Rural Life Depicted in Literature Summary


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

From its earliest days, American literature has been replete with works focusing upon rural life. Such precolonial writers as William Bradford and William Byrd concentrated their writing upon the rural settings into which American settlers would need to venture if the American Dream of land ownership and expansion were to be realized. French immigrant Michel-Guillaume-Jean de Crèvecur provided one of the earliest, most direct connections between Americans and rural life in his Letters from an American Farmer (1782). In Letters from an American Farmer, Crèvecur argues that the true significance and foundation of the American character can be found in the nation’s farmers.

As America expanded and its population wanted native reading materials, many writers saw the importance of incorporating ideas with which the reading populace would identify. Rural settings became prime vehicles for Americans seeing their identity myth presented in literature. In such poems as “On the Emigration to America and Peopling the Western Country” and “On the Uniformity and Perfection of Nature,” Philip Freneau shows the realistic and romantic reasons settlers had for locating themselves in rural areas. Similarly, Joel Barlow chose to celebrate the person of Captain Meriwether Lewis, who led the expedition to map the western portion of America, in his “On the Discoveries of Captain Lewis.” By selecting this hero, who entered the unknown West,...

(The entire section is 454 words.)