The Melting Pot as a Literary Theme Summary


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

In the melting pot metaphor, melting diverse nationalities and races creates one entity, a new American identity. In 1782, French immigrant Michel-Guillaume-Jean de Crèvecur, using the more American-sounding pen name J. Hector St. John, published a collection of essays entitled Letters from an American Farmer. These essays praised the quality of rural life in colonial America. In one essay entitled “What Is an American?” he wrote, “Here, individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men.” European immigrants left oppression, hunger, ignorance, and poverty behind to pursue life, liberty, and happiness in North America. From Crèvecur’s perspective, they blended their cultures into a new identity, dedicated to the goals of freedom and equality.

Crèvecur came to Canada in 1754 during the French and Indian War as a soldier. After the war, he roamed the country and surveyed land around the Great Lakes. In 1765, he became a citizen of New York, married, and became a gentleman farmer. During the Revolution, he refused to take sides against British loyalists, so American patriots arrested and jailed him as a spy. When he was released, he fled, in fear for his life, to France, leaving his wife and children behind. French citizens found his essay collections interesting, and he became a minor celebrity. Benjamin Franklin helped Crèvecur secure an appointment as French consul to New York. When he returned in 1783, he found his wife...

(The entire section is 466 words.)