"What Is an American?" Student Guide
The words of Crèvecoeur guide you in the questions you will look to answer in terms of your WPA Life History.
Directions: Take notes in response to each question
- "What then is the American, this new man?"
Is your informant male?
- "We are tillers of the earth."
Is your informant a farmer? If not, what does he/she do for a living?
- "He is either an European, or the descendant of an European, hence that strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other country."
Is your informant a descendent of a European? If not, where did his/her ancestors come from? Has your informant experienced discrimination because of his or her background?
- This is every person's country; the variety of our soils, situations, climates, governments, and produce, hath something which must please every body."
Where has your informant lived and has it pleased him/her?
- "Here the rewards of his industry follow with equal steps the progress of his labour; his labour is founded on the basis of nature, self-interest; can it want a stronger allurement? … I do not mean that every one who comes will grow rich in a little time; no, but he may procure an easy, decent maintenance, by his industry."
What was your informant's work history?
What sorts of occupations/jobs has your informant had?
Did he/she choose the field in which he/she was employed?
Is it work he/she has enjoyed?
- "It is not every emigrant who succeeds; no, it is only the sober, the honest, and industrious."
Can he/she blame any of his misfortunes on his or her own weaknesses?
- "There is room for every body in America; has he any particular talent, or industry…he exerts it in order to procure a livelihood, and it succeeds… Wives and children, who before in vain demanded of him a morsel of bread, now, fat and frolicsome, gladly help their father to clear those fields whence exuberant crops are to arise to feed and to clothe them all…"
Has your informant been economically successful?
- "He meets with hospitality, kindness, and plenty every where; he beholds hardly any poor, he seldom hears of punishments and executions."
Does your informant talk about others living in prosperity and happiness?
- "If he is a good man, he forms schemes of future prosperity, he proposes to educate his children better than he has been educated himself; he thinks of future modes of conduct, feels an ardor to labour he never felt before."
Is he/she educated? Is he/she optimistic about the future? Does he/she have higher expectations for his or her children?
- "He now feels himself a man, because he is treated as such".
Does your informant feel he has a valued place in society?
Has your informant been treated humanely?
- "As Christians, religion curbs (Americans) not in their opinions; the general indulgence leaves everyone to think for themselves in spiritual matters."
Is your informant Christian? If not, what is his/her religion?
Has your informant experienced religious discrimination? If so, what kind?
- "His country is now that which gives him land, bread, protection, and consequence."
Has this been true for your American? How has his or her life been different?