ENGL 131- paper #1 - 1 Mallory Carlson Professor Burnham...

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1 Mallory Carlson Professor Burnham ENGL 131 1 February 2007 Crèvecoeur’s Politics and the Wisdom Gained through Animal Imagery In the collection of letters and sketches compiled by St. John de Crèvecoeur in the late 18 th century, the life and surroundings of an American farmer are presented. Although a literal reading of these letters and sketches present political opinions that seem unclear and ambiguous, Crèvecoeur effectively utilizes the literary tools of allegory and animal symbolism to convey his true political sentiments in post-revolutionary America. He allegorizes the interactions between the wren and the swallow and presents the living conditions of bees to convey his opinions concerning the monarchial system and its relevance to colonial America. By acutely observing the structured lives of ants and the two fighting snakes, Crèvecoeur presents to his audience the current state of British-American affairs and his subsequent insights. Overall, it becomes evident through analysis that Crèvecoeur believes in the potential of the monarchial system to create happiness for its subjects, so long as the individual monarch acts with reason and fairness rather than impulse and unjustified cruelty. In other words, we could say that Crèvecoeur supports a humble monarchy that is first and foremost concerned with the needs and well-being of its subjects and not with selfish enterprises. Considering Crèvecoeur’s use of allegory and symbolism through animal imagery, one might wonder why it is so prevalent and why the author considers it so important. Did he exaggerate some of his observations to produce certain reactions? Does he say through animals what he doesn’t know how to express on his own? And most importantly, are his natural observations indicative of a larger message? These questions can hopefully be
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2 answered through a series of analyses. Let’s begin by looking at the situation between the wren and the swallow in Letter II. The farmer has built a nest in his piazza for a local swallow adjunct to the one built by a neighboring wren. One day, the farmer relates to his audience a story of how the wren drives the swallow from its nest by plundering the inner components of it and taking them for his own. Strangely enough, the “peaceable swallow, like the passive Quaker, meekly sat at a small distance and never offered the least resistance” then arduously pursued the remaking of his nest immediately after the wren’s unjustified theft (63). What fascinates the farmer about this situation is the differentiation between the natural faculties of reason and instinct. He asks with amazement, “where did this little bird learn that spirit of injustice,” then later concludes that it was “not endowed with what we term reason! Here, then, is a proof that [reason and instinct] border very near on one another, for we see the perfection of the one mixing with the errors of the other!”(63) The farmer’s philosophical inquiries invite many
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