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Comparing Letters from an American Farmer and Thoreau’s Various Essays

Comparing Crèvecoeur’s Letters from an American Farmer and Thoreau’s Various Essays

St. Jean De Crèvecoeur’s Letters from an American Farmer and Henry David Thoreau’s various essays and journal entries present opposing views of what it means to be an American. To somewhat simplify, both writers agree that there are two kinds of Americans: those who are farmers and those who are not. Crèvecoeur views farmers as the true Americans, and those who are not farmers, such as frontier men, as lawless, idle, inebriated wretches (266). Sixty years later, Thoreau believes the opposite: farmers are doomed and bound to their land, and free men who own nothing posses the only true liberty (9). Both Crèvecoeur and Thoreau judge men and their professions on industry, use of nature, freedom, and lawfulness.

As America grew during these six decades, industrialization and higher education created more compact communities unable to economically provide the land needs of farmers. In Crèvecoeur’s America, “some few towns excepted, we are all tillers of the earth”(263). In 1850, Thoreau’s Concord was among the many towns allowing people to leave their farms for a more urban setting to house their law practices, shoe stores, or surveying businesses. The separation of farmers from the rest of society leads to intellectualizations of the profession by thinkers like Thoreau. Removed from the simple, hard labor of farming, it is easy for urbanized society to forget the farmer’s purpose and importance in Western civilization.

Crèvecoeur states that “industry, which to me who am but a farmer, is the criterion of everything”(264). Indeed, a lack of industry in any vocation eventually leads to failure. Thoreau, however, sees little value in indu…

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…d as Thoreau was from self-supporting agriculture, modern America is light years away. Thoreau’s ideal lifestyle is now an impossibility. Many Americans would settle for an unadorned life on a small farm, and a clean, dry home.

Possibly the day will come when [the land] will be partitioned off into so-called pleasure-grounds, in which a few will take a narrow and exclusive pleasure only-when fences shall be multiplied, and man-traps and other engines invented to confine men to the public road, and walking over the surface of God’s earth shall be construed to mean trespassing on some gentleman’s grounds. … Let us improve our opportunities, then, before the evil days come. (Thoreau 667)

Works Cited:

Crèvecoeur, J. Hector St. John de. Letters from an American Farmer and Sketches of Eighteenth-Century America. Ed. Albert E. Stone. New York: Penguin, 1981.

Characterization, Symbolism, and Repetition in Hundred Years of Solitude

Characterization, Symbolism, and Repetition in One Hundred Years of Solitude

The names of characters often suggest something about their personalities, either straightforwardly or ironically. Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Prudencio Aguilar is neither “prudent” nor “eagle-like” (aguila means “eagle” in Spanish). Repetition of names and behaviors is another technique of characterization. Certain character types, e.g., the contemplative, stubborn man, or the impetuous, forceful man, the patient and nurturing woman, and so on, are represented by more than one individual in the several generations of the Buendia family. All the Jose Arcadios, for example, are assumed to have at least some of the traits of the original Jose Arcadio Buendia (impetuous and forceful), and all the Aurelianos have something in common with Colonel Aureliano Buendia (tendency toward solitude and contemplation). The repetitions are not exact, but the use of similar names is one way to suggest more about a character than is actually said. There are also repetitions of particular behaviors, for example, secluding oneself in a room for experiments or study.

Some characters have characteristic signs to identify them. Examples include Pilar Ternera’s laugh, Colonel Aureliano Buendia’s solitary look, Aureliano Segundo’s extravagance, Fernanda’s continual muttering, and so on.

Physical descriptions are used sparingly, letting the reader fill in the details beyond such generalities as “skinny” or “fat,” “beautiful,” “huge.” An exception is made for Colonel Aureliano Buendia, who seems to be drawn from an especially clear mental image of the author’s, as though copied from a photograph.

Some of the more spectacular individuals are …

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…wears away the axle,” until the whole system, including both the constant attempts to renew Macondo and the reproduction of the Buendia clan, breaks down.

Works Cited

Bell-Villada, Gene H. Garcia Marquez: The Man and His Work. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990.

Griffin, Clive. “The Humour of One Hundred Years of Solitude.” In McGuirk and Cardwell, 81-94.

James, Regina. Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Revolutions in Wonderland. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1981.

McGuirk, Bernard and Richard Cardwell, edd. Gabriel Garcia Marquez: New Readings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

Williams, Raymond L. Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Boston: Twayne, 1984.

Wood, Michael. “Review of One Hundred Years of Solitude.” In Critical Essays on Gabriel Garcia Marquez. McMurray, George R., ed. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987.

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