American Identity In “Dear John Wayne” And “A Supermarket In California”

1300 words, 6 pages

Intro Sample...


Twentieth century authors such as Louise Erdrich and Allen Ginsberg use their skills in writing to challenge the dominant narrative of American-ness and American identity. Both authors point out the illusion that has been created of America and how this illusion was actually made from those who lead the culture. Those who fell within the margins of an ideal American constructed the dominant discourse of the country at this time. Erdrich and Ginsberg, however, discuss the issue of how America depicts itself – the “America” that exists for some does not exist for others – specifically those who do not behave in accordance to what was seen as the norm of the time. “Dear John Wayne” and “A Supermarket in California” both call into question... View More »

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The second to last stanza of the poem illustrates how Erdrich senses the separation between her inferior culture and the dominant culture. She writes, “We get into the car /scratching our mosquito bites, speechless and small / . . . we are back in our skins” (32-35). The image of American Indians retreating back to the car symbolizes the alienation they feel because they are not fully accepted into the primary discourse of America. Although the Native Americans and white Americans come together to view a movie, by the time it ends, their connection dissipates. The Native Americans are “small” because John Wayne and the culture he represents is larger than life, as is the containment culture that Erdrich does not fall under. She and the indigenous people of America are miniscule when compared to the ideal Americans. The movie has stolen their identity and voice, therefore making the American dream a fantasy that they hoped to achieve, but sadly did not.
Similar to Erdrich, Ginsberg also points out the illusion of America that benefits those who act in accordance to mainstream culture, while alienating those who do not. In “A Supermarket in California”, the poet paints a scene of exclusion. As a gay, Jewish poet, Ginsberg himself does not fit the conformity of what the American man should be. His isolation from the rest of the culture is depicted in the opening lines. He writes, “I walked down the side streets under the / trees with a headache self-conscious” (1-2). The scene opens up with him walking down side streets, which is an important detail because it serves as ...

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