John de Crevecoeur's "What Is an American- and in James Baldwin's "The Discovery of What It Means to Be an American- one of the most profound themes that try to define America is the role of American citizen's effort to distinguish themselves from European citizens. .
In de Crevecoeur's essay his writing style tries to advertise American society by describing the life of an individual American, and comparing it to the European lifestyle. In the first part of his essay, de Crevecoeur describes American identity: .
"Here he beholds fair cities, substantial villages, extensive fields, and immense country filled with decent houses, good roads, orchards, meadows, and bridges, where an hundred years ago all was wild, woody and uncultivated! What a train of pleasing ideas this fair spectacle must suggest; it is a prospect which must inspire a good citizen with the most heartfelt pleasure-. .
This excerpt shows how de Crevecoeur tries to sell America by describing it as being a new land to be free and that, "Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world-. De Crevecoeur also states in his essay that Americans are European decedents who leave behind them all ancient prejudices and mannerisms, and establishes new ones from the new mode of life that they have embraced, the new government they obey, and the new rank they hold. This depicts de Crevecoeur thoughts on how American society is superior to that then of the European society. On the opposing end are James Baldwin and his essay "The Discovery of What It Means to Be an American-. .
Baldwin's view of American identity is different to that of de Crevecoeur. Baldwin feels that America and all of its unique traits cause it to be undefined and not as pleasant as de Crevecoeur depicts it to be. In 1948 Baldwin made his home primarily in France, and in 1961 he wrote, "The Discovery of What it means to be an American-.