Response to Bulosan, Roth and Erdrich
It is impossible to define what it means to be “American” in one simple term. America is sometimes said to be the land of opportunity, the land of freedom, a place where everyone is free to live without judgment or persecution. Many have found that this assumption about America is incorrect. Many have found that America is littered with struggles and hypocrisy. Maybe what it really means to be an “American” is to accept the fact that America is a country full of contradictions and ironies, and instead of chasing perfection, one must simply accept the good with the bad.
In Bulosan’s “Be American”, the Philippino immigrant Consorcio wanted so badly to be an American citizen right away that he spent his first paycheck entirely on classical American literature and books on politics even though he couldn’t read or write in English. Consorcio didn’t even know that he was supposed to wear shoes or sleep under the sheets in his bed when he first got to America; he was simply caught up in the craze of coming to America and making a life for himself. Bulosan’s short story shows the struggles that an immigrant must face when coming to America: how to act, how to dress, what to do, how to balance his own heritage with a new American identity, and simply how to fit in. Only when Consorcio realizes that America is not as perfect and equal as he once thought, does he truly become an “American” by doing the “American” thing: speaking up and defending his rights and the rights of other workers in his newspaper.
Louise Erdrich’s “Dear John Wayne” I found to be the most difficult to understand out of the three readings, but it is clear that it is presenting a problem in American society: racism. In the poem, the movie on the big screen is showing the classic Hollywood story of white settlers bravely fighting against the savage Native Americans. To me this presents one of the biggest contradictions in American history: white settlers...