Frontier and American Hero Term Paper

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Old Western Frontier -- the Pervasiveness of the Western Frontier Hero in the American Imagination

The heroic American national character and the search for an ungoverned American frontier are fused in the America national imagination. America envisions itself as a wide-open place, rather than a contained place of tradition like Europe. America is seen in the natural cultural mythos as an area of limitless expansion. Thus, there are little consequences for the environment because of capitalism and industrialism, because national resources are never-ending. Resettlement of natives and immigrants is of little consequence, because there is so much land. And all restrictive laws regarding the use and abuse of land, people, and morality are seen impingements and infringements upon the ability of masculine commerce and the American spirit to realize their fullest potentials.

The frontier is also a place for and of men, where women are encroachers, never at home. The frontier is a place where men go to flee the control of women, not to seek the solace of women, unless the women are prostitutes, women who make their money from men, or who mimic men in their values, like the Calamity Janes and Annie Oakleys of the West. The West is a place where men colonize the environment with their capable if occasionally violent hands. However, even if the colonizing violence is occasionally terrible in its effects upon the American soil, it is deemed a necessary consequence of style='color:#000;text-decoration: underline!important;' target='_blank' href=''>freedom, rather than something to be reigned in.

This is how the frontier can embody the paradox that the American frontier is seemingly utterly amoral, in the sense that its "Deadwoods" have no laws, and actions have no consequences, yet the amorality of the West is also paradoxically congruent and keeping with American morals, or at least American values and virtues of self-reliance. In other words, because the frontier is individualistic, its lawlessness is morally justified. Because the frontier's settlement means that capitalism will come to the desert, so long is gold is found, the killing and taking of the land from Native American peoples is justified. "The myth of the Western responded to this dilemma," of the paradox of civilization and lawlessness as both uniquely American values, "by inventing the idea of the frontier in which civilized ideals embodied in the institutions of family, church, law and education are revitalized by the virtues of savagery: independence, self-reliance, personal honor, sympathy with nature, and ethical uses of violence. In effect, the mythical frontier represented and attempt to embody the perfect degree of assimilation in which both the old and new identities came together."(Engle 742)

America was a land founded by men breaking away from colonial powers. But once a new government has been established, and particularly after a Civil War dictated that the federal Union government's laws were here to stay and not to be dissolved by the individual will and local governance, the question arose how to keep those ideals living and embodied in daily life of the national character? The answer was: 'Go…

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