Individualism and conformity : their development and influence on the American character
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In this increasingly self-conscious society almost everyone craves self-definition. One of the chief justifications for the study of purely American literature or American history assumes that Americans are fundamentally different from other peoples. Such an assumption is generally accepted as valid and never questioned very seriously. Consequently, there has been, since the first settlements began in the “New World” over 400 years ago, an attempt to characterize exactly what makes this American, this new person in relationship to the world, different from his European counterparts. The quest for the definition of an American character has involved many questions—What are Americans’ basic traits? How did we come to be the way we are? Has the character changed over time?