American Studies Final Paper

American Studies Final Paper - Anne Cordeiro 5/4/09 Jason...

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Anne Cordeiro 5/4/09 Jason Berger HIST 1503 Applying the Past: Can We Learn From Our Mistakes? We all have a personal history, origins, roots that can be traced back farther than we can imagine. At some point many decide to explore these beginnings; curious about where we came from, why we are who we are today, and how the past can shape our future. However when we take a step back and begin to acclimate ourselves with the past how much does it really affect us? Does this retrospective at all change our current outlook on life? Or do we inevitably go back to what we already know; never applying what the past has taught us? Various American writers have explored this very notion; when we decide to remove ourselves from current society to explore our ancestry, do we ever utilize what we find out or return exactly to what we know? Through the works of Herman Melville, Henry Thoreau, and Gloria Anzaldua we see examples of people probing the past, yet returning to life treating the knowledge they gained as only a memory. Herman Melville’s Typee tells the story of a sailor, Tommo, who escapes his whaling ship and begins to live in a Peloponnesian valley amongst the Typee people. The Typee are a native people, who happily take Tommo in and treat him well, despite their reputation for cannibalistic practices. Despite this Tommo begins to learn and love the ways of the Typee lifestyle. Tommo did not exactly remove himself to explore his bloodline or heritage, yet left modern European society to investigate and adapt to ancient civilization. Tommo is exploring the lifestyle that can be linked back to the beginnings of civilizations. As time passes Tommo begins to thoroughly enjoy the Typee existence, questioning the nature of modern European
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society. The Typee are seen as “savages,” yet Tommo begins to question whether it is actually the Typee who are more civilized than Europeans. For a good time it appears that Tommo has completely adapted to Typee society and will never return to contemporary society; he has been shown a new way of life, making it seemingly difficult for him to return to modern culture. Yet despite this newfound perspective and appreciation, Tommo is able to confirm the cannibalistic behavior of the Typee and immediately ignores all the knowledge he has gained; his only
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American Studies Final Paper - Anne Cordeiro 5/4/09 Jason...

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