7. Culture, Values and Beliefs of United States of America

Values, Beliefs and Culture of United States of America

The foundation of a country is as strong as the values and beliefs that form the core of its being. Americans have numerous values that they’re proud to hold and value highly. Here’s a list of values that are the most common. It is also important to note that America is a melting pot of various cultures, religions, and ideologies, and so there will be variation in the perception of these ideals from individual to individual.

    Individualism

    Americans value their unique individuality and focus on personal satisfaction rather than pleasing others. It is a highly engrained quality in the fabric of America’s culture and its people.

    Independence

    This is relevant to both the country and its citizens on its own terms. The country values its independence from other countries and Americans take pride in their independence in their lives and care for their needs. They take pride in self-sustainability.

    Democracy

    Democracy plays a vital role in American culture, where people vote for leaders who work for the people. All citizens above the age of 18 have the right to vote, and the party with the majority of votes wins.

    Justice

    Americans strongly believe in justice and want to ensure people get what they deserve. They’re rooted in the belief that the system should provide justice for those who do right and offenders should be punished.

    Equality

    America hasn’t always been the epitome of promoting equality in the past, but it’s a value that’s been taken seriously in recent times. Americans believe that all individuals, regardless of age, race, or  sex, must be treated equally with respect and dignity.

    Competition

    Competitiveness is one of the core values that define the essence of American culture. Their whole education system and work ethic revolve around competition, and that serves them to be a leader in innovation and professional growth as individuals. Hard work is honoured and rewarded duly with better positions in society. This is one of the key driving forces of American success.

    Capitalism

    This is one value from which Americans and their society have greatly benefited, as it encourages personal wealth accumulation, the owning of private property, and an increase in individual financial gains.

    Youth

    The ability to retain youth is a highly sought-after and treasured quality in the US, and people go to great lengths to preserve their youth. Their obsession with supplements, cosmetic procedures, and medications aids them to achieve this.

    Self-expression

    This is built on the premise of expressing individualism and is especially important for the younger generation of Americans. They are very particular in being expressive in terms of physical appearance and verbal expression. They’re not afraid to express themselves with their choice of clothes and by subscribing to certain causes they find passionate.

    The Doorway to Self-Expression in United States of America

    1. Painting
    2. Literature of United States of America
    3. Poets and Poetry
    4. Drama and Novel
    5. Music
    6. Jazz

    The Doorway to Self-Expression in United States of America - Painting

    In the earlier times, circa 18th century, American paintings were majorly influenced by self-taught British artists and their work was mostly representative of their history and religion.
    In the 19th century, owing to expansion and exploration of the US, paintings were mostly focuses on rural scenes. During the end of this century, the French artists influenced the art particularly in the form of impressionism.
    By the 20th century, the Art scene was one of controversy and realism and American artists ignored the ideals present in the art world, paving way to their unique individuality reflected in the paintings of this era. One such iconic painting was American Gothic by Grant Wood which had inaugurated an all-new era of diversity in the art industry making way for abstract art and art by African Americans.

    The Doorway to Self-Expression in United States of America - Literature

    The Americans have a rich history of compelling literature showcasing the diversity in culture and voices.  American literature, the body of written works produced in the English language in the United States.

    Like other national literatures, American literature was shaped by the history of the country that produced it. For almost a century and a half, America was merely a group of colonies scattered along the eastern seaboard of the North American continent—colonies from which a few hardy souls tentatively ventured westward. After a successful rebellion against the motherland, America became the United States, a nation. By the end of the 19th century this nation extended southward to the Gulf of Mexico, northward to the 49th parallel, and westward to the Pacific.

    By the end of the 19th century, too, it had taken its place among the powers of the world—its fortunes so interrelated with those of other nations that inevitably it became involved in two world wars and, following these conflicts, with the problems of Europe and East Asia. Meanwhile, the rise of science and industry, as well as changes in ways of thinking and feeling, wrought many modifications in people’s lives. All these factors in the development of the United States molded the literature of the country.

    Notable Works of The Period

    Poets and poetry

    In poems and songs like “Yankee Doodle,” “Nathan Hale,” and “The Epilogue,” both loyalists and Continentals encouraged their troops, made their points, and praised their heroes. These poems and songs were mostly set to popular British melodies and written in a style similar to other British poems of the time.

    Philip Freneau, whose Revolutionary War satires served as effective propaganda, was the most famous American poet of the time. “The Indian Burying Ground,” “The Wild Honey Suckle,” “To a Caty-did,” and “On a Honey Bee” were romantic lyrics of real grace and feeling that foreshadowed a 19th-century literary movement.

    Drama, Novel

    In the late 18th century, historical dramas and novels were written. Royall Tyler’s Contrast was the first professional American comedy (1787). This play was similar to works by Goldsmith and Sheridan, but a character from New England brought something from America to the stage.

    William Hill Brown’s The Power of Sympathy (1789) was the first American novel and followed Samuel Richardson’s sentimental novel form. Sentimental novels flooded the 19th century. Hugh Henry Brackenridge’s Modern Chivalry (1792–1815) was a popular satire on democracy and frontier life that succeeded Don Quixote and Henry Fielding. Wieland (1798), Arthur Mervyn (1799–1800), and Edgar Huntly popularised Gothic thrillers (1799).

    Most Famous American Writers of the Past

    Famous Writers of United States from the Past are:
    1. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
    2. Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849)
    3. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
    4. Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) (1835-1910)
    5. Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
    6. F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)
    7. John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
    8. Harper Lee (1926-2016)
    1. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

    Most Famous Works

    Poor Richard’s Almanack
    Father Abraham’s Sermon
    The Way to Wealth

    Additional Notes

    He often wrote under the pseudonym Richard Saunders. Many popular modern-day adages are attributed to him.

    1. Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849)

    Most Famous Works

    The Raven
    The Tell-Tale Heart
    The Fall of the House of Usher

    Additional Notes

    He wrote mostly poetry and short stories.
    Poe is known for his dark, psychological, and often grotesque writing style and themes.

    1. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

    Most Famous Works

    Divinity School Address

    Additional Notes

    Emerson is known for his strong transcendental themes and philosophies.

    1. Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) (1835-1910)

    Most Famous Works

    Old Times on the Mississippi
    The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

    Additional Notes

    His real name was Samuel Clemens, but he wrote under the pseudonym Mark Twain.
    Twain’s work was both highly controversial and well-admired.
    He often used elements of humor in his writings about darker topics.

    1. Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

    Most Famous Works

    The Old Man and the Sea
    The Sun Also Rises
    A Farewell to Arms

    Additional Notes

    Hemingway wrote using a style he coined the “iceberg theory.”
    Much of his writing focused on naturalism and gender issues.

    1. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

    Most Famous Works

    The Great Gatsby
    This Side of Paradise
    Tender is the Night

    Fitzgerald’s work largely covered the Jazz Age of the U.S.
    Many people call his book, The Great Gatsby, “The Great American Novel.”

    1. John Steinbeck (1902-1968)

    Most Famous Works 

    Of Mice and Men
    The Grapes of Wrath
    Tortilla Flat

    Additional Notes

    Steinbeck won a Nobel Prize in 1962.
    His work has been described as “imaginative” and “socially perceptive.”

    1. Harper Lee (1926-2016)

    Most Famous Works

    To Kill a Mockingbird
    Go Set a Watchman

    Additional Notes

    Lee won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel To Kill a Mockingbird in 1961.
    In 2015, the novel’s sequel Go Set a Watchman was published. Later, it was found to actually be the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird.

    Most Famous American Poets of the Past

    Famous Poets of United States from the Past are:
    1. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
    2. Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
    3. Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
    1. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
      Most Famous Works

    Paul Revere’s Ride
    The Song of Hiawatha
    Evangeline
    The Courtship of Miles Standish

    Additional Notes

    Longfellow was a member of The Fireside Poets, a group of poets who gained much popularity and associated themselves with New England.
    He translated Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. His poetry was both lyrical and versatile.

    1. Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

    Most Famous Works

    The Poems of Emily Dickinson
    (poetry collection, 1955)

    Additional Notes

    Most of Dickinson’s work wasn’t published until after her death.  Her poetry often employed the use of dashes and capital letters.  Much of her work focused on the concept of death.

    1. Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

    Most Famous Works

    Leaves of Grass (poetry collection, 1855)
    Song of Myself

    Additional Notes

    Whitman was known for writing very sensual poetry. Much of his work employed free verse and cadence.
    Leaves of Grass wasn’t published until after his death, because he revised it continuously until then.

    American Literature Today

    In the United States, reading tastes vary greatly from person to person.

    A few popular genres include:

    Mystery / Crime/ Sci-fi / Fantasy    Horror    Romance    Historical Fiction    Action / Adventure

    Classic Literature Popular names today include Stephen King, James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, Ray Bradbury, Danielle Steel, Dean Koontz, and Nora Roberts. And you can’t forget the fantasy giants J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, whose works are much-beloved even today.

    FAQs

    The term “American literature” refers to works created or written by authors based in the United States of America or its former colonies.

    This includes Study of American literature, which includes novels, short stories, plays, poems, biographies and autobiographies, works of history, essays, and literary criticism written in the United States.

    Learn about American literature, which includes novels, short stories, plays, poems, biographies/autobiographies, historical works, essays, and literary criticism. These are the 5 major themes of American literature.

    The decline of the protagonist’s fortunes, apathy toward nature, and a third-person omniscient response to romanticism and surrealism are the three defining features of American literature. First, frontier values and customs are reflected in works of American literature.

    Why is it that American literature stands out from the rest of the literary world? Native American oral traditions prior to the introduction of writing and European colonial influences have both contributed to the development of American literature.

    Mark Twain is widely regarded as the father of American literature. 

    Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910) was an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer better known by his pen name, Mark Twain. He was renamed the “greatest humorist the United States has produced,” and William Faulkner referred to him as “the father of American literature.”

    American literature has been significantly influenced by history, current affairs, and social developments. The world around authors has influenced them, and their works have reflected that. This is evident in all of the various historical periods covered in this class.

    The Doorway to Self-Expression in United States of America - Music

    Similar to other art fields, American music is also a culmination of diverse cultures and is not limited to one genre of music. The onset of globalisation hugely influenced the music industry, making all kinds of music available on streaming devices, on the streets, on radio and in the mainstream industry. Some prevalent genres in the American industry include:
    Rock Classic Rock   Pop Country Rap   Hip-Hop
    Other genres you can find: Folk   Metal   Classical   Opera   Blues   Reggae   Indie/Alt Rock

    The Doorway to Self-Expression in United States of America - Jazz

    Today’s musicians frequently combine various musical genres to produce more classic sounds and to more effectively convey a message as well as certain emotions.

    Younger generations in the U.S. have also grown quite fond of K-Pop music and other genres of music from other cultures!

    The Doorway to Self-Expression in United States of America -Body Art- A Form of Self-Expression

    Individuality and expression of one’s unique self is one of paramount importance in American culture, and the younger generation choose to showcase this through their Body Art.

    The term “body art” includes all kinds of changes to the body, like tattoos and piercings.
    Today, getting tattoos or getting your body pierced is so common that you either love it or hate it. Body art has been done in many ways throughout history.
    Body art can be a way to show who you are, show your style, or show respect for someone else, among other things. No matter what the reason is, it is still unclear why someone would do such things to their body, which could make people curious.
    Tattooing and piercing could be seen as art in and of themselves, which would mean that the skin is a canvas.
    Tattoos can show something very important about a person. Some people who are thinking about getting a tattoo think that the tattoo must mean something, like a quote, a date, or a symbol. In the end, what a person does to their body shows what kind of person they are.
    The act of getting a tattoo or piercing is another part of the appeal. In the past, most people with tattoos were “rebellious” people like bikers, sailors, prisoners, etc. People with tattoos are often thought of as “edgy” or “tough”
    Roger Rienstorf, an experienced piercer at New Age Tattoos and Body Piercings, said, “It’s the freedom to dress and look however I want.”

    Body art can be too broad a term that’s used to define the mode of expression of how one feels and one’s identity. Body piercings, tattoos, hairstyles, colors, outfits, and body modifications are some of the ways Americans use them. It is so widely prevalent and more common than one might think, so much that it is glorified in the media.

    FAQs

    Painting, Writing, Music, Poetry and Body Art are the forms of Self-Expressions.

    Body art is a catch-all term for tattoos, piercings, and other forms of body modification. No matter how you feel about tattoos and piercings, you can’t deny their widespread popularity in modern culture.

    Since prehistoric times, people have used tattoos to show their individuality. Warriors and their chieftains were some of the most famous people to use tattoos in battle.

    In the world we live in now, it’s becoming more and more important to show your cultural, spiritual, and personal side through body art. 

    It is a reflection of the moral and spiritual values of its maker, an indicator of cultural norms, and, most importantly, a symbol of unrivalled aesthetic perfection.