Summary Of “‘Indians’: Textualism, Morality, And The Problem Of History”

1403 words - 6 pages

Summary of "'Indians': Textualism, Morality, and the Problem of History"In the essay "'Indians': Textualism, Morality, and the Problem of History" written by Jane Tompkins, an English professor at Duke University, the author criticized the history writers and described the issue of problems that are often created by different perspectives from the history on the topic, European -Indian relation, that cannot be determined from right or wrong. Many problems contain one main fact behind it. However, people have different perspectives of that particular fact, and those perspectives are not always the same. These differences have created textualism problems for the later generations, which make it very difficult for us to learn about history. Throughout this essay, Tompkins main goal is to send a message to history writers that if they can't formulate the problems of history with their moral decisions, they will never be able to resolve those moral problems. As a matter of fact, those same moral problems will be repeated in the future. Therefore, the study of history will be worthless. As a student loving to learn about history, by reading Tompkins' essay I feel like students are being misinterpreted about their country's history due to the biases of historians writing history themselves. In my opinion, if historians cannot see the facts behind history, how can later generation students find out those facts and make an ethical judgment about our history itself.As a kid, Tompkins learned from school about the facts about Indians who made her feel like they were inferiors to her because of their ignorance of the value in the Manhattan Island they sold to Peter Minuit. In order to be like them, she wanted to pursue an "exciting, romantic life in the forest" (Tompkins 102). She was proud to be living on a land that these adventurous native people used to live. When Tompkins decided to do a research about the relationship between Indians and the European settlers, one of her main question changed from what happened to the relationship between them to what are the real facts of history based on the accounts given by different historians.Although there is only one main fact about European - Indian relation, there are many different reports about their past relationships. Tompkins decided to go from secondary to primary researches with a hope of finding more reliable sources of information about European - Indian relation. She ends up with all of the biased accounts, which contain different perspectives of each writers and not facts. As a result, she wanted to end her research in "relativism" (115). Even though she came across contradictory in her researches, by using relativism she can decide for herself which information is well supported her reasoning. She then can eliminate the extreme biases, and combine all these perspectives together to form a comprehensive description of history.Tompkins' first secondary research was about Perry Miller. Through his...

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