How shall we judge the contributions to American society of the great financiers and industrialists at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries? In this lesson, students explore a variety of primary historical sources to uncover some of the less honorable deeds as well as the shrewd business moves and highly charitable acts of the great industrialists and financiers, men such as Andrew Carnegie, J. Pierpont Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and Cornelius Vanderbilt.
American author Pearl S. Buck spent most of her life in China. She returned to America in 1934, "an immigrant among immigrants…in my native land." In this lesson, students will explore American attitudes toward immigration in the 1930s through Pearl S. Buck's essay, "On Discovering America." They will explore the meaning of the term "American" in this context and look at how the media portrayed immigrants.
A critic of writer Jack London called his animal protagonists “men in fur,” suggesting that his literary creations flaunted the facts of natural history. London responded to such criticism by maintaining that his own creations were based on sound science and in fact represented “…a protest against the ‘humanizing’ of animals, of which it seemed to me several ‘animal writers’ had been profoundly guilty.” How well does London succeed in avoiding such “humanizing” in his portrayal of Buck, the hero of his novel, The Call of the Wild?
In The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane presents war through the eyes —and thoughts —of one soldier. The narrative’s altered point of view and stylistic innovations enable a heightened sense of realism while setting the work apart from war stories written essentially as tributes or propaganda.
Practice working with primary documents by comparing accounts of the Chicago Fire and testing the credibility of a Civil War diary.
Frederick Douglass's 1845 narrative of his life is a profile in both moral and physical courage. In the narrative Douglass openly illustrates and attacks the misuse of Christianity as a defense of slavery. He also reveals the turning point of his life: his spirited physical defense of himself against the blows of a white "slave-breaker."
One of Douglass's goals in his autobiography is to illustrate beyond doubt that slavery had an insidious, spirit-killing effect on the slaveholder as well as the slave.
One myth that Southern slave owners and proponents were happy to perpetuate was that of the slave happily singing from dawn to dusk as he worked in the fields, prepared meals in the kitchen, or maintained the upkeep of the plantation.
The essay is perhaps one of the most flexible genres: long or short, personal or analytical, exploring the extraordinary and the mundane. American essayists examine the political, the historical, and the literary; they investigate what it means to be an "American," ponder the means of creating independent and free citizens, discuss the nature of American literary form, and debate the place of religion in American society.
Eric A. Blair, better known by his pen name, George Orwell, is today best known for his last two novels, the anti-totalitarian works Animal Farm and 1984. He was also an accomplished and experienced essayist, writing on topics as diverse as anti-Semitism in England, Rudyard Kipling, Salvador Dali, and nationalism. Among his most powerful essays is the 1931 autobiographical essay "Shooting an Elephant," which Orwell based on his experience as a police officer in colonial Burma.