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American Culture
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  1. American Culture Chapter 4 - The Frontier Heritage

  2. American Frontier

  3. American Frontier

  4. The Impact of the American Frontier (1) • The ‘frontier’ has not existed for more than 100 years, but it’s effects are still present today • The frontier was very important in shaping American values (see previous lessons) • Many people associate the image of the frontier as a symbol of being a true American (especially used by some Presidents)

  5. The Impact of the American Frontier (2) • The popular image of the frontier was of cowboys (heroes) fighting Indians (villains) • In truth, the Indians (Native Americans) were mistreated (killed, abused, displaced) • Today, there is more awareness of what really happened during the settlement of the frontier

  6. The Impact of the American Frontier (3) • The “frontier” existed from the 1600s until ~1890 as settlers spread from east to west across the American continent • On the frontier life was generally harsh (the wild west) • The settlers believed it was their “manifest destiny” to control all of the land • Displaced native Americans were placed into reservations

  7. The Impact of the American Frontier (4,5,6) • Many Americans are still inspired by the frontier culture • This was responsible for many of today’s American valuese.g. • Hard work – cutting down forests, building towns and cities • Competition – gold rush, land rushLife on the frontier was seen as an example of these values in their purest form

  8. The Impact of the American Frontier (7) • Individualism, Self-Reliance and equality of opportunity were all important attributes for people on the frontier • The value of “Individual freedom” also developed at this time, probably because there was no “establishment” to control what people could do • Many people in western states still value individual freedom very highly.

  9. Self-Reliance and the Rugged Individualist (8,9) • People on the frontier had to be self-reliant, there were no comforts • People had to build their own houses, make their own clothes, hunt etc • This has become an ideal of the American hero – A rugged individualist • A man who has become tough by living on the frontier – usually unmarried, skilled at fighting, protector of others

  10. Self-Reliance and the Rugged Individualist (10,11,12) • There are 2 basic types of heroic rugged individualists: • Pre-civil war (~1860) – Man against the wilderness e.g. Daniel Boone • A man who could survive in the wilderness, not remembered for his fighting ability • Post-Civil war (~1860-1890) – Man against man e.g. Cowboys in the Wild West • Wilderness has been conquered – fighting for control of remaining lands. Few laws, frequent violence. Heroes are able to win fistfights, gunfights against many enemies. Typically good v evil

  11. Self-Reliance and the Rugged Individualist (13) • Wild west heroes are typically lawmen and gunfighters of the time e.g. Jesse James, Wyatt Earp • They had a bigger influence on American ideas of heroism than earlier frontier heroes • Wild west heroes have inspired many movies “Westerns”

  12. American Macho Heroes (14) • Movies and TV have helped to shape the idea of “macho” Male strength • Most American heroes in movies/TV demonstrate their strength through physical violence • The western macho hero has been modernized – soldiers, detectives, policemen (cops and robbers) • These “heroes” dominate most of American entertainment • Today, there are also many female heroes

  13. American Macho Heroes (15,16) • The idea of the rugged individualist has been criticized as simplistic • It overlooks the role played by cooperation in the settlement of the frontier and the role played by women • It also puts too much importance on the use of violence to solve problems • People did use guns, but not as much as portrayed in movies – where violence has gradually increased

  14. American Macho Heroes (17) • There has been a lot of concern about the impact of the violence in movies on young people • Many young people have become used to violence • The problem has escalated recently – High-School shootings, inner city gangs etc • However, this problem has spread to normally peaceful suburbs

  15. American Macho Heroes (18,19,20) • Americans have the right to “bear arms” which is granted by the constitution • There are many guns in the US today (200 million) • Ownership increased after September 11 (up to ~50% of households) • Reflects a tendency for American to “take the law into their own hands” • There is a big debate about whether there should be stricter controls on gun ownership

  16. Inventiveness and the Can-Do Spirit (21,22,23) • Self-reliance encouraged inventiveness to solve everyday problems and deal with new situations • Many people have been impressed at the frontier persons ability to invent • This inventiveness spread throughout the population and became a national characteristic • Also lead to the belief that any problem can be solved (can-do) • Provided a sense of optimism about themselves and their country • Politicians use the imagery of the frontier to inspire their people

  17. Equality of Opportunity (24,25) • The frontier was an expression of equality of opportunity in it’s purest form • People treated each other as equals because the present was more important than the past (family backgrounds were ignored) • This offered a new beginning for people who wanted to advance themselves • People would often move west after a failure to start again • There was always a need for workers on the frontier

  18. Equality of Opportunity (26, 27) • The gap between the rich and the poor was not a great on the frontier as in the East • People dressed and acted alike, and tended to mix socially • The American Frontier provided the right conditions for the development of frontier values • As the country expanded westward, these Frontier values gradually became American national values