Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Essay: What is an American?

Since the discovery of America, this continent became an attractive place to live for all immigrants coming mostly from Europe. Everybody wanted to know what America was like and why all people felt happy there. French immigrant named Hector St. John de Crevecoeur tried to describe America in the way how it was in the 18th century. He, as well as other immigrants, came in search of a better life, which was conditioned on economic well-being. According to historical evidence, Hector de Crevecoeur went to the USA around the 1760s and acquired his naturalization papers in 1765.


It is believed that during this period he wrote “Letters from an American Farmer,” which became a rather famous piece of literature to read about early America and Americans. In the book Crevecoeur describes the land, the climate and the nature of America, saying that it is very diverse. The same he says about the people, noting that they are “as different as their climates” [1]. Indeed, people who were coming to inhabit the country, which would become the most powerful in the world, were of a different nationality, but their goals were similar. Some immigrants came in search of a place where they can freely practice their religion, others were trying to escape military conflicts or legal prosecutions in their countries, some people were so poor and due to the lack of a job they experienced they would sell everything in their home country to come to America in order to start up a new life. The “land of freedom” – this is how the USA was called by many immigrants coming from England, Scotland, France, Sweden, Germany and other countries. They created a new nationality of people, and started to call themselves as “Americans”.


The primary goal of the current essay is to find out what Americans are like. It is well-known that they didn’t exist before 17-18th centuries, so it’s necessary to examine what qualities they possess, what their goals are and to compare Americans described in the “Letter Three” by Crevecoeur with Americans who inhabit the United States nowadays.

So, what is an American? First of all, it is a person, who is biologically identical to other people living on the Earth. However, like nationality, Americans appeared much later than, for example, Germans, French or Englishmen. Americans don’t possess long history as other peoples do, but they do own something that makes their country so attractive to the rest of the world.

In his “Letter Three” Hector de Crevecoeur described an American, as a “mixture of English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, and Swedes,” “strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other country” and a “new man” [1]. From the first sight it seems as if Crevecoeur describes some aliens, however, it is not so. At that period Americans were different from other people. First of all, they were free. They were free in their choices and deeds, trying to get a better living by themselves. 

They did not wait for any support from the government but only relied on themselves. Hard work made them so successful. While in Europe only men were allowed to work and earn money, in America every member of a family, including women and children, was working for the good of the whole family. And the results were stupendous. Rather soon many families became wealthy or at least well-off, which made new immigrants even more eager to come to the USA. Immigrants were inspired by “new laws, a new mode of living, a new social system; here they become men: in Europe they were as so many useless plants, wanting vegetative mould, and refreshing showers; they withered, and were mowed down by want, hunger, and war; but now by the power of transplantation, like all other plants they have taken root and flourished” [1] – this is how Crevecoeur describes the motives that derived immigrants from Europe to become Americans. The immigrants were protected by the laws existing in the country; they worked hard and thus were able to acquire land with all benefits that it can give. Nowadays, the USA is the most powerful state in the world. The standard of living is among the highest in the world there. And it remains a very tempting country to live in for many people. However, it’s not so open anymore. It is inhabited by millions of Americans, who used to be of different nationalities.

Now, the term “American” means an inhabitant of the United States. Besides meaning simply a nationality, “American” is also a description of certain kind of people. First of all, Americans are free.  

They are proud of their freedom and the country they live in. Americans are hardworking and very much interested in financial stability and proper living conditions. They start working since their “teens” and continue until their health allows them to. Hard work and great enterprise of Americans had a considerable influence on the development of the country and the whole world. Hector de Crevecoeur states that Americans’ “labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world” [1]. And he was right.

Time went by, and things changed. A lot of Americans have become slightly wealthy, wishing to work no more, but only enjoy life. For this reason, many foreign scientists, doctors, and engineers were invited to work and live in the USA. Of course, they couldn’t do anything but accept such propositions, because they were offered high wages, new houses, cars, and so to speak, everything that they didn’t have at home. Thus, they started to work and also became Americans.

“In America, a variety of distinctive ethnicities and cultures have flourished” [3] – writes the author of the article “What is an American?” Jeffrey Hart. Indeed, the USA is a special country, known as the “melting pot.” People of different historical background, different nationalities, and ethnicities, different religions, and cultures inhabit the USA nowadays. Thus, the pot continues to melt, mixing up different people and creating a new nation out of many. The USA became a home for immigrants coming from not only Europe but also other continents. Americans can freely practice any religion they wish, because the USA offers them a great variety of congregations to join, starting with Catholics and Christians and ending with Buddhists and Muslims.

An American is a very hospitable person because only in the USA people would offer you to stay overnight hardly knowing who you are. The majority of Americans live in suburban areas, not even locking their outside doors during the day. Americans are friendly and communicative, that’s why American smile became so popular, and also Japanese started to smile seeing the example of Americans. An American knows what he wants, that’s why he/she graduates from school and enters a college or a University. The system of education in the USA allows to bring up highly-qualified specialists, while the rest of the world prefers to educate people in various sciences. While Americans are young, they struggle to make an “American Dream” come true. Such a term appeared rather long time ago, describing belief of Americans as well as foreigners that hard work, firmness, and resolve will inevitably lead to better life and happiness, conditioned on financial prosperity. “American Dream” is a short description of the goals set by the immigrants coming to the USA, who wanted to work and get benefits from their work. These goals have handed down to the following generations, who were also trying to make an “American Dream” come true. However, nowadays “American Dream” has become a controversial matter, giving some people an idea that wealth measures happiness. Of course, human happiness depends on many factors, such as health, love and care, family and friends, but it is impossible to be happy when you don’t have anything to eat, for example. Money doesn’t make a person happy, but a person is unhappy without of it.

As it has been mentioned above, Americans are hospitable people, they readily welcome strangers in their communities; however, some of Americans are ignorant, having no idea what happens in the world, which is beyond the borders of their country. Americans are very patriotic; they are incredibly loyal to their country. During national holidays every house is decorated with flags and American symbols; no other people do that. Hector de Crevecoeur writes, “The American ought, therefore, to love this country much better than that wherein either he or his forefathers were born” [1]. And it is so. People who moved to the USA start to like it even more than the country where they were born because the USA offers so many opportunities like no other country does.

Having spoken about various qualities of an American, it is necessary to make a conclusion and emphasize the main features of an American. An American is a resident of the United States of America, who either moved or was born there. An American is a goal-oriented, hard-working and industrious person, who knows what he/she wants and the way how to reach it. An American is a free person, who has the opportunity to have any political, cultural or religious views. An American is a patriotic person, who is loyal to the USA.

No matter what foreigners will say about an American, he will remain the same, because it is his choice, his life, his country.

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