What would you say is the main idea of "American History"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The main idea of this excellent story concerns the nature of prejudice and discrimination and how the experience of America as a nation parallels the experience of Elena herself. The death of President Kennedy was clearly an event of incredible historical importance. His attempts to create a more equitable America were something that created hope in many people as they anticipated living in a country where your opportunities were not based on your skin colour. However, his death represented the death of those hopes and dreams. Elena had her own dream crushed by prejudice when she went to study with Eugene. Her experience parallels the experiences of many people on that day. Note how Elena responded to what Eugene's mother said to her:

I couldn't move. I just stood there in shock at hearing these things said to me in such a honey-drenched voice. I had never heard an accent like hers, except for Eugene's softer version. It was as if she were singing me a little song.

The sweetness of her voice belies the cruelty of her words, and Elena is thus forced to experience a coming-of-age event that teaches her first hand about the pain of discrimination and how skin colour impacts the way that others view you.

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