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Disintegration the Family in Desire Under the Elms

            What is the American family? This question was answered by John de Crevecoeur, in "what is the American?" (1782), when he said: "I could point out to you a family whose grandfather was an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French woman, and whose present four sons have four wives of different nations."1 In fact, Crevecoeur summarized the history of the American family, in particular, and the American man, in general. There are many kinds of family systems in the world; the English family is but one of them. Bert Adams, in The American Family (1971), says that "the majority of families in the United States may or may not closely resemble one's own."2 Whether the American family resembles other families in the wide world or not is a matter of the American‟s concept of the family. Contemporary researchers of the family insist that no definition of the family fits the reality of all the cultural groups and historical periods. Perhaps the best way to define the diverse forms of this social institution is to draw attention to its character. In this connection, the family may be defined as "a state of mind rather than a particular structure or set of household arrangements"3, for its theoretical conception, the family has been considered in America as a social instruction. The term „institution‟ is used in nominalist sense, to mean a group of persons organized according to cultural principles to carry on activities which fulfill their basic individual and social needs as human beings.4 Similarly, Arthur W. Calhoun, in A Social History of the American Family (1945), states that "American family life seemed to the observer from Europe to be strangely lacking in closeness and warmth. A visitor to America wrote: "Domestic life in America has the appearance of being cold and formal."5 .
             It may be useful to mention that the political, economic and social developments which accompanied the growth of the American family affected the changes in the family relations and values.

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