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    Essay About Who Are the Real Americans?

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    For many people, America is a symbol of freedom, hope, and new opportunities. The land itself houses landmarks that cry out welcoming greetings to the poor, tired exiles. Created by one’s own wishes and dreams is the expectation of a new beginning, characterized by unity, justice, and equal chances. However, the expectations of society have quickly vanished as time has gone on, and the picture of unity and inclusivity in America is now torn, faded, and wrinkled. While Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing” and Allen Ginsberg’s “A Supermarket in California” subtly imply the inequality woven in the fabric of American society, Langston Hughes’s “I, Too” more harshly reveals the nation as corrupt and suffocating, fixed to oppress and stifle the voices of minorities. These stories show that the dreamers coming to America with hopes of equality and success are awoken by the harsh reality that the “land of the free” does not apply to everybody.

    In Walt Whitman’s poem, “I Hear America Singing,” the joyous mask America puts on for the rest of the world to see, hides the skewed restraint society places on certain groups of people. Towards the end of his poem, Whitman writes, “The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing” (9). Before this line, an ongoing list of jobs performed by men, as represented by the use of “he” and “him”, was presented and eventually led into the quote. While the descriptions of male carpenters, mechanics, shoemakers, and more were extensive and discussed their work, the line about women is singular, and subjects them to only three jobs or roles, whereas those of men were doubled.

    The uncomplicatedness of this line proves society’s demeaning views towards women, their “assigned roles” limited to those that depend on a man. Additionally, it implies the simplicity of women’s part in America, as their existence is purely an addition to society, and not a necessity. The placement of this line is significant as well, as it being underneath all of the men suggest women to be stepping-stones for them to climb all over and mistreat. While the structure of the poem paints women being underneath everyone else, therefore restrained from growth and success by the dominant males of society, it also shows that they are a solid foundation that holds up and supports the country. Without this line, the poem would not be complete, representative of how the absence of women would create an incomplete and unstable society.

    Furthermore, the line, “Each singing what belongs to him or her and none else” (10), establishes the idea that America has roles set out for everyone in society, threatening to shame anyone who dares to step out of line. The quote attempts to display this as a good thing, as if one should feel special that their place in America is unique to them and them only. However, the implications woven into this line are discredited by the fact that nobody wants to be viewed as just the label society has stuck on them. Mother and wife are not the only expectations women want set out for them, but America continues to force these presumptions onto them in hopes to keep them in their place. Each person sings their role, connecting them to each other, yet still separating them by societal repression, recognition, and supposition.

    In Allen Ginsberg’s poem, “A Supermarket in California,” he reveals the contrast between the ideal picture of America and what it actually is. For example, he begins the poem on the street in the night, walking into the supermarket and says, “…with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon. / In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket” (2-3). The first setting is in the dark, the only source providing light being the full moon above the narrator. The darkness is representative of the despairing nothingness one experiences in life, while the moon is America, the only source of hope forging a guiding path through the darkness. As this seemingly comforting and welcoming light escorts the narrator to the supermarket, he is shocked and bombarded by the florescent neon lights. Much like anyone looking for refuge or light among the darkness, the narrator followed the moon blindly without question.

    The lights in the supermarket, representative of America, are aggressive and bright, being more blinding than darkness could ever be. Although America attempts to pretend as though their society is that of protection and coddling direction, the reality is that society has forceful ways of shining lights on where people are “supposed to” go. The roles people are assigned and expected to follow are embedded in the poem as well, when Ginsberg says, “Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of / husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!” (5-6). The togetherness yet separation of different family members illustrate the importance of different people in society.

    For example, the husbands are in the aisles of the supermarket, which usually house items that do not spoil or rot for a while with farther expiration dates. However, the wives are over by the produce section, where foods go bad faster and require refrigeration. While their whole family is in the supermarket, they are not necessarily all together. They are all over the place, assigned different areas of the store, America, and given different tasks. The men are with the food that does not go bad, because, as big strong men, their expiration is distant and their ability is greater than that of produce foods, which need help from refrigeration to stay fresh longer.

    This implies that women “go bad” faster, or have some sort of expiration for their use in society, and need help from men to stay refreshed and rejuvenated for longer. While the quote is exciting and joyous, characterized by the many exclamation points, it continues into an inquisitive and calmer tone, and says, “—and you, Garcia Lorca, what were you / doing down by the watermelons?” (6-7). Contrast is again revisited in these lines, as the poem quickly goes from upbeat and overwhelmed to slow and curious. Garcia Lorca, a Spanish poet in the early 1900’s, is clearly different than the basic population of America. His ethnicity sets him apart from everyone else, as he is by the watermelons while all the others are by avocados, tomatoes, and in the aisles.

    Additionally, the excitement that causes the narrator to shout about peaches, penumbras, and families shopping reflects the exhilaration people feel when looking at America as the bright, shiny society open to diversity and inclusivity. However, the narrator quickly deescalates as he notices Garcia Lorca away from the market’s chaos, an outcast sent away to the watermelons. This quote displays the discrimination America casts on outsiders, as they welcome such poor exiles into their country, yet exile them again, only now in a new environment. The poem relays meaningful representation of America’s deception of minorities, making them believe a new and wonderful life will pull them out of the darkness, only to then shed too much light on the tears in the fabric of society.

    In the poem, “I, Too,” author Langston Hughes further illustrates the jarring realities of American society, and how exclusion of minorities are present, despite the social changes that have come about. For example, the first line of the poem reads, “I, too, sing America” (1). The use of the verb “sing” can be related back Walt Whitman’s poem, where he describes all of the people in America singing, coming together despite their different lifestyles to compose a greater piece of societal music. Through this line, the narrator is trying to communicate that he, too, has a place in America’s choir. Additionally, Hughes goes on to say, “I am the darker brother” (2), referencing the family-like bond promised by society.

    As a person of color, his inclusion in America’s family is limited, but this line strongly states his right to be a brother in society, despite the darkness of his skin. Furthermore, the next lines read, “They send me to ear in the kitchen / When company comes” (3-4). The “they” Hughes again adresses prejudice white people, tied into an allusion to slavery. Usually the slaves were sent out of sight when company arrived, so as not to disrupt the event taking place. Saying this shows how people of color legally have freedom, but still face the same problems of discrimination they have for decades. No matter how high they climb in society, no matter how many steps they take farther from the kitchen, America will never be able to look past the color of someone’s skin.

    While America presents itself as a place of unity and acceptance, the reality is that new beginnings and opportunities are only available to those of a certain group in society, excluding women and people of color or a race other than Caucasian. While women have come far in society, and made progress in changing the inequality set out for them by men, there are still problems regarding the image and reputation of a woman, making a man with a big enough ego believe she is just a step on his way to personal success. Women are not only bound to be mothers and wives and house cleaners, they are driven for just as much as, and even more than, a man. People’s roles in society have been previously mapped out as well, diluting the idea that America is full of opportunities. In fact, the societal norms created to keep people “in their place” is exactly what tarnishes the impression people make on this world. Without opportunity for growth, nothing flourishes and thrives.

    Finally, the suppression of voices among minorities such as African-Americans call to question the legitimacy of America itself. The word “Americans” is legitimately part of the name of their race, so if people do not include them in society, who are the real Americans? Despite these ongoing struggles of power and prejudice in America, there is hope that one day these narrow-minded ideas will be forgotten, and new ideas surface to help engulf the nation in constant pride and inclusion of every single American. However, for now, the American image of compassion and welcoming is fading, soon to be completely gone if people are not reminded the thoughts and ideologies that the country was first based on.

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