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American Culture Chapter 4 - The Frontier Heritage.

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Presentation on theme: "American Culture Chapter 4 - The Frontier Heritage."— Presentation transcript:

1 American Culture Chapter 4 - The Frontier Heritage

2 American Frontier

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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

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8 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 values e.g. – Hard work – cutting down forests, building towns and cities – Competition – gold rush, land rush Life on the frontier was seen as an example of these values in their purest form

9 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.

10 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

11 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 (~ ) – 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

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13 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”

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15 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

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17 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

18 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

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20 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

21 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

22 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

23 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


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