American literature, as a whole, depicts the diverse development of the nation to what it is today. America is accomplished with making itself from nothing, building on beliefs and becoming a platform for freedom. Authors during this time bring forth their raw portrayals of America. To define American literature is to recognize how harsh, detached, and insensitive it stands, and that it cannot even be defined fully.
Throughout American literature, each writer displays America and their idea of how the country can improve. They add to the groundwork in which our country started and exemplifies a distinctly unsympathetic and unforgiving theme. Transcendentalism largely contributes to American literature and author’s perspective on America during this time.
Henry David Thoreau writes of the government and how it acts as an obstacle to the people in On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. Thoreau is against the Mexican-American War which took place during the 1840’s. The Mexican-American War was over dispute of the border. The United States declared war on Mexico since American forces stationed in Texas were attacked by the Mexican military. The United States was responding to an attack on American soil, which would be justified when President Polk declared war. In this instance, both nations believed they engaged in war for a just cause; the United States was responding in self-defense; whereas Mexico was protecting its territory. Thoreau tells his readers to pay close attention to the Mexican-American war, which “few individuals are using the standing government as their tool” suggesting the government is corrupted by officeholders. The Mexican-American War symbolizes the United States government becoming too autocratic.
In connection to American literature, Thoreau suggests the government should be isolated. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn written by Mark Twain is a classic piece of American literature. Mark Twain’s essay closely depicts the issue of slavery which caused divide throughout America during the 1800’s. Through a young white boy, Huck Finn, and a runaway slave named Jim, Twain criticizes the institution of slavery by writing of a bond between a white boy and a slave. During this time, America has found itself in a sectional divide.
The North and South are at odds over banning slavery increasing the hatred and violence towards each other. The Compromise of 1850 was being drafted in an attempt to unify the country. However, there was a provision called The Fugitive Slave Law which required northerners to return escaped slaves to the South. Huck Finn ran into conflict throughout his journey with Jim, questioning whether or not he should turn Jim into the authorities.
He found it morally wrong to do so and “would rather go to hell” than turn Jim in. This correlates with the Fugitive Slave Law because Northerners also found slavery to be immoral and refused to participate. They went against this law like Huck because they too found it inhumane. American literature focuses on the history of the country, revolutionary ideas, and society. Morals are deeply analyzed by the author.
American literature is deeply diverse and is portrayed in different themes of writing but crudity is to be expected.. The hardship and suffering America went through to stand as it does today, is seen in American literature revolutionary ideas and callousness.