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'i Am Not A Virginian, But An American' (Patrick Henry). Discuss Regional And National Identity In American Fiction

2330 words - 10 pages

Personal identity seems like it's just such an American archetype, from Holly Golightly re-inventing herself in 'Breakfast At Tiffany's' to Jay Gatsby in 'The Great Gatsby.' It seems like the sort of archetypal American issue. If you're given the freedom to be anything, or be anyone, what do you do with it? -Chuck Palahniuk
Throughout Phillip Seymour's novel, American Pastoral, the concept of national identity changes for characters with the progressive times. The Swede’s identity builds from his early years upon the classic ideals of the American dream. The Swede’s very own identity could be questioned due to the oddness of his physical exterior; “None possessed anything remotely like the ...view middle of the document...

Scott Fitzgerald’s novel (The Great Gatsby). Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was written in 1939 during the end of the great depression when the Europeans began trading supplies with America because of WWII. The play is brimming with greed, lies, sexual oppression and fractured identity’s, they are a very wealthy family who are facing a breakdown. The crisis within identity comes from oppression and break down in relationships. The Great Gatsby was written in 1923 and universally known follows the importance of money. The issues faced with national identity here stem from social concepts of America and what it takes to be American.
Levov’s daughter, Merry’s, identity proves important in the shattering of everything he worked for through her opposed identity as anti-American and bombing a post office in protest of the Vietnam war. Roth or he through his narrator, Nathan Zuckerman, describes the Swede as having this “unconscious oneness with America”(30) which everyone desired. Zuckerman goes on to question; “Where was the Jew in him? You couldn’t find it and yet you knew it was there.” (30) Zuckerman is frustrated by this fractured identity, the intuitive blankness and lack of physical truth of who he is by blood. He only possessed “the natural, physical refinement of a star.” (31) Now Nathan is no longer a high school student admiring Seymour from a macro sociologically perception, he begins to wonder, “What did he do for subjectivity? What was the Swede’s subjectivity? There had to be a substratum, but its composition was unimaginable.” (31) We get the idea that at the time of the Swede’s high school years, the consciousness of America and American ideals were viewed through macrosociology, focusing on a collective society ranging from family’s to a school or church, right up to regional and national. Even though the Swede by no way is American in terms of his name or heritage, he becomes America through his social behaviour. Even his nickname, the Swede, is in no way American.
The social theory of microsociology and macrosociology can be found In American Pastoral. Microsociology studies the individual identity to conclude how the individual views society and how they enforce their own identity because of this. This can be applied to Seymour; we witness an extreme contrast between him and his daughter Merry in relation to national identity. Seymour’s character is almost paradoxical; he is Jewish and is only American through his socially classic, Americanized lifestyle. The Swede’s lifestyle and family mimic the perfect ideals of the 1950’s and he becomes the perfect idea of America. However after the Second World War and the travel into the sixties national identity was changing and Roth called it a “demythologizing decade”. Sandra Stanley describes in her critical essay that American Pastoral is “A self-described member of the “most propagandized generation” – a product of world war II rhetoric.” This is where Roth really introduces the subsequent...

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