English 102 Summer 2023
Meaningful Lives and American Dreams Unit
Read: Thoreau and Mairs. Write:
· Why did Thoreau go to the woods?
· What three passages leap out from Thoreau’s work and smack you in the face?
· What does Thoreau mean by “Simplify, simplify”? Is his critique mainly negative or is it positive?
· Thoreau’s work is about values. What are some of the other values besides simplicity that are affirmed by Thoreau, and some of those repudiated?
· What might be the necessities or essences of life for Mairs?
· What does Mairs fear?
· Give me your thoughts on Mairs, on how her essay affected you and what impressed you. What can we learn from her?
The American Dream
Read: The Declaration; Crevecoeur, “What is an American?” (especially the first five pages; you can skim the rest); Lazarus; King; Adams; Jischke; Wiesel. Write:
· What does the Declaration mean to you? How do you feel about it?
· What ideals in the Declaration have guided American thinking throughout our history?
· List four aspects of being an American, according to Crevecoeur. Support your choices by citing the text.
· Who, if anyone, is left out of his notion of an American?
· What are your reactions to Lazarus’s poem? How does it relate to the American Dream?
· You have probably never read the whole speech. Now that you have, what are your initial reactions?
· How is the Declaration of Independence at the heart of King’s speech? What might that say about American reform/protest movements?
What are the elements of the American dream according to Adams?
· Adams asks us to reconsider the American dream. Why? What does he recommend?
· What is the American dream according to Jischke?
· What do you think of the story of his family?
· What do you think of Wiesel’s claim that the US started the war in Iraq for unselfish reasons?
· Wiesel says that racism and anti-Semitism have vanished from American society. What do you think of that assertion?
· “For an individual, as for a nation, to be free is an admirable duty – but to help others become free is even more admirable” (Wiesel 420). What do you think of this statement?