The American 2 Essay

2292 words - 9 pages

Controlling Destiny In America, a citizen expects a storybook life. A life which has a controlled destiny is ideal. The American dream is based on making enough money to own a house and finding a mate. Money becomes the main part of the dream, and is expected to make the dream become a reality. Europe, however, is quite different. Europe is not about capitalism; it is about the family one belongs to and how much money that family is worth. Life is controlled and destiny is easily predictable. Naturally, the two cultures collide. In The American, by Henry James, the lead character Christopher Newman feels that he can travel to Europe, find the girl of his dreams, and marry without a problem. Unfortunately, one family has a problem with his goals. The Bellegarde's are the supreme example of "old money," and a dynasty that is not going to allow "new money" into it, no matter how hard Newman tries. A person cannot control his own destiny and he has to find a compromise between his freewill and destiny in order to accept his future. The novel shows this through Christopher Newman throughout the entire story.In the beginning of the novel, Christopher Newman thinks that the world is in his hands and that with his money he is there to enjoy it. He goes to Europe thinking that Europe will welcome and admire his wealth, and he is not set astray by the rich culture and heritage of Europe. James introduces the novel with a description of Newman walking through the infamous Louvre in Paris, "It was a typical vagueness which is not vacuity, that blankness which is not simplicity, that look of being committed to nothing in particular, of standing in an attitude of general hospitality to the chances characteristic of many American faces" (James 20). Newman represents the typical American, and turns his back on all material things so that he is enriched in what he is experiencing at the moment. He sees himself as a free person standing in a world which seems to be working with him. (Banta 154) Newman's life had always been based on the material things, and now he was ready for something new. As Newman is reflecting with Mr. Tristam over the use of money and how it affects a person, James describes how Newman feels about his financial situation in life: "Life for him and been an open game, and he had played for high stakes. He had won at last and carried off his winnings; and now what was he to do with them?" (James 36) Newman had already completed his life and now he was ready for something new. However, he feels that with his money anything is possible and that he can control getting what he wants. He puts a price on getting what he wants in life and believes he can but his own happiness. (Rowe 89) With money, anything is possible to Newman, and so he controls his destiny. This leads to Newman's assumption that money combined with Mademoiselle Noemie will bring him into European culture.With Mademoiselle Noemie, Christopher Newman believes that he desires a part...

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