The significance of the frontier in American history is emphasized in Fredrick Turner’s essay The Significance of the Frontier in American History. Turner emphasizes how the west influenced the American character and how this has culminated in even more academic accounts (Cernkovich et al. 68). As a result, the emphasis of this paper will be on how the frontier study depicts the illusion of the American dream.
It is important to note that the American Dream applies to the simple upward mobility of the American people (Davis 40). This suggests that it was an open society with an overall upward trajectory in terms of social standing. Furthermore, the term is formed because of the combination of agency and freedom where people possess control over the direction of their lives. However, the manner in which Turner oversimplified the causes and nature of the migration process accurately shows how people were eager to pursue the American Dream.
Turner managed to give an elaborately explained interpretation of how America was in the past and gave a conclusive objective that helped organize his final work. In the essay, Turner wrote that, “Since the days when the fleet of Columbus sailed into the water of the New World, America has been another name for opportunity” (8). This association of the term opportunity a wealth implies that the American landscape was complex. At the time, European explorers possessed expectations and image of wealth and this was different from Turner’s frontier settlers. This great opportunity to attain more wealth, however, led to the formation of the American dream which was seen as a mythological backdrop. Moreover, the American dream emphasized assumptions of ‘rags to riches’ between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Wealth distribution led to ethical question that raised more issues for the concept of the American dream (Slagle 425). This was also the factor that threatened promoting the American dream. Notably, if wealth reaches extravagant levels or when distribution becomes uneven, the value of American mythologies becomes eliminated. Cernkovich et al. (71) believe that promoting the idea of the America dream may lead to a self-policing liberal aspect that condemns excessive greed. In the essay, the American dream is not a concept that was meant to be portrayed but rather it shows how the unexploited continent has the ability to support possibilities that were promised. Essentially, the American dream implied that the continent would be able to promote a life that was richer and better for any man that had the opportunity to achieve success.
In my view, the pervasiveness, mythologizing, and dilution of the ideas presented by Turner based on the past frontiers is difficult to understand. He has managed to popularize and exaggerate the view of the American dream using frontier as a setting for a morality. This is done by emphasizing on the importance of the frontier’ characterization and how it leads to the success of the United States. Turner believed that the value of landscape with regards to the American frontier was a promise of the meaningful identity category. According to him, strength and coarseness combined so that the people would realize the American dream.
The way Turner has expressed his American dream ideals seems to focus on exploring America’s lifestyle and this is done through relating the settlements that occurred during the modernization of America. He wrote that, “the existence of an area of free land, and its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward explain American development” (9). This implies that the American dream could be achieved through land ownership and riches which could only be attained through accessing jobs and opportunities.
The ‘dream’ is a metaphor that was first suggested when the European explorers to refer to the wonders that they discovered on the new lands that they discovered (Davis 40). Turner has promoted the concept of the American dream by insinuating the probability of more wealth. This suggests that life should be richer and better for any person. In this case, the American dream has been linked with increased riches. Turner stated that, “Everything he sees in tore windows, everything he read in magazines and newspapers, and everyone he know… tells him that he has a future” (13). Therefore, the concept of the American dream is seemingly complex and has multiple sides and this ha been popularized to relate to the beliefs of the public. Moreover, the American dream is the social language in which unhappiness is analyzed and it also tries to solve common problem that people may have (Cernkovich et al. 81).
The economic migration that is shown in Turner’s writing is characterized by the American dream discourse. The demonstration of economic difficulties and distress further encourage the American dream discourse. The frontier is considered as the most effective and rapid Americanization. One of the most essential effects of the frontier was the encouragement of democracy in the United States. It is important to note that the frontier triggered productive individualism; the complex society I triggered by primitive organizations. In America, individualism led to laxity which led to the highly developed American spirit (Slagle 426). The main point of the frontier thesis is that the idea of how the American frontier developed and helped modify the American people’s character; this led to the idea of promoting the ideal of the American dream. Turner claimed that the characteristics and traits that were formed during the 19th Century led to East to West nationalism, mobility, individualism, and egalitarianism. This deviated from the American cultural attitudes and gradually dominated the establishment of American character.
In addition, Turner implied that America would have been forced to go through an agonizing transition in which America would be perceived as the land that had endless boundaries. In other words, the American dream would have been negatively portrayed. Turner argued that frontier led to the improvement of the American democracy. Normally, Americans are characterized by having an independent spirit of strength, self-reliance, practicality and ingenuity.
The American dream implies that poor and honest individuals could achieve success in America if they have integrity, hard work, and intelligence (Davis 45). Literature like Turner’s thesis further shows that the America success story can be easily attained irrespective of where the individual comes from. The essay The Significance of the Frontier in American History by Fredrick Turner emphasized on the American dream by showing the achievements of American democracy and how it was initiated by the American frontier. Turner stresses on how the frontier contributed to shaping the American character and how this has led to many more scholarly histories (Cernkovich et al. 68). This paper has managed to focus on how the frontier thesis portrays the illusion of the American dream.
Cernkovich, Stephen, Peggy, Giordano, and Jennifer, Rudolph. “Race, Crime, and the American Dream.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, no. 37, 2010, pp. 67-102.
Davis, Richard. “The American Dream.” Faculty Studies, no. 1, 2011, pp.35-78.
Slagle, Jefferson. “America Unscripted: Performing the Wild West.” Faculty Studies, no.1, 2011, pp. 425-442.
Turner, Frederick. The Significance of the Frontier in American History. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1894.

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