Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 156

One theme of The Island at the Center of the World is the risk and uncertainty of the colonialist vision. The Dutch start a colony on present-day Manhattan, hoping to fashion a kind of utopia out of the best ideas of continental Dutch ideology. Galvanized by their vision, they never anticipate to have to compete with the English over their own distinct version of the "American Dream".

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Another central theme is the elliptical nature of American history—that is, the incompleteness of any available primary and secondary evidence with which we try to reconstruct an accurate picture of what happened in the past. For example, the leading Dutch colonist Adriaen van der Donck could well have been a kind of Founding Father figure due to the intensity of discourse with which he engaged American colonists. However, it is impossible to know exactly which ideas of his made it into to the fabric of the United States.

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