Was The California Gold Rush A Dystopic Vision Of Society? History Essay

1506 words - 7 pages

HUM 376 11/23/16 Robbie Morrissey-Turner
Utopia and Dystopia: The California Gold Rush.
The California Gold Rush was a pivotal event in both the history of California and
the United States as a whole. The news of the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in
1848, opened up the state to hundreds of thousands of gold-seekers searching for
a new life and a potential fortune to bring home. The effect of the gold rush was
both colossal and diverse. Towns such as San Francisco grew by almost 200 times
its population prior to the rush, while Native American tribes suffered greatly from
the population influx . Ultimately, the California Gold Rush and the society it brought 1
about have been interpreted by different sources, as possessing both utopian and
dystopian aspects. While some have argued that the advent of the rush brought
violence, crime, and a brutally individualistic culture. Others have stressed that the
Gold Rush was a microcosm of the future of the Californian state, creating a
unshackled land of opportunity, where anyone with the right amount of luck and
perseverance could make it rich . Ultimately, the California Gold Rush possessed 2
elements resembling both dystopia and utopia in its initial stages, but any
semblance of a real utopian vision of a Gold Rush society, eventually fell down.
While the Gold Rush, on a surface level, is often depicted a violent and destructive
dystopian vision. Many have argued that several elements of the event can be
positively interpreted, even in some cases viewed as the burgeoning of a raw
T. Robert Przeklasa, “Killing Californian Indians: Genocide in The Gold Rush Era”
John Carron, “From Gold Rush to Golden State”
HUM 376 11/23/16 Robbie Morrissey-Turner
utopian ideal society. One example of this, is the fact that people travelled from
across the world, to a place with unbounded opportunities and little to no legal
restrictions. California to many, must have seemed like a promised land of freedom
compared to from where they had left. A chance to start anew, in a space where
anything was possible. This is certainly supported in the case of the text “Roaring
Camp: The Social World of the California Gold Rush”, in which writer Susan Lee
Johnson states that “It was for better or worse, a new kind of society… one
unburdened by structures of the past” . Furthermore, the point can also be made 3
that the idea behind and the society created by the California Gold Rush, was both
a microcosm and a foreshadowing of many key, arguably positive aspects of the
future of California. This pure individualistic nature in the pursuit of riches, can
certainly be seen in the veins of modern California. Particularly in the Hollywood
studio system, which was built on the ideas and control of individuals. Therefore, in
the context of Californian history, The Gold Rush could be...

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