers, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Harriet Jacobs, who write of the struggles of slavery and sexual assault in Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. The awareness of how cruel and harsh American literature truly is is seen across time. It is one of the defining aspects of what makes a piece American and understanding that there is no virtuous humanity. Throughout its entirety, there is an absence of tenderness in the writing and a focus on physical brutality without restriction. In these pieces, the revolting actions emphasize the authors' straightforward truth and describes a society that lives in hatred.

American literature occasionally attempts to show love within humanity, but even when it does, the concentration is not romance at all, but perhaps lust and desire. The love is not what is at attention, but instead the author describes a criticizing relationship with self, church, state, or the supernatural.

Nathaniel Hawthorne exhibits an effort at writing a romantic attraction between two people, whether that is in Young Goodman Brown between Brown and Faith, or in Rappaccini’s Daughter between Giovanni and Beatrice. This endeavor of Hawthorne’s does not end successfully in either story. By the end of Rappaccini’s Daughter, Giovanni is insulted by Beatrice who implies, “there was more poison in [Giovanni’s] nature than in her own from the beginning,” and she lived with poison in her veins. Hawthorne is not focusing on their love, but instead on humanity and its lack of love. He is stabbing at corruption instead and focusing on the decay (literally) of humankind, judgment, and naturalism. Even though there was a love triangle, Hawthorne aims at making a point about the power of science and its effects. In American literature, even when love is present, it is not about love and affection at all, but a bigger theme on the unsympathetic and unforgiving ways of humankind as both are seen in this work.

Henry David Thoreau also attributes this idea of love being used as a tool to convey hate. Throughout Walden, Thoreau magnifies nature's beauty, but his purpose behind the writing is to critique society and its lifestyles. His goal is in the fact of “living deliberately,” and “simplifying,” life. He writes a great deal of appreciation for nature, yet is contrasting that with his idea of societal values. He believes he has “several more lives to live,” and was writing to express he had no more time to waste. Even when it appears a writer is passionate about one topic, the reality behind this in American literature is that the devotion is a comparison to the true opinions of the author.

Jonathan Edwards embodies a new side of American literature in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, by expressing his love for God using hate. His scare tactics, like softly voicing that there is “nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God,” worked for him. His piece riveted horror in the sinners as his love for God was captured by his terrorizing words. The effect American writers have in literature is because of their role with depicting one idea, but meaning another. American literature does not know romance, it knows how to employ love and yearning for another to condemn society, people, self, church, or nature and the ruthless theme American literature beholds.

American literature brings forth an unloving, unbending theme. Various writers complement this idea with their morbid and dark pieces. It is not about physical manipulation, but instead mental.

Edgar Allan Poe, unnerving and sinister, shows the world just exactly what humanity is capable of. In The Cask of Amontillado, Poe gives no answers, no reasons, and no motives behind human behavior. After the narrator plastered Fortunato inside a tomb, there is only silence, until the Montresor “thrusts his torch through the remaining aperture…in return only a jingling of the bells." The creepiness and disturbing concepts Poe grasps only perfect American literature's wicked ways. He has no confidence in a goodness of humankind, a principle that can be seen centuries back to the writings of slave and Native accounts. Poe uses this distrust in humanity as an approach to his works, creating for American literature a nonexistent faith in love.

Herman Melville is accounted for using this tactic as well in his pieces. He expresses a lack of humanity in Bartleby, the Scrivener, as Bartleby worked in a “dead letter office at Washington,” and ends the piece with riveting words of “Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity!” There is no love in the fact that Melville captures a man so distraught with his past job it sped up his own death. This twisted thought of Melville examines how American literature does not have happy endings. Even if the plot ends well for all characters, there is always a notion behind it as to what is wrong with this world. American literature shows no need for compassion and sympathy between two people.

A recluse poet, Emily Dickinson, applies her own mental states to create intense, riveting poems, consistent with the idea of death. In one of her pieces, she describes a carriage stopping for her, a carriage with herself, Death, and Immortality as its only passengers. Her depictions of life, or a lack thereof, are exceptionally dark and passionate. When she writes about love, she writes about what she lost when her “life closed twice before its close." She explains she lives in suffering and pain even without going to hell. As for American literature, Dickinson adds a powerful part in the theme of life’s hateful ways. Her unyielding devotion to death and consistency with it in her poems makes American literature what it is.

In this morbid way of these writers, the definition of what makes a piece truly American is its idea of experiencing life without an amorous relationship with another. There is no faith in humankind and that is only known to American literature.

America does not care about romantic, loving relationships, as it has a more realistic take focusing on the history of the country, revolutionary ideas, and relationships with self, God, nature, and society. Humanity’s values and morals are deeply analyzed by author and audience. Whether that is done through dark tales, real life abuse, or a contrast that is used to express a theme besides love, it is all a part of American literature. To define American literature to one set of ways is not possible, there is such diversity, that it cannot be defined wholly. There is a certainty, though, to expect from American literature, and that is in its callousness and harsh view of the world. Building up a great country from nothing was more than a challenge, and above that gaining respect and independence in comparison to the rest of mankind. The hardship and suffering America went through to stand as it does today, is seen in American literature's revolutionary ideas, bluntness, and lack of a need for love.

Cover Image Credit: http://missmcsorleysabridgedclassroom.weebly.com/studies-in-american-literature.html

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What Your Hogwarts House Says About You

Get yourself sorted and find out where you belong in the world of witchcraft and wizardry.
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Sorting at Hogwarts is a big deal. Being sorted into a house is essentially being placed into a family while you are away from home learning about witchcraft and wizardry. Your house is made up of the people you will live with, go to classes with, play Quidditch with and everything in between. You basically spend 24/7 with them. Your Hogwarts house is your home away from home.

When you get sorted into a house, it is based on your personality traits. The people in your house are typically like-minded people who display the same characteristics as you.

When you’re a first year at Hogwarts, the minute you set foot in the castle you are swept into the Great Hall to have the ancient Sorting Hat placed on your head. This Sorting Hat decides which “family” you’ll be spending your seven years with.

For some, it is very obvious which house they will be in, due to certain personality traits they possess. For others, they may exemplify traits that fit a multitude of houses and are uncertain where they may end up.

To find out where you belong, you can take the official "Harry Potter" Sorting Hat quiz at Pottermore.com. For all you muggles out there, these are the characteristics that the houses possess and what your house says about you:

Gryffindor: The house of the brave, loyal, courageous, adventurous, daring and chivalrous. Those who stand up for others are typically Gryffindors. Brave-hearted is the most well-known Gryffindor characteristic, and Gryffindors are also known for having a lot of nerve.

Gryffindors are people who hold a multitude of qualities alongside the ones listed, making them a very well-rounded house. People who are Gryffindors are often people who could fit nicely into another house but choose to tell the sorting hat they want Gryffindor (there's that bravery). "Do what is right" is the motto Gryffindors go by.

Being a Gryffindor means that you're probably the adventurous and courageous friend, and you are usually known for doing what is right.

Ravenclaw: The house is known for their wisdom, intelligence, creativity, cleverness and knowledge. Those who value brains over brawn can be found here. Ravenclaws often tend to be quite quirky as well. "Do what is wise" is the motto they strive to follow.

Though Ravenclaws can be know-it-alls sometimes, they most likely do know what the wisest decision is.

If you are known for being the quirky friend, the smartest in the group or just great at making wise decisions, you're definitely a Ravenclaw.

Hufflepuff: This house values hard work, dedication, fair play, patience, and loyalty. Hufflepuff’s are known for being just and true. "Do what is nice" is their motto.

Hufflepuff is known as the “nice house” and believes strongly in sparing peoples feelings and being kind. This is not to say that Hufflepuffs aren't smart or courageous. Hufflepuffs just enjoy making others happy and tend to be more patient towards people.

If you ever find that you are too nice for your own good and cannot bear to hurt someone’s feelings, congratulations, you are a Hufflepuff.

Slytherin: This is the house of the cunning, prideful, resourceful, ambitious, intelligent, and determined. Slytherin's love to be in charge and crave leadership. "Do what is necessary" is the motto of this house.

Slytherin is a fairly well-rounded house, similar to the other houses. They are loyal to those that are loyal to them just as Gryffindors are and are intelligent as Ravenclaws.

Slytherin house as a whole is not evil, despite how many dark wizards come out of this house. That is merely based on the choices of those wizards (so if your friend is a Slytherin, don’t judge, it doesn’t mean they are mean people). Slytherins do, however, have a tendency to be arrogant or prideful. This is most likely due to the fact that everyone in Slytherin is exceedingly proud to be there.

What Hogwarts house you’re in says a lot about the person you are, the traits you possess and how you may act in some situations. But in the end, your house is really just your home that is always there for you. Always.


Cover Image Credit: Warner Bros Pictures

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How Art Can Help You Take Care Of Yourself

It's time to go on a date with yourself.

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Art is a quintessential part of the human experience: it has something that has been present in human culture beginning from prehistoric times, from when human consciousness first entered the world. It is also something that transcends definition and intertwines with our play of life and the meaning of humanity. Art is an expression of feeling in its most ethereal meaning and "for fun" at its most basic.

Personally, as an Art History minor, art has been a dimension of life for me that I have explored deeply and holds a lot of meaning. Painting is a huge outlet and way to deal with stress for me, and appreciating fine art teaches me about the aspect of history and how all of history is tied together throughout paintings, sculptures, and photographs. It helps me center myself and remind me of the place I hold in this world and the curious aspect personal experience of history. However, art doesn't need to be the stereotypical idea of art: it can be expressed through dance, the learning of a new language, or the coloring of mandalas to ease stress.

The exploration of art and the artistic side of human nature is something that everyone has in them: it's written in our psychology. We have an entire side of our brain that is inclined toward feeling and abstract interpretation, so it's natural to assume that emotion and expression of art are intrinsically intertwined. Thus, experiencing art is a way to personally develop yourself, and can be an unfound way of finding out things about yourself.

Different ways to explore your artistic side can be very easy: as easy as 3rd-grade coloring books, coloring mandalas, or finger-painting. Recently, I participated in a lantern festival and being able to paint a small lantern was an amazing outlet from a stress-filled week and allowed me to express myself through something besides just communication. Writing is also another good way to express emotion and create art: many books are just art pieces, and can be another way to further develop yourself. Additionally, other small fun things like carving pumpkins (spooky season!) or even curating the perfect Instagram profile can be another way to express yourself.

Appreciating the small things in your life as art and self-expression help put you more in touch with yourself, which is easy to lose throughout the mundane cycles of college, work, and life in general. Keeping yourself in harmony and balance might seem like an earthy-crunchy concept, but self-care and self-love are vital in keeping the rest of your life ordered. Being mindful of yourself and your goals is something that I have always have had difficulty with, but working toward learning more about yourself is taking the first step.

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