profile of a farmer with an American flag in the background all contained within a circle set against a mountain backdrop

Letters from an American Farmer

by Michel-Guillaume Jean de Crèvecœur

Start Free Trial

Student Question

What is the main theme of "What Is an American?" by Michel-Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "What Is an American?" by Michel-Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur, the central theme is dramatic differences between the American colonies and life in Europe. This French immigrant explores how American life is unique and attempts to express those differences so that Europeans can understand the American way of life.

How is this French immigrant recently settled in New York a "new man"? Crèvecoeur points out a myriad of differences. One difference is the developing leadership. Instead of a monarchy, America strives to form a new type of government. Instead of requiring membership in a particular religion, the freedom of religion is offered in America.

In Europe, one must share profits with landlords and the elite. A person's success is limited to what those above them are willing to allow. In America, hard work and perseverance can be life-changing. They can lead to great wealth and opportunity.

Additionally, Crèvecoeur reflects on how his status as a new man makes him a better contributor to the world and the colonies he lives in. The world didn't seem to understand the complexity of being an American, and Crèvecoeur strived to present that life and its positive attributes clearly and concisely.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial