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English 102 Summer 2023

Meaningful Lives and American Dreams Unit

Class Assignments

Meaningful Lives


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?

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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?

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