American Identity

American Identity

Chapter 1 Wilderness and the American mind


“For most of their history Americans regarded wilderness as a moral and physical wasteland fit only for conquest and fruitification in the name of progress, civilization and Christianity”


The first reason I found this quote interesting is the claim that for most of American history, Americans wanted conquest and to expand Christianity. This seems to be in direct contradiction to the novel Hope Leslie by Catharine Maria Sedgwick. In the opening first chapter of this novel written by an American woman; an English man by the name of William fletcher is denied marriage to his love Alice because he has different religious beliefs from her family. Fletcher decision to get away from England and go to Massachusetts is setting up the idea that in America religion wouldn’t be imposed. This American belief of conquest and Christianity seems to be hypercritical to the idea of freedom.


This quote definition of what it means to be American steams from American Imperialism the idea that America is exceptional that America is on a world mission ordain by god to spread liberty and democracy.


Yes I am an American. What being American to me is using logic and reasoning to forward American ideals of freedom, fairness and equality. I disagree with the majority of American thinking of the time period of that quote steams from. You can’t forward Christianity by using conquest. In the introduction of the novel Hope Leslie it is stated the main imperative of the Sedgwick era was to create national literature that differentiated itself from British and European precedents by capitalizing on America’s uniqueness. Isn’t using military force to promote a religious ideas isn’t that the exact same thing, of what Britain is doing? How is America unique in that sense? How can you promote liberty and democracy using imperialism again another contradiction?


I like the idea in chapter 3 of Wilderness and the American mind that scientific advancement is what drove appreciation for nature and the idea that appreciation for nature started in the city with men with a pen. These two quotes brings about the idea that the more educated people are the less strife there will be in the world. It validates my personal American belief that democracy should be promoted peacefully instead of using imperialism. That scientific discoveries will show the importance of conserving nature and how civilization is actually threatened from a loss of forests.


2 thoughts on “American Identity

  1. First, this quote is amazing. I can relate this quote to so many American instances and you used a very good example. William saw America as a getaway tool; he sought out marriage here believing it would be the best place to practice civil rights. Many immigrants today seek agency in this same form and although many people see this as damaging to our country, this practice may be very beneficial to the immigrant or us as a people. The ‘physical wasteland’ reminds me of fracking, pollution and similar examples. Moreover, the connecting to civilization fits perfectly with our GMO issues or the oil crisis.


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