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What, in your opinion, are the most important characteristics that distinguish American literature?

Assignment: Evaluate the following forum answers that another classmate of mine has written. Use the instructions in one and two as a guide for the evaluation:

Part I: What, in your opinion, are the most important characteristics that distinguish American literature?

Part II: Select a work from your options this week and discuss its long-term significance. How does it compare to classics that have stood the test of time? Be specific. What elements of the work give it potential staying power?

Classmate’s Forum Post:

Part I: What, in your opinion, are the most important characteristics that distinguish American literature?

Since we started this course, I have learned a lot about American literature and its authors. By no means am I an expert but I am confident in saying I have a new respect for this field. One of the most important characteristics that distinguishes American literature for me is diversity. Each week, we learned about new styles and new subjects. This is important because of the diverse makeup of America itself. If a reader enjoys a “tragic” or “sympathetic” character, they would gravitate toward Edith Wharton’s “Ethan Frome.” If another reader enjoys a struggling love story, they can read Jhumpa Lahiri’s, The Third and Final Continent.

Another important characteristic of American literature is that it engages readers to relate to the author, the plot, or one of the characters. Like diversity, there are different styles for different people. American literature relates to American culture. To me, this captivates an enormous audience that will feel emotion, ownership, and respect for the published work. Relating to American culture means relating to world culture. American literature ranging from a struggling family of immigrants to a sports team overcoming odds and becoming victorious is not bound by our borders.

I am interested to hear what you all think are the most important characteristics that distinguish American literature are. For me, these two stand out right away. Although American authors publish very individualized works for a certain audience, collectively they appeal to the world because diversity and the ability to relate.

Part II: Select a work from your options this week and discuss its long-term significance. How does it compare to classics that have stood the test of time? Be specific. What elements of the work give it potential staying power?

I went back to the “Other Perspectives” section of our textbook for this part of the question and John Grisham’s, Somewhere for Everyone. This work appeals to the American society and highlights a national problem that is not isolated to one person, place, or thing. That problem, homelessness, is a cultural problem that has not been solved and its resolution is nowhere in sight. These realistic elements give it potential staying power in years to come. Grisham stated, “…homelessness is a problem that is not going away” (142). This statement is quite powerful when you take the words at their meaning. To his assessment, this problem cannot and will not be resolved. If we as a nation are meant to have a problem negatively affecting our population, I do not believe anyone can objectively say it will not stand the test of time.

Granted, his aforementioned statement in itself is subjective, but not naïve. Grisham went on to say, “Everyone has to be somewhere. The problem of homelessness is not by solved by removing the victims from our view” (143). I think this is important because it identifies how America treats symptoms instead of problems (in this respect). If we continue fixing problems that don’t go away, their roots are only growing deeper. Such a real and present problem only adds relevance to Grisham’s work concerning homelessness. His final appeal asked, “Is this the Third World…Or is this America?” (144). I believe his intent here was to motivate America to realize our true potential and inspire us to dedicate ourselves to helping others.

I do not know if Grisham’s 1998 piece from Newsweek is or will ever be considered a classic or compared to other classics. However, I believe anyone living in America today could read this and relate to it in some way. Some may say, “It is a problem but it’s not mine.” Others may be compelled to say, “He’s right, I need to help now.” I believe similar statements will be made for generations to come. So, while it may not be a classic work, it is sure to have longevity and relate to America in the foreseeable future.

I look forward to reading everyone’s take on the work they read this week and hearing what you have to say about my thoughts. I want to thank Professor Ermey and all my fellow students for the past eight weeks of American Literature Since the Civil War. I wish everyone the best in our last week and with your future courses and personal endeavors. Michael.

Works Cited

Grisham, John. “Somewhere for Everyone.” American Literature Since the Civil War. Create ed. McGraw-Hill, 2014. 142-144. E-Book.


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