Two patterns for the movement of people emerge from American history. One or the other pattern, or some combination, characterizes most internal migration. The first pattern is immigration, a voluntary move; the second pattern is dislocation, a forced move. North America is often called a land of immigrants, populated by people who came from other countries or whose ancestors did. Immigrants come seeking the American Dream: freedom, success, prosperity, a home. Some soon found what they were seeking, but many others did not, so they moved on, generally westward. From the beginning, then, Americans have been restless seekers, on the move, pursuing their dreams. This spirit takes its purest form in road stories, prominent in American literature, whether the “road” is the Mississippi River in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) or the Beat generation’s highways in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957) or the cheap motels in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (1955). Paradoxically, the Beat generation’s pursuit of drugs and sex and the pursuit of perversity in Lolita are, in one sense, continuations of the ancestral Puritan quest for salvation depicted in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678). In stories of internal migration, people are seeking something good, whether or not they know exactly what it is.
Foreign critics tend to see this restlessness as a source of energy and as an ominous...
(The entire section is 502 words.)