Tracing the American Identity - The evolution thereof.

Essay by neofateUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, November 2003

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The American Identity could be considered and oxymoron in and of itself. From

the very inception of explorers to the "New Land" to American culture today, Americans

still don't have a firm grasp of whom they really are. In any event, I will attempt to trace

the evolution of the American identity using time honored literary figures such as

Columbus, de Vaca, Smith, Rowlandson, and others.

Sent on a conquest to find new trade routes, Christopher Columbus, pummeled

into a land, America that signaled the birthing of a new culture. In Columbus' Journal he

describes the Native Americans response, "They signified their admiration and reverence

of the strangers by touching them, kissing their hands and feet, and making signs of

wonder. They imagined them come from heaven, and signified as much to them. They

were feasted with such food as the natives had to offer" (113). As you can imagine, this

awe and wonder presented to one of the first Americans inflated egos and impressed the

idea that the Native Americans were inherently beneath them.

However, all newcomers were not entrenched with admiration as is shown in

Cabeza de Vaca's travels. De Vaca and his men were not shown the kindness Columbus

enjoyed, alternately they were killed and de Vaca himself taken captive. In the excerpt

"In view of the poverty of the land, the unfavorable accounts of the population and of

everything else we heard, the Indians making continual war upon us, wounding our

people and horses at the places where they went to drink, shooting from the lakes with

such safety to themselves that we could not retaliate, killing a lord of Tescuco, named

Don Pedro, whom the commissary brought with him, we determined to leave that place

and go in quest of the sea, and the...