Much of the writing done in the later nineteenth and twentieth century was not always politically based, but it was usually about the happenings of the time and the author's reflection and own view of it. This is true in the works of Emerson, Whitman and Twain. Artwork sometimes also reflected national events or attitudes, like in Thomas Crawford's sculpture, Progress of Civilization. Each piece has a specific opinion and attitude toward American society at this time.
Emerson's writings illustrated that he felt American life was too conformist. He even says, "Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist" (bb handout). By this he means that in order to be a true man, you should have your own way of doing things and thinking of things, not just being in compliance to the way everyone else was. Emerson didn't only think that individuals were guilty of this conformism, he believed that Americans as a society were also. He felt that America was a pretty new country at the time and that they should be busy forming their own new and better ways of doing things rather than just being identical to Europe and other places in the world. Emerson writes, "We imitate our houses are built with foreign taste our opinions, our tastes, our whole minds lean, and follow grandeur of thought is as near to us as to any" (bb handout). Another author who spoke of America's conformity issue was Mark Twain. In his essay called Corn-Pone Opinions he speaks of how individuals conform for the simple reason that they want to fit in and gain the approval of others. He says men want this approval of others because without it, we cannot endorse ourselves. Twain also suggests that because we are brought up in a certain way, our opinions are a certain way. "Mohammedans are Mohammedans because they are born and reared among that sect, not because they have thought it out and can furnish sound reasons for being Mohammedans" (343).