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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersThe Triumph of Nationalism/The House Dividing, 1815-1850
The Triumph of Nationalism/The House Dividing
Topic: Culture of the Common ManTopic: Cult of DomesticityTopic: ReligionTopic: ExpansionTopic: America in 1850
Topic: Culture of the Common Man
Overview of Triumph of Nationalism
Resource Menu: Culture of the Common Man
Text 1. Andrew Jackson
Text 2. Mark Twain
» Reading Guide
•  Link

Text 3. Thomas W. Dorr
Text 4. Mechanics/Workers
Text 5. Richard Allen and David Walker
Text 6. Nathaniel Hawthorne
Text 7. James Fenimore Cooper
Text 8. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Text 9. John C. Calhoun
Text 10. Walt Whitman


RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
2.  Mark Twain, chapters 21 and 22 from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1885

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is set in the 1840s and offers a portrait of the people Jackson brought to power, men and women far different from the noble, thoughtful rustics of Thomas Jefferson's bucolic democratic vision. Here Twain satirizes the roots of American culture, including its class divisions and anti-intellectualism. These chapters contain the Sherburn-Boggs episode, framed by the rehearsal for and performance of the King's and Duke's Shakespearean entertainment. Approximately 12 pages.


Discussion questions
  ·  What democratic values can be found in Twain's Arkansas town?
  ·  How does Twain suggest the change and flux of American life in this chapter?
  ·  What is the source of power and authority in the town?
  ·  What implications does Sherburn's behavior suggest for democracy?
  ·  Why does Twain choose to satirize a Shakespearean play?
  ·  What in the end is Twain's verdict on American democracy?


Reading highlights
  ·  Note the chewing motif in the chapter.
  ·  Compare Twain's use of the word "loaf" with Whitman's use of it.
  ·  Compare the violence in Twain with the violence in Whitman.
  ·  Note how the circus crowd almost becomes a mob.


» Link


Topic Framing Questions
  •  How did Americans respond to the emergence of a functioning democracy in which the majority of free adult males could vote?
  •  How did Northerners view the purposes of political rights and power?
  •  How did Southerners view them?




Toolbox: The Triumph of Nationalism / The House Dividing
Common Man | Cult of Domesticity | Religion | Expansion | America in 1850

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Toolbox Library: Primary Resources in U.S. History and Literature
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