Myth Rather than History


America is mythically known as the land of plenty and prosperity.Americans are viewed as people who have reached their destiny andpeople who are not shaped by a tumultuous history. Most people viewAmericans as people who found everything intact and began living alife of prosperity. The American history of wars and economicdepressions is often ignored or misunderstood. Being and American isviewed as a destiny rather than a journey that was filled with manydifficult experiences and pasts (Migranyan, 2013). The American dreamis viewed as a destiny rather than a journey and America is thus amyth rather than a history.

The novel ‘The Great Gatsby’ exemplified the American myth inthe character of Jay Gatsby. The young man was well educated, and hestarted as a war veteran and a bond salesman. The young maneventually made riches through unknown means and lived a lavishlifestyle that was characterized by parties and extravagantactivities. No one understood Jay’s source of wealth and few peopleknew about his tumultuous past. Jay Gatsby was simply the man livingthe dream of most of his neighbors and friends (Fitzgerald, 1925).America is like Jay, people believe that America is made ofprosperity and America has always been a land of peace andprosperity. People ignore a hard history such as the American civilwar and slave history.

The prosperity of America just like Jay’s prosperity can beattributed to a past that served as a lesson on resilience. TheAmerican constitution and other legislative and social actions thathave shaped the modern American society were crafted out of a hardpast that served as a lesson for a better future. The social,political and economic difficulties of the past were the historicalcontexts on which modern America was built. However, the Americansociety is admired as a model of prosperity and most people believein myths about the American society without understanding its history(Migranyan, 2013). For example, the American constitution isconsidered to be the best, but few people know that it was written asthe country was emerging from colonialism.

The American myth is also made of myths on the social cohesivenessof the society. The society is comprised on people from all races,and they live alongside each other. The American dream is consideredto have a place for every member of society. The myth, however,ignores a historical past that did not have much room for people whowere from other races. The novel ‘Absalom, Absalom!’ was aclassic example of the racial intolerance that the societyexperienced in the past. Thomas Sutpen sabotaged his marriage to awoman who was partly black because the black race was consideredinferior (Faulkner, 1936). The American myth does not recognize suchpainful pasts which divided the society along racial lines.

The social success of America is also based on gender rights, whichview men and women as being equal members of the society. TheAmerican myth holds that the society is socially equal in terms ofgender. The myth holds that the success of gender equality in Americais the ultimate feature of a progressive society (Migranyan, 2013).The history of gender inequality is covered by myths that the societyhas equal rights for men and women. In ‘Absalom, Absalom!’ Sutpenwanted a son to inherit his wealth and build his name. Sutpen did notbelieve that women had the capacity to be progressive. Sutpen evenrejected Milly, who bore him a daughter (Faulkner, 1936). Suchhistories are covered by myths that present America as a land ofequal social rights.

The American myth is also ignorant of people who live in poverty andstruggle amidst a society that is full of prosperity. Americans, likeany other community, is made up of people who live in poverty andriches. The rich are extravagant while the poor suffer from poorlives. This character is historical, and people have always lived aspoor or rich. However, a common myth is that the society is made upof rich people because America is full of opportunities (Migranyan,2013). The novel ‘The Great Gatsby,’ is made up of East egg andWest egg people. The people of west egg are the mythical Americanswho live in riches and are extravagant. The history of the poor, suchas those who live in East egg is ignored in the myth of America.

The American myth is also ignorant of tragic historical events thatshaped the modern society. The historical context of America isfilled with tragedies and events that threatened to tear the societyapart. This is featured in ‘The Great Gatsby,’ where Georgeaccidentally killed Jay, believing that he was having an affair withhis wife (Fitzgerald, 1925). Such tragedies feature prominently inthe history of America, such as the Jim Craw laws, which instilledracial segregation and tragically led to the death of many citizens.

In conclusion, the America society is characterized by myth ratherthan history. The belief in such myths as the American dream andprosperity ignore the historical context, which shaped the modernsociety. The most common myths about America focus on social,political and economic prosperity, which are the most appealingfactors about the society. However, the myth ignores such issues asgender inequality, racial segregation, economic segregation and theformation of the constitution, which shaped the modern societythrough historical events.


Faulkner,W. (1936). Absalom, Absalom! New York: Random House.

Fitzgerald,F, S. (1925). The Great Gatsby. New York: CharlesScribner`s Sons.

Migranyan,A. (11/10/2013). “The Myth of American Exceptionalism.” TheNational Interest. New York: Centre for the National Interest.