Angry Americans and Violent Visitors America was formed on violence. The American Revolution is a prime example of fighting for freedom. However, America also formed from the people the colonists fought, they were fighting to keep their land, for belonging and justice. The exploration and colonization of the Europeans caused an incredible amount of violence, pain, and death for the Native Americans. The greed they had and the disregard for the Native Americans has shaped what America has become today, however awful it might have been then. Even through the pain and violence, love influenced America too.
These two unrelenting forces often go hand and hand, especially in literature. In the literary pieces throughout the ages, the impact of violence and love on the shaping of the new America is shown as an influential and crucial part of the process. The Declaration of Independence is thought to be the epitome of America. It denotes our revolution, it shows our passion for change, and it gives our independence day. This document promotes the idea of revolution and fighting for the cause you think is right.
Jefferson writes, “That whenever any form of government becomes destructive… t is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it… it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. ” By stating this, Thomas Jefferson, as well as the United States’ Congress, is validating the actions of the people of the United States, to stand up and fight for what they believe in. The founding fathers influenced the ideals and attributes of the newly established America. The foundation of America is rooted in wanting to belong. The people that came to America from Europe were people that were persecuted in their own country and wanted salvation.
However, they had to fight for it. Like they stated in the Declaration of Independence, “it is the right of the people to throw off such government. ” That tends to create conflict between people, as does any strong opinion. In Flight by Sherman Alexie, belonging is one of the major themes. When Zits travels through the time periods, he always has to find his place in the story before he can do anything major. But before he does any of that, his friend Justice says to him, “If you want to set fires, you must burn down bad things. Remember, revolution is not about spontaneous combustion.
The true revolutionary must set himself aflame”(p. 25). When Justice is saying this, he’s not talking strictly about the American Revolution, but the quote definitely applies. Taken literally, it can cause a lot of harm to everyone and nothing would ever be accomplished. But taking Justice’s advice metaphorically is the essence of the American Revolution. The sons and daughters of the revolution had to put their all into the fight if they wanted to come out strong. They had to strategically move around and manipulate the situation so they might gain the advantage.
The founding fathers of America wanted to belong in America as citizens of free and independent states. To do that, they had to set some fires. The founding fathers of America are called “fathers” because they guided America to be what it is today, like a father might do to a child. They provided the encouragement and support that the states didn’t have and needed to get to freedom. In a way, Zits is America. He’s a teenager that doesn’t have a father and is trying to find a way in the world. America is often referred to as the “angsty teenager” that wanted to get away from its parents, or England.
So Zits is essentially an allegory, representing America and how it found its place. Like America, Zits goes through many violent situations. He’s continually caught between harming someone for a noble cause or sparing their life but at a cost to him or is people, whether that be social persecution or otherwise. During the revolutionary war, the soldiers, or maybe more importantly the founding fathers, had to make this exact decision. They had to decide whether or not they would kill for their newly forming country or be under British rule for good. Even before the revolution, America was caked in violence.
The colonists that came brought horrible things to the Native Americans, like diseases, weapons, and the idea that they were superior. In Cabeza de Vaca, the violent interactions can be seen between the Natives and the Spaniards throughout the entire narrative. In the very first encounter Cabeza de Vaca recalls, “And although they spoke to us, since we did not have an interpreter we did not understand them. But they made many signs and threatening gestures to us and it seemed to us that they were telling us to leave this land”(p. 54). Right from the beginning, the colonists did not have a respectful relationship with the Native Americans.
This continues on through the narrative, and includes raids, fights, and even enslavement. While this violence was a horrible event that cannot be overlooked, America today would not be the same without it. In fact, it might not even exist. This violence was necessary for the formation of today’s America. Although the majority of encounters between the natives and the colonists were not friendly, there were a few that were. Cabeza de Vaca notes that when they land, they are greeted by the Native Americans, and they help them with the supplies they need, and even promise to bring them food the next day.
Even though violence shaped America, these kind encounters are the ones that America’s ideals are based off of today. The peaceful interactions of many peoples is what America strives for, regardless of race, gender, sex, ethnicity, or otherwise. Through Cabeza de Vaca they are continually looking for gold to bring back to the Old World, and bring wealth to their country and families. A lot of the colonization that happened was due to this naive greed of the europeans in the Old World. In The Tempest, greed is a clear motivator for the antagonist, Antonio.
He wishes to become the king of Naples’s right hand and duke of Milan. This is shown through his plotting and scheming, first for taking Prospero’s place some years ago. Prospero recalls, “A treacherous army levied, one midnight/ Fated to the purpose did Antonio open/ The gates of Milan” (1. 11). Antonio was so persuaded by his greed that he attacked his own brother and ran him out of the country in fear of losing his life and his daughter. This dukedom, however, was not enough for Antonio, he continues his quest for power through the plotting of killing the king of Naples, Alonso.
He and Sebastian, who would be king after Alonso dies, plan the murder aided by Ariel, who put the rest of the ship’s party to sleep. Antonio says, “My strong imagination sees a crown/ Dropping upon thy head… Say, this were death/That now hath seized them; why, they were no worse/ Than they now are”(11. 1). The greed that fuels Antonio is very similar to the greed that fueled the explorers when America was first being colonized. In both situations, they want something more than they have, and it hurts someone else in return.
They may think about how it might affect those surrounding them, but they are mainly concerned with how it benefits them. This then can lead to violence seen in the wars between colonists and Native Americans and the plotting of murders, not to mention raids from the past, in The Tempest. The Tempest is also a contemplative play not only because it goes into the greed behind power, but it also explores the relationships between slaves or indentured servants and their masters. Prospero has one slave, Caliban, whom he treats horribly, but not without good reason.
Therefore, Caliban reacts negatively, acting out and cursing Prospero and Miranda as frequently as he can. Prospero responds with, “For this, be sure, tonight thou shalt have cramps”(1. 1), and “Thou most lying slave”(I. II). This type of slave-master relationship was seen a lot through the developing years of the United States. The unfortunate truth is that without enslavement, we also wouldn’t have the America we have today. It may have been a better and more just America without slavery, but what America has today is due to the African Americans and Native Americans that were so unfortunately forced to work for their lives.
The Road Weeps, The Well Runs Dry by Marcus Gardley also digs into the slave-master relationship, but in a different way. Instead of the hostile relationship that Prospero and Caliban have, Trowbridge and Number Two have a forbidden love, while Number Two is Trowbridge’s slave. This creates an interesting layer to the story where Gardley delves into the possibilities of how love can affect the overall relationship of a slave and a master. In this particular story, the relationship turns south very quickly. The unspoken words that are between the two of them create an awkward dissonance that ultimately leads to destruction of the town.
If the town and the age were to be accepting of gay relationships, perhaps there wouldn’t be a story to tell. The love in this story, or the forbidden love, is the culprit of the violence in the town, proving that even from love, violence can occur. This is analogous to the slave-owning days of America not only because of the many affairs masters had with their slaves, but also because in a relationship where one party is completely subservient to the other, they can start to understand each other in a way that is both terrifying and helpful to keep the peace between the parties.
This outcome of the relationship, however horrible, also has shaped America. The mistakes of the peoples of America have lead to its greatness in a way that is almost completely incomprehensible, but the literature we have outlines the importance of how this has shaped the country’s now. In order to understand why America is what it is today, why society does things the way they do, and what we need to do in order to fix what our ancestors have done, we have to look into the past and learn about what happened and more importantly, why it might have happened.
The violence, although it is not a comfortable thing to discuss, is the bulk of what we need to learn from in order to understand the society. America is formed from many great peoples that have influenced each other throughout all of time, and that is what makes it so abstractly beautiful and different from the rest of the world. It is truly a melting pot of cultures, whether or not we want it to be. I think that this is a great thing most of the time. It allows us to be more open to other people and more tolerant of things we know nothing about.
This wouldn’t have happened without the violence that our ancestors endured. Through nonfiction such as The Declaration of Independence and The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca, or even in fiction like Flight, The Tempest, or The Road Weeps, The Well Runs Dry we can see these conflicts bring rise to new ideas and creations that ultimately make America. This is incredibly unique, and we should be proud of it. To take something negative and make it good is a talent that not everyone has. And collectively as America, we do.