America has often been described as a melting pot - a place where people of many different backgrounds and nationalities can come together to form a common identity - transcending individual backgrounds. The question as to whether groups with different ethnicities or countries actually do "melt"" together, or simply learn to live side by side, is a topic beyond the scope of this paper; but the fact remains that, however a misconception of the majority, race, cultural identity, and gender represent the totality of a person.
The myopic nature of this troubling view was lamented in one of the most famous speeches ever given, "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."(King 2) In a nation whose Declaration of Independence states that "all men are created equal,"" one might be forgiven for wondering why that didn't seem obvious from the start. .
In many of the editorial introductions to the essays, stories, and songs found in "The Heath Anthology of American Literature," the editors seem to wonder the same thing and appear to have taken pains to consult a wide variety of sources for inclusion, "So that the work of Frederick Douglass, Mary Wilkins Freeman, Agnes Smedley, and others is read with the work of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry James, William Faulkner and others."" (Lauter xxiii).
At the beginning of this course, we were given an overview of indigenous literary traditions, surveyed native poetry and oral narratives, and looked at early America from the eyes of the European imagination. Even there one could argue that the English, the Spanish, and the French each, as a people, saw America very differently from the others. The styles by which each nationality approached the land and its indigenous people were quite varied. New Spain as described by Christopher Columbus, (with his descriptions of plant life, exotic animals, and the "natives, ") appears a very different place than that as described by John Winthrop, whose inspiration seems rooted in the "Lawe of Grace or the Gospell.