Mortgages, deeds, contracts, court papers and shipping papers, newspapers and pamphlets — all had to be printed on paper with tax stamps. The colonists were furious, but how to combat the Parliamentary action was a point of contention. Between Adams and his hosts, the methods differed. The future American president was resisting the tax with petitions, speeches and essays.
Themes The Role of Misperception in the Cultural Divide between Europe and America Newman goes to Europe because he wants to see the best of what the world has to offer. For the moment, at least, he has had enough of making money, and would now like to see what his money can buy.
He wants to hear the best music, taste the best wine, see the best art and, most ambitiously, find the best woman to be his wife. Yet implicit in Newman's European ambitions is his misperception that Europe can be understood simply as an older, richer, and more sophisticated version of America.
Newman and others like him imagine Europe as the sort of place that America would be in perhaps a hundred years, if it puts its mind to painting and sculpture and music with the same industry it has thus far demonstrated in its commerce and industry.
This good-natured conception—essentially, that the difference between America and Europe cannot run too deep—is a symptom of the stereotypically American ignorance of history, and thus of all the cultural, social, and political differences that accrue in history's wake. In short, Americans are frequently seen as failing to distinguish an abstract admiration for European culture and artifacts from a selfish wish to possess them.
But the consequences of such culturally ignorant acquisition were often, as the novel attests, tragic. This issue begs the question of why and how these American misperceptions have arisen?
In one simplified reading, the America of James's time is too fundamentally tied to material production to move on to the more sophisticated industries of cultural and ideological production. As a result, though they admire and covet the fruits of the European project, Americans abroad during this time lack the intuitive apparatus for dealing with the political and social formalisms and complexities of Europe.
James deliberately presents the Bellegardes—or more precisely the nuclear aristocratic family—as the fundamental unit of French society juxtaposed against a superlatively American individual. The juxtaposition is one of a successful, if lapsed, capitalist against a self-important family who might cynically be called producers of culture.
Much of the difficulty the Bellegarde elders have with Newman, and that he has with them, results from the expected difference in values, beliefs, habits, occupations and desires.
Another crucial point, however, has to do with the levels on which difference is approached and understood. In The American, one important cipher for European and American difference is arrangement of space.
The Paris Newman finds is an intricate, labyrinthine mess of streets and boulevards. Newman's encounter with Europe is partly a matter of learning to negotiate the different landscape and the physical ways in which humans have chosen to arrange themselves.
He avidly walks the city, asks Valentin endless questions about the Bellegarde house, imagines the effects of American mechanical innovations in Europe, and delights in his quaint and excessively gilded quarters.
Yet as long as Newman attempts to make sense of Europe as a variation on American paradigms, he remains unable to perceive Europe's fundamental difference as anything other than creative deviance.
Tellingly, at novel's end, Newman does not admit to a great difference between European and American temperaments or attempt to construct a calculus in which Urbain's actions would appear logical. Instead, he simply concludes that the Bellegardes are crazy. As a result, even after Mrs. Bread's testimony, Claire's actions remain ultimately mysterious.
Put simply, Newman suffers from a kind of qualified open-mindedness, a willingness to try to fit anything into his preconceived democratic framework. Faced with two cruel and self-centered aristocrats, Newman decides to deal honestly and clearly, even as it becomes clear that neither of them warrant his benefit of the doubt.
This plain-faced mode of interaction, jarring with the Bellegardes' continual scheming, effects a series of slips whose cumulative effect is catastrophe. Familial Duty Newman's major ideological differences with Claire and Valentin revolve around the relative weight of personal freedom—happiness, autonomy, interest and so forth—on the one hand, and duty to family, tradition, history and progeny on the other.
Broadly, Newman believes strongly in the individual's right and duty to act fairly and rationally, and thus, as a primarily individual agent.
Though Newman does his magnanimous best to help others whenever he can, his native notions of morality involve no subjective trump cards. By contrast, Claire and Valentin acknowledge that the gravity in the Bellegarde house is different.
Instead, the motivating force of maintaining the Bellegarde glory pushes the clan members strongly towards its own ends.
The ambiguity of glory favors the most powerful voice and is what has allowed the Marquise her de facto tyranny. Admittedly, the aristocratic bow to family duty does have its advantages.
Like a fairy-tale demon, a family's honor and status increase with every concession these goals inspire, feeding on each family member's sacrifice. In the context of The American, however, such contributions are not usually rational acts but, rather, capitulations to the family's power.
Claire's decision to marry Newman, followed by her frightened breaking of the engagement, evinces her internal struggle between the ostensibly guilty pleasure of individual happiness and the tragic fate of accepting her duty.Analysis Of John Updike's A&P Essay Words | 7 Pages.
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