America’s White Whale: The Inescapable Search for an Impossible Identity
America’s White Whale: The Inescapable Search for an Impossible Identity is concerned with questions of American identity as explored in American literature. It explores how Sinclair Lewis, Herman Melville, and Mark Twain, all writers of American classics explored American identity in their writing. My thesis explores how these men viewed the United States and why, considering the question of why Americans have been so concerned with defining the nation from its earliest days. I argue that American identity is fraught because of a fear that without it the nation cannot exist and because the grand ideals of the nation are rarely present in its realities creating a tension between a descriptive and prescriptive identity. I argue that ultimately American identity is always multiple because of the diversity within the nation and that it changes constantly as Americans try to come closer to their ideals with the result that no true portrait of the nation can be contained within a single work, but because Americans care so much about their national identity they cannot stop writing about the nation.
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