J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur has been praised for defining the American way of life. In one of his works, Letters From an American Farmer, he attempts to answer the question “What is an American?” In an excerpt from that work, On the Situations, Feelings, and Pleasures of an American Farmer, he explains what it truly means to be a farmer in colonial America. Crevecoeur also contrasts the traditional American farmer’s life with the traditional European city life. Within the excerpt, Crevecoeur uses several rhetorical devices to support his idea that living a farmer’s life is much more rewarding than being a city dweller.
The main idea of the essay is that a farming life is superior to a city life, and the author tries to convince his audience of this fact by using personal experiences. He first describes the farm, house, and barn that he inherited from his father. Then, Crevecoeur explains how satisfying it is to live on land that has a sentimental family value, and to follow in his father’s footsteps. He also describes how it brings him joy to know his son will live in his footsteps, “I am now doing for [my son], I say, what my father formerly did for me” (Hector St.John de Crévecoeur, J.). By using this personal experience to prove the benefits of a rural life, Crevecoeur effectively appeals to the reader’s emotional side. His audience is more likely to agree with his points because they feel an emotional connection with his story. Another way Crevecoeur convinces his audience that a farming life is better than a city life is by contrasting the two lifestyles. He explains how he feels that he has “freedom of action, freedom of thoughts” (Hector St.John de Crévecoeur, J.) and, throughout the essay, he continually reinforces the idea that he is truly happy with his simple life in the country. Then, the author explains how troublesome it can be to live in the city because you often have to be tied down to landlords. This idea is reinforced through the rest of the essay when Crevecoeur speaks of the excessive materialism of most city dwellers. When this comparison is made, the reader can easily see how living in the country is superior to living in the city.
Metaphors are also an effective rhetorical strategy used in the essay. In one instance, the author compares soil to life, because both are incredibly vital. Crevecoeur explains how “[soil] feeds, it clothes us; from it we draw even a great exuberancy, our best meat, our richest drink.” Here, Crevecoeur is trying to explain how just like anyone is useless without life, American farmers are useless without precious soil. He is also implying that a city dweller will never know the joys pure, rich soil can provide. With the use of this metaphor, Creveoeur’s audience can paint a clear picture of how valuable soil is to famers, and how valuable a farming life can be. Crevecoeur uses another metaphor later in the essay. This one compares bees to life, because bees have similar properties and components of life. Like societies, bees are affected by “their government, their industry, their quarrels, their passions”. The bees are also used as a symbol for labor. The industrious bees of Crevecoeur’s farm mimic the industrious people who often work on farms. Again, the use of a metaphor and symbol helps the reader to paint a clear picture of Crevecoeur’s ideas. The use of rhetorical strategies is crucial to the essay because it allows the author to effectively communicate an idea to his audience. Crevecoeur skillfully uses rhetorical strategies to convince his audience that a farmer’s life is superior to a city life. A mixture of personal experiences, comparisons, and metaphors all help support the author’s idea. Besides being functional, the strategies Crevecoeur uses also add literary flair to the essay. The main thesis of Crevecoeur’s On The Situation, Feelings, and Pleasures of an American Farmer is that living a simple life is rewarding. This assertion has a great deal of validity to it. Many other people agree that living in a small, rural town can be wholesome, less stressful, and gives people a sense of community. Evidence from literature and history prove that Crevecoeur’s assertion is true. The novel, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, is one work of literature that supports Crevecoeur’s ideas. In this novel, a character moves from the countryside to the industrial city. In her new environment, she finds that city folk are cold and unfriendly, while her comrades back in the country were caring and compassionate. Here, urban and rural lives are being directly contrasted.
On the other hand, some cities can offer opportunities, promote technological advancements, and be centers for culture. One of these cities was ancient Rome. During ancient times, Rome was the home of dozens of independent thinkers. It was the “hub of commerce, trade, politics, culture and military might” (Roman Roads). The city itself provided a space for these thinkers to collaborate and inspire each other. In this case, the city would be superior to the country because it nourished creativity. Rome, however, should be considered an exception. The majority of cities do not function as well as this ancient community did. Most cities are home to poverty and filth. This poverty and filth was explained in great detail in Upton Sinclar’s novel, The Jungle. In this novel, a foreign family moves to an American city in hopes of being exposed to more opportunities. Upon moving there, the family realizes that the reality of urban life is not what they expected. They are tricked by wealthy business owners, and suffer health problems because of the bad living conditions. One family member even drowns in the filth accumulated in the streets. The novel as a whole provides evidence to prove that typically, city life would not be preferred over a rural life.
Clearly, there is evidence that gives Crevecoeur’s claims value. It is evident from works of literature that usually, a farming life is preferred over an industrial life. Because Crevecoeur’s ideas are shared by notable authors, there had to be some truth in it. Although there have been some exceptional cities throughout history, more often than not they are centers for poverty. This proves that the ideas Crececoeur brought up in his essay are true. Even professionals today agree with the points that were brought up in On the Situations, Feelings, and Pleasures of an American Farmer. Many psychologists agree that working on a farm, or even a small garden, can have a positive affect on one’s mental health. Also, historians have presented evidence that shows how corrupt the cities of Crevoecour’s time were. Most people have come to the conclusion that living in a rural town is less stressful than living in the city. Anyone who has experienced the joys of a peaceful landscape knows that cities do not compare. A psychologist, Kim Hermanson explains how beneficial this can be on her website. Here, she describes how on her Iowa farm she remembers “planting, growing, and digging [her] hands into rich soil”, and how fond those memories were (Hermanson, Kim). She also explains how, even though she moved to the city, her heart is still at her farm. Then, the author discusses how having deeply rooted memories of nature allows her to make light of difficult situations. A person who never spent time in a rural town would never know this joy. This reinforces the ideas that were brought up in the excerpt from Letters From an American Farmer. In the essay, Crevecoeur uses soil as a metaphor for life. Clearly, soil is as important as Crevecoeur claims because a psychologist so many years later believes so too.
Obviously, some of the experiences that are had on farms can not also be had in cities. Although cities do provide some unique opportunities, a life on a farm is much more rewarding. Benjamin Franklin had this view and explained it in one of his more famous quotes. In this quote he states what he thinks are the three ways to acquire wealth. The first is through war, the second is by commerce, and “The third by agriculture, the only honest way,” (qtd. in Eischen, Faith). In this statement it is clear that Franklin believes that a simple farmer’s life is ideal. Historians have also found that cities, especially those during colonial times, were incredibly corrupt. In a book that references the 1700’s the author does acknowledge that cities fostered innovation, but explains how “While many had a keen sense of business, others were often unethical… Piracy, smuggling, and privateering were all common practices” (Moss, Joyce, and George Wilson). This shows how a city life would be undesirable. A traditional farmer’s life would surely be chosen over the city life described here.
The evidence presented suggests that pursuing a life in an agriculturally centered town is in fact more rewarding than living in the city. Psychologists have explained how living in a rural place can reduce stress, and historians have found that cities throughout time have been harsh places to live. This belief was displayed in a famous essay from colonial America. Indeed, in On the Situations, Feelings, and Pleasures of an American Farmer, Crevecoeur explores the life of a simple American farmer and shares the joys he experienced while living on his own farm in his agrarian community. He also implies the idea that a traditional urban life would not be as rewarding as a rural life. This claims made in the essay should be taken seriously, because there is credible evidence that supports them.
Bibliography Eischen, Faith. “Benjamin Franklin Series: Pt. 1 The Statesman.” Independent Voter Network RSS. 23 July 2012. Web. 16 Mar. 2013.
Gaskell, Elizabeth Cleghorn. North and South. London: Chapmin and Hall, 1855. Print.
Hector St.John De Crévecoeur, J. On the Situations, Feelings, and Pleasures of an American Farmer. Letters From an American Farmer. London: Davies & Davis, 1782. Print.
Hermanson, Kim. “Aesthetic Space.” Aesthetic Space. 27 Sept. 2010. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.
Moss, Joyce, and George Wilson. “Tom Walker” Literature and Its Times: Profiles of 300 Notable Literary Works and the Historical Events That Influenced Them. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 1997. 102. Print.
“Roman Roads.” Roman Roads. 2013. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.
Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. New York, NY: Doubleday, 1906. Print.