American Character And Importance Of The Past Essay Sample
Every generation learns the history of its country and world from the early years of the life as everybody tells it is important to know where you came from and which your past is. But why there exists such necessity of being aware of historical events and how do they influence our life? Is it possible that our past affects our habits, views on different situations, customs and, generally, the order of events?
It can be pondered on the topic with consideration and comparison of the two documentary movies on history which have been produced by the “American Experience”. The first movie under analysis called “Influenza” tells the real story which happened to Americans in 1918. It is about the nonsurvivable virus “influenza” or, as people know it, flu; but that one was such that no one had ever seen. The first case of the virus was reported on March 11, 1918 in Kansas and by noon of that day 100 people have been infected; the virus spread with a scary speed bringing death, fear and grief to the American families. The symptoms were common for a simple cold: fever, sore throat and a headache but it was spreading among the people through breathing or coughing. That year was the ending year of the Great War but still it has proceeded in March, so the Kansas soldiers crossing the Atlantics for war brought “the small traveler” to Europe where, as a result, English, French and German soldiers started to die. Meanwhile, the microbe mutated and by the time it came back to America together with infected Americans, it had turned into a strong infection and a relentless killer. During the period of 10 months America has lost 550 000 citizens who died from the virus and infected 500 million people around the world. October of 1918 was mentioned as the cruelest month in history of the United States as that was the peak of the disease by death toll; the virus killed very fast and by the end of the month the death toll had numbered 195 000 victims. Partial reason of such enormous by scope and death toll tragedy is partially because the officials all over the country have not realized the scope of the problem and danger to civilization; some of them thought that was the end of the civilization. Another very considerable and influential factor of failure to stop the tragedy is the reaction of medicine: doctors failed to provide any cure for the illness and stop “the killer”, also, the vaccines have been injected to people, it seemed all the country was wearing masks in order not to be infected, but nothing helped; even the cause of the death was listed as pneumonia as the doctors couldn’t recognize the influenza. The science of those times knew nothing about the viruses and how they could be cured or even prevented. On the expiry of the period of ten dreadful months, in early November, when the Great War ended, the virus started to retreat so quickly as it came. Thirty thousand people paraded through the streets with an overwhelming them happiness not because the war had ended but more because those horrible days of fear and disease were disappearing.
The second documentary under analysis is “Surviving the Dustbowl” in which the historical events of natural disaster of dustbowl are described. The story started in 1931 when in the ideal and fruitful American fields which had been the main “earners” of the population and American farmers had been prosperous and rich people due to crops, the dustbowls started to appear gradually increasing frequency of their appearance. The natural disaster was caused by the end of the rains and brought together with it disease and death to American citizens. There were cases when the black clouds of dust, also called by the population of that time “black blizzards”, were covering the fields, that is why nobody noticed anything unusual in that dust whirls but when the sunny day turned to black night so that one couldn’t even see his hand in front of the eyes, there came understanding that something serious and destructive appeared. The dust was perpetrating into the people’s eyes, ears, noses, so it was difficult to breathe and people were choking; they didn’t even have the possibility to cook the food as the dust was in the meal and one could feel it on his teeth while eating. When the crops started to die together with people, citizens started killing animals and cooking them in order not to die of hanger. People tried to invent something, hanging wet sheets on doors and windows of the houses but nothing helped to prevent dust from perpetrating into the house as it was tiny and any small hole could serve the passage for the “black blizzards”. There were years when the storms came with the alarming frequency leaving mountains of dust after them. The horrible times of hanger and chocking dust continued till autumn of 1939 when the rains finally returned to the country.
In order to answer the main question of the paper about the role of history in the United States, the abovementioned documentaries will be compared and contrasted which will allow to judge about the role of history from the character of the movie who tells his/her story to the public which creates “proposition” in response to demand. Both movies under analysis are centered on the topic of natural disaster and tragedy and its effect on history of the United States. The stories told are meant to teach and educate people so that in such cases if they happen again, people knew how they should react. These elements can be observed through the scenes where the voice off of the movie analyzes the events and their causes proposing measures that can be applied in our times, times of technological progress which made possible a great number of discoveries in different fields including science and medicine. The ways the directors of the movies decided to organize the process differentiates in the two documentaries under consideration. In “Influenza” the story is told by the voice off basically together with interview of people who have experienced the event interchanging such interviews with the pictured scenes, all this was made with the purpose of creating the effect on the viewer. The second movie “Surviving the Dustbowl” starts with the picture of man seating in front of the screen and telling the pre-story and background information of the event which would be described later. The teller introduces the thesis of the movie and provides background information on the topic in order to raise awareness of viewers of the destructive nature of the events. The movies both engage scientists: historians, epidemiologists and other to prove the facts, also, people who survived during the events are telling their stories supporting the arguments and hypotheses of the authors of the documentaries. Besides, real names of the officials and other people are mentioned by the author who tells the story which means that it is real and it has happened in the certain time frames. Death toll and the other figures are taken from the real existing statistics of the event in the movies. Emotions play a very significant role in such true stories, creators of the movies try to rouse sympathy, compassion and fear in the viewers, so that they could aware the scope of the tragedies described. In the documentaries the relations are described and the fear of people to lose their family, love, friends or even people who were surrounding them before the tragedy or disaster.
Analyzing the events described in the movies it can be mentioned that the American character can be observed in the history of the United States, that is, we can examine that some features in the actions made by the representatives of previous generations are present now in our characters and influence our perception and understanding of the outside world. For example, in “Influenza” the American character can be observed from the situation described when there destroyed intimacy between people, they avoided communicating with each other as this could be the cause of the infection inhaling into the next human body. Here, the American selfishness is observed, as when a human has any problems, he needs a psychological support of the others and in this situation life instinct is manifested. Another such example given by the author of the movie is meant to raise the sense of patriotism in the population as the actions of the people of that time are mentioned: when the doctors failed to find cure for the virus, people started acting individually applying folk remedies like breathing kerosene and using sugar to prevent the disease. People are proud that their predecessors had such indestructible and courageous characters.
Having analyzed the two documentary movies it can be summarized that the moviemakers have succeeded in conveying national character of the country through its past. All that is mentioned here had happened to the United States and the actions of the people and their way of thinking is just the same as Americans would demonstrate nowadays in the similar situations. History of the United States is very important to know as we learn the life through our experience and it would be much better if we gained such knowledge through the experience of the others in order not to make mistakes in our own situations.