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American Assimilation: Jewish Immigrants And American Indians

1596 words - 6 pages

Although the novels deal with different ethnic groups, there are similar as well as diverse ways that each group had to face a new dominant American culture. A fundamental difference between the two groups is that Jewish immigrants tried very hard to migrate to America while American Indians had their sense of home invaded and their people killed. Looking at the negative impact of assimilation on the American Indians and the positive impact of assimilation on Jewish immigrants, it is significant to analyze the similarities, differences, and the meaning of assimilation to both groups.

One prevalent theme throughout both Mean Spirit and The Promised Land is that of discrimination. Mean Spirit demonstrates this theme with its portrayal of the United States government's treatment of the American Indians in respect to land. The government made payments to the Indians for leasing their land and at first, they cut the payment of the half bloods. Soon after, the government cut the payments of the full bloods as well. When Moses Graycloud realized that he would not receive the full check, he was angry because he knew the government was not paying him the entire amount because they thought Indians were not spending their money correctly. When the clerk realized that Moses could read, he became alarmed and threatened, "If you carry on this way, Mr. Graycloud, the judge will declare you an incompetent" (Hogan, 62). Graycloud realized there was no defense to this argument because they could make him have a legal guardian to handle his money, and he would only be deceived more if this were to happen.

A telling example of the discrimination faced by Jewish immigrants in The Promised Land was Antin's experience with the landlady. When the rent does not get paid, the landlady comes around to the different apartments to try to get the money. In her admonishment towards the family, the landlady describes her feelings about the Jewish family. In Antin's words of what the woman had said about them, "We owed so many weeks' rent; we were too lazy to work; we never intended to pay; we lived on others... She reproached my mother for having too many children; she blamed us all for coming to America" (Antin, 245). Although The Promised Land focuses more on the positive aspects of moving to America, this is one part of the book where some of the racism and prejudices of Jews at the time were shown.

Another shared experience of assimilation by both American Indians and Jewish immigrants was the younger generation grabbing a hold of the new things while the older generation still maintains more of their pre-assimilation way of life. In beginning of Mean Spirit many of the younger people were embracing the new European ways, such as driving cars and living in houses. The older people, such as Horse, maintained much of the old ways like living in a tepee and trying to stay far removed from the happenings of town. Another interesting example from...

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