Table of Contents
The Frontier Myth
For over the past many decades, the American culture has been and still is laden with some numerous myths. Out of all the tales present, the American frontier is the most significant one. This myth had such a symbolic significance that ended up creating ethical, emotional, and moral values in America. These values are what led the country to become a cost-to-cost country of progress from the East Coast settlement it initially was. The frontier mythology had some well-known stories such as that of Paul Bunyan. Paul Bunyan’s tales only came to be first published at the beginning of the 19th century, but they were known and circulated by word of mouth from one person to another whereby narrators narrated the story of the “Last of the Frontier Demigods.”
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It is stated that he was the most prominent of all American folk heroes of his time, and he symbolized American’s ingenuity, size, and strength. In his article, Folk Tales of Paul Bunyan, D.G. Hoffman wrote, “He influenced the culture of our country in three ways: in oral folk tales, in popularizations, and in works of art.” This statement signified how much Paul Bunyan was to the history of the American frontier. It also illustrates the connection between the three named traditions even thought they detached from each other. The myth around Paul Bunyan suggests that he was solely responsible for building up the west. It is recorded that he would wake up every morning, take his giant of an axe, and begin his work.
To create room for civil development in the frontier, Paul Bunyan’s work included cutting down giant trees using his giant ax to make way. The myth also talks of the blue ox that Bunyan owned. The ox is said to have been numerously responsible for marvels, but the most significant and talked about is that it plowed the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon as rugged and rocky as it is as a result of the plowing that was carried out by Bunyan’s ox. The Frontier justifies the American culture of resilience. The frontier had coerced both the Americans and colonists, but it did not stop them spreading westward. The thought and optimism motivated the American inhabitants for an unlimited sense of opportunity and free land, and the shredding limitations that they had become tired of. In the period between the years 1860 and 1893, the significance of the American frontier was high as many regarded it as the final frontier.
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As earlier stated in this paper, the expansion towards west America was as a result of people wanting to look for and start new lives. As civilization sucked up the whole frontier, its importance was profoundly felt. Fredrick Jackson Turner is well known for having written the “Frontier Thesis” whereby he is quoted as saying, “marks the closing of a great historical movement,” to signify the frontier closing down. According to Turner, the American civilization and development were as a result of the frontier. Turner stated that the whole process of moving towards the west by the pioneers had a considerable impact on them in that it allowed for them think beyond the norm and figure out new ways to survive.
However, historians have had a problem with Turner’s thesis citing that it did hold any literal or tangible meaning. His argument argued that the development and civilization of the west are to be fully accredited to the frontier from which historians have detached themselves from that idea. Another reason as to why historians did not agree with the thesis is because it stated that had it not been for the frontier, then America would not have been a prosperous, democratic state. The frontier myth in itself is still quite impressive as it paved the way for the famous Wild West movies that were based on the lives of “cowboys” and gunslingers. These movies were primarily based on the demigods that were narrated of in the different frontier myths. These films portrayed the west as a vast dry land while in the real sense the people that were moving into the direction at that particular time in history had to practice farming to have food for both domestic and economic purposes. The frontier myth is still significant in today’s world as new age historians are still studying and carrying out researches to try and further explain the movement of Americans from East to West.
American Civil War and its remembrance
There are many important events that have taken and took place throughout the history of the United States of America. Although out of all these historical happenings and events, none is more important than the American Civil War. The Civil War cost the country over 600,000 lives and separated the country into two halves; the north and the south. The brutal war as a result of tensions brought about by disagreements in the sections of the American Constitution. This war was what came to identify America as it is today. It was the war that resulted in the “slavery question” being answered once and for all. The whole nation was after freeing itself from the colonists was to have committed itself to the Declaration of Independence. This declaration stated that all men are equal before God, but this was not the case.
Both the north and the south of the country had their understanding of that portion of the declaration. The grounds on the said disagreement would have led to the nation dividing itself with each half going its separate way as a nation of its own. The separation did take place. The South formed a country, state of its own which was known as the Confederate States of America. This move was not okay with Lincoln as he was striving for an amicable way to solve the situation to avoid blood shade. However, this did not come to take place as war erupted and it became official that it was happening. The first battle took place and was later known as First Battle of Bull Run. The bloodshed that was witnessed in this campaign was intense as thousands of both civilians and soldiers lost their lives. As recorded by historical books, the primary cause of the war was slavery. The American people remember this war as they do because it led to the end of the slavery issue after a lot of lives were lost. It was a wakeup call to both sides of the divide as it proved that they were all humans and same under God regardless their skin color or race.
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Ways in which the memories of the Civil War clash with historical evidence
Many years after the Civil War, a couple of historians had different narrations about the issue of what might have caused the Civil War. Well known and established historians do agree to the fact that slavery was indeed the cause of the war as Lincoln had stated in the second inaugural address he made. However, this was not the case as some people from both the North and the South disputed this claim. To them, the war was caused by many and more diverse issues than slavery. There is a claim that the war was caused by paramount other problems such as the abstract law of secession, rights that states had when it came to them governing themselves and tariffs.
This is a significant clash with the memories that people have today of the war. People only see and remember the war as an occurrence whereby lives were lost due to issues related to race and color of the people. Whereas historical evidence proves that it was more than that. The war is what shaped the nation of the United States to be what it is today. States were able to attain their independence and clause in the constitution allowed for this to become possible after the war. The memories of American citizens are only confined to the way in which lives were lost because one side of the divide wanted to practice slavery while the other one did not. It is correct to say that slavery was the main issue but people should also keep in mind that other critical issues were addressed by the Civil War taking place. These other issues are well illustrated by Woods (2012).
- Hoffman, D. (1999). Paul Bunyan: Last of the Frontier Demigods. Michigan: Michigan State University Press. Print
- Keegan, J. (2010). The American Civil War: A military history. New York: Vintage. Print
- Taylor, G.R. (1972). The Turner Thesis Third Edition: Concerning the Role of the Frontier in American History, Massachusetts: D. C. Heath and Company. Print
- Woods, M.E. (2012). What Twenty-First-Century Historians Have Said about the Causes of Disunion: A Civil War Sesquicentennial Review of the Recent Literature. Journal of American History, Volume 99, Issue 2: Pages 415–439.