Compare and contrast the characteristics of Crevecoeur's "Letters from an American Framer" to the characteristics of Romantic literature.

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Crevecoeur's Letters from an American Farmer, considered to be one of the foundational texts of the American literary canon, was in fact written by a Frenchman just prior to the American Revolutionary War and published in London. Its London publishers originally feared that it would not be popular, but in fact it proved to be a sensation, largely because many of its themes and arguments resonated with early Romantics and supporters of the brewing American Revolution—classes which often corresponded—in England.

Where much later Romantic literature discusses the French Revolution favorably, Romantic writers a generation earlier had often been in favor of American independence, as this suited their ideology of individualism and rebellion against what they perceived to be repressive societies. Mary Shelley, writer of Frankenstein, was the offspring of two pro-Revolutionary writers and speakers, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, and this ideology continued on into the writings of Byron, Shelley, and many others. In the final letter in Letters from an American Farmer, the narrator discusses the changing situation in America and his own difficulties as to which side of the conflict he should take; ultimately, he determines that he will attempt to be neutral, but the details Crevecoeur provides about America caught the attention of those in England who were in favor of radicalism and a shift in the power paradigms of existing government. These concerns would echo those expressed by Shelley in his poems denouncing monarchy and repressive governments and dreaming of "hope...beaming through the mists of fear" (see "Queen Mab" for one of Shelley's earliest poems on the subject of revolution).

Other elements of anti-government criticism in Crevecoeur's letters include a general condemnation of slavery and a suggestion that this should not be allowed in a civilized society. This could be compared to similar preoccupations in the poems of William Blake, for example, who judged the living conditions under which children were forced to labor to be paramount to slavery, and sought to draw attention to them through his work.

Perhaps the most obviously Romantic element in Crevecoeur's Letters, however, is the preoccupation with nature and the descriptions of the land upon which he lived which pushed him towards feelings that might be called sublime. In Letter II, Crevecoeur expresses not only strong feelings of individualism and joy in the right to possess his own land—individualism being another tenet of Romanticism—but also describes that land and its natural inhabitants lavishly and with reverence. For example, he is "astonished at the myriads of insects which I perceive dancing in the beamsof the setting sun." He states, too, that he "never return[s] home without feeling pleasing emotion, which I often suppress as useless and foolish. The instant I enter onto my own land, the bright idea of property, of exclusive right, of independence exalt my mind." Emotionalism, and strong emotion evoked by nature, is a key tenet of Romanticism.

In Letters II and III particularly, descriptions of the narrator's sense of commonality with nature combine with his determined sense of his own right to control his own existence in a way which appealed greatly to proto-Romantics and influenced Romantic writers to follow. We could even argue that the epistolary form taken by Crevecoeur would later become a hallmark of Romantic and, later, Gothic literature (see Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, among others). This epistolary style, using letters without providing replies, lends the work an immediacy and turns it into a direct appeal to the reader, as there is no other imagined recipient there who might interpose his or her presence between author and reader. This directness, too, is a Romantic trait.

In terms of contrast, there are certainly some Romantic elements that are not present in this work. We do see rebellion, nature, strong emotion, and revolution, but there is not a defined hero as such, nor a strong sense of preoccupation with the Classical past. But overall, it is clear to see how this work could have proven inspirational to later Romantic writers and how it overlapped with themes commonly found in Romanticism.

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