A figure for the future : an exploration of American roots in radical individualism and possibilities for a new generation

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Murray, Alexandra Angela Aloisi
Wallace Stegner (1909-1993) -- The Big Rock Candy Mountain; James Welch (1940-2003) -- Fools Crow; Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804) -- Political and social views; Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) -- Political and social views; West (U.S.) -- Migration; Founding Fathers of the Untied States -- Political aspects; Ideology -- United States -- History; Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2014 -- Environmental Humanities; Arts and Humanities; Environmental Sciences
thesis / dissertation description
This exploration examines U.S. roots in hyper-individualism and radical non-belonging, two issues inherent in the founding of this nation and promoted throughout the past two centuries. The establishing of America initiated two major opposing factions: one group was represented by Thomas Jefferson who believed the success of the country would be realized through shaping virtuous citizens who upheld the common good for all, while Alexander Hamilton wanted to craft a governing body that could control the masses enough to protect individual rights. With Jefferson’s absence from the Constitutional Convention, Hamilton’s ideal was written directly into the primary document that guides American public life. This focus on individual rights set in motion the aggrandizement of hyper-individualism over communal consciousness in American society, which can be seen in the popularity of political thinkers like Ayn Rand, who furthers egotism in her claim that it is the ultimate virtue. This analysis examines the negative impacts of hyper-individualism through two great American novels set in the West and potential alternative paths that might finally bridge the divide between individual and communal good that has plagued America since its inception.