Acculturation and Identity
Writers dramatize the contrasts and tensions of people, cultures, and societies manifested in the process of acculturation. The literary works that pursue the theme of acculturation can be grouped into three categories.
The first category is the acculturational experiences depicted by writers such as James Fenimore Cooper and Herman Melville. These experiences are based on encounters between colonized natives and European colonizers. What is unique about this type of acculturation is that, as part of the Western overseas expansion, such acculturation was a unidirectional imposition of the minority but dominant culture upon the “host” but conquered society, and that such acculturation was a confrontation between two different racial and cultural identities. Disgusted with attempts to justify colonization by means of stereotypes such as that of the savage, Cooper and Melville were more keenly interested in the encounter, and interplay between the representative of indigenous culture and the representative of what may be called an advancing civilization. Even though both writers used some clichés of the time in portraying their “uncivilized” characters, critics generally believe that neither Cooper nor Melville was inherently hostile toward the Indians. While the acculturative process in Cooper’s Leatherstocking series and in Melville’s Typee (1846) and Omoo (1847) mostly occurs in the form of natives learning to conform to...
(The entire section is 473 words.)