Posts Tagged ‘American Pastoral’

Chipotle Commercial on Factory vs. Sustainable Farming

A little pastoral in popular culture for your Tuesday morning:

The Ideal American

Crevecoeur juxtaposes between hunters and farmers to perpetuate his Cornucopian capitalist values while also giving examples of a fledging American pastoral. Although, for a farmer, religion takes a back seat to crop yields (or arguably it becomes a religion to Crevecoeur) it is altogether lost on a hunter. Here Deep ecologists would point out the great problem, “It identifies the dualistic separation of humans from nature promoted by Western philosophy and culture as the origin of environmental crisis” (Garrard 21).  Crevecoeur demonstrates how all the farmers do their work, all devout, doing God’s work, while being free to worship or not as he also states that there is a religious fallout that naturally takes place in America. To Crevecoeur, the American is a new race that must take on new ways of thinking while applying the tools and technology born in Europe to the land. To him there is also a difference between country and land. Land is to be cultivated and country is be cared for and loved: “the simple cultivation of the earth purifies them,” and because of this they will love their country’s embrace (Crevecoeur 45). And to be a man, a citizen, he must own land.

To Crevecoeur, once the tools of farming are thrown away and the gun is accepted, the biggest sin has committed. In the woods, men become hunters, move away from the land and eventually lose the will to harvest. Crevecoeur delineates the hierarchies of American populations. Seafarers who value transit are cultured, and this would include the eastern seaboard. Slowly, he demonstrates that the further inland people go the more barbarous and simpleminded they become. Rural woods that are not cleared for fields do not allow for culture or a construction thereof, because of the distances between people—something that is unique from Europe.

While Crevecoeur raises up the poor European immigrant he embraces an ideal sort of egalitarian middle and lower class, or some type of mystic society where everyone can eventually reach the very same rank; who are not oppressed by a state church; monarchy, or aristocracy and can retreat from Europe’s urban industrialism. He displays a combination of Cornucopian capitalism while simultaneously denigrating the class of hunters, who are also American. The hunters are poor and it is difficult to differentiate between them and the poor European. Either way, the hunters will eventually remove and the civilized man will come to clear the land. There is a funny commonality between the poor European and the hunter that I’m not so sure Crevecoeur saw.

We find Crevecoeur’s values clearly contrasted between hunter and farmer.. Crevecoeur shows the American pastoral, putting a strong value in the work of the land. Indeed he rarely mentions the aesthetic qualities that with which British and Classical pastoral were concerned (Garrard 49). By contrast the hunters do none of what is valuable and as quoted before, are not purified. What is lost on the hunters is democracy and capitalism. Crevecoeur repeatedly emphasizes the idea of one man hatching an idea after acquiring skills, goes out on his own and is likely to prosper, using nature as a tool, a part of the entrepreneur’s ingenuity. Opposite to success, the hunters descend into drunkenness and idleness.

In hunting we find immorality, insatiability, drunkenness and oblivion. In farming we find culture, manners, sobriety, virtue and religion.

Also, I would like to posture a question, on page 54 of Crevecoeur he uses the word ‘rustic’, I wonder what this word meant back then, and how different was it from what means now? I could be the same, I don’t know.

References

Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism. New York: Routledge, 2004.

St. John de Crevecoeur, J. Hector. “What is an American?” Letters from an American Farmer. New York: Dutton, 1877. 39-68. Print.