Jan 25, 2018 in Literature

The American Tradition in Literature

Literature plays a significant role in educating the society on ethical issues that affects the social and cultural norms. It helps individuals in the society in forming critical thinking and analysis approach that enables them in addressing issues affecting the society or nation as a whole. One of such literature material is “The American Tradition in Literature” which was authored by George B. Perkins and Barbara Perkins. It is composed of poems, novel, and stories from earlier brilliant literature writers whose works were translated to agitate for change in human characters. These human characters formed the basis of American’s action, identity and approach. This write up, thus discusses views of Emily Dickson, Huckleberry Finn, and Henry James as portrayed in the book.

George B. Perkins and Barbara Perkins in their book, the American Tradition in Literature, tried to harmonize tradition with innovation to offer leadership among the Americans Literature anthologies. The book’s composition does not only provided instructors with the freedom to restructure their individual classes, but is has also encouraged learners to develop critical thinking thereby avoiding advancing in specific political intrigues. This write up, thus discusses views of Emily Dickson, Huckleberry Finn, and Henry James as portrayed in the book.

Dickson’s View of Death as Portrayed in the Book

According to Perkins (2008), Emily Dickson is one of the brilliant poetry writers especially considered in the period of the Age of Expansion during which she wrote her poems. This period was characterized by realism as literature writers had moved from the era of romanticism to this era. Therefore, as one of the brilliant writers, the author points out that Dickson combine elements from both the Romantic and Realism era coupled with her Puritanical background in addressing three significant themes. These included death, love, and nature.

Dickson through her poems tries to personify the concept of death of which she dramatizes the experience one gets out of losing a friend or relative. As pointed out by Perkins (2008), Dickson states that, “Because I could not stop for death, He kindly stopped for me,” she continues, “We slowly drove, he knew no haste, for his civility, we passed the school, fields of gazing grain, and the setting sun. Or rather, he passed us.” Dickson’s concept of death as being illustrated depicts death as a gentle friend who kindly stops and carry her to the grave especially from her childhood, maturity (gazing grain), and her (dying) brighter sun setting.

Additionally, Dickson views death as presenting the powerlessness of the human condition especially where there is relentless indifference between the nature and human being. As pointed out by Perkins (2008), Dickson stated that, “death has ended all communication and effectiveness; they have failed rather than died.” This poem shows that nature seems to be more powerful as compared human beings. Therefore, the failure by human beings to take control at the point of death is significantly contributed by their inability to overcome nature.

Huckleberry Finn’s Point of View about America

Perhaps the significant part of The America Traditional Literature book is in the Adventure of Huckleberry Finn. According to Perkins (2008), the story of Finn is a lengthy piece of literature that depicts a young boy, Huck who is fed up with the life of racism and therefore not only wants to free himself, but rather want to have big adventure. They note that Huck who was normally locked in deserted house by his alcoholic father, who only valued money, escapes from the captivity by faking his own death. On escaping along Mississippi river, Perkins points out that Huck meets Jim, his former guardian’s friend’s slave, with which they experience great and exciting adventure.

In Huck’s view, America represented a country in the nineteenth century where there was vigorous social attacks based on racial component. Moreover, it presents America as region of various classes of white or black, male or female. According to Perkins (2008), on their adventure, Huck and Jim met bad guys whom they had no choice but to endure the schemes these boys had. Just like Huck’s father, who only valued money, the authors note that these bad boys sold Jim as a slave. However, this did not deter Huck from fighting to free his friend. From Huck’s perspective, America represents a region that harbors activities that enables one to grow morally in order to better humanity. Perkins (2008) notes that Huck’s association with Jim left him with good moral choices that allowed him to reject all the hypocrisy of ST. Petersburg (Hannibal) which had far drove behind human dignity.

For instance, Huck is noted to be little annoyed by ladies view, Douglas and Miss Watson. However, he shows tendency of respecting their view (Perkins, 2008). This shows that America was a place of forced civilization and therefore, feminism was now rising against the forces of discrimination that had hindered human liberty.

How Henry James Use Setting To Communicate His Ideas about American Identity

According to Perkins (2008), James created the element of character in Daisy Miller in forming the part of the story in order to communicate the manner in which American identity differed from European social circle. More evidently, James uses a linguistic realizations element by setting Daisy as a character within the story who is widely used in denoting the limitations of American’s pride and innocence. For instance, Daisy, an archetypal young American girl who was flirtatious and perfectly superficial with innocence as keynote of her character ignored European’s Colosseum night visit which in turn led to her social downfall. They note that James uses Daisy in portraying American identity as one that disregard any decorum especially the older and more European culture.

Additionally, James uses the element of third person as a central intelligence in narrating the story. This is to portray conservatism as the main formation of wealthy American’s identity. It is such conservativeness that even leads to one’s rejection by other American members. For instance, Fredrick Winterbournes plays the central intelligence character in the story especially in pointing to the American identity. Perkins (2008) note that the flirtatious behavior that had brought Daisy and Winterbourne together is the same that drove them apart. According to them, the other American members such as her aunt Mrs. Walker told Winterbourne to talk to Daisy who was endangering American’s reputation through her acts. This led to Daisy’s rejection, while at Rome, by American society and more so by Winterbourne. Therefore, to James, maintaining American identity seems to be the most factual element in the society.


In conclusion, it is important for literature writer’s to emulate the work of early brilliant writers in addressing issues affecting the society. Moreover, literature writers should, in their pieces of work, incorporate elements that educate and present the readers with their views regarding society’s composition, undertaking, and identity. 


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