John Steinbeck's "Americans and the Land" Essay Analysis

In John Steinbeck’s “Americans and the Land”, he talks about how the colonizers and early inhabitants of America destroyed the land and damaged nature (Steinbeck 64-67). According to Steinbeck, the immigrants from Europe burned the forests, killed the buffaloes and showed no kindness towards the American land. He also notes how even the Americans of today continue to devastate their environment. He illustrates this by citing the dumping of garbage and industrial wastes on rivers and the irresponsible pollution of the air from the combustion of coal and oil. Throughout the essay, Steinbeck expresses his disappointment on how the American land is being treated. Steinbeck calls on Americans to put an end to the careless destruction of nature; lest they suffer the consequences of these evil doings in the future.

Response to the Reading

Steinbeck considers the Americans’ relationship with the land as a hostile relationship. Americans seem to be unsympathetic to the land where they live. In the eyes of Steinbeck, Americans have an uncaring attitude towards their environment. Their callousness can be observed through their heartless destruction of nature by polluting the land, air, and water.

The Americans do not care if they burn the trees in the forest or kill all the birds in the sky. They seem to have this burning need to survive through the destruction of nature. Americans do not realize that by doing so, they cannot assure themselves of survival in the future. Nonetheless, towards the end of Steinbeck’s essay, he articulates his observation that the Americans are now becoming more aware of the need to conserve the environment. Steinbeck now talks about how there is a growing outrage among Americans whenever they hear of the destruction of nature to give way to progress. He notes that contemporary Americans already know one is not justified to ruin the land just because he owns it.

Comparing Steinbeck’s “Americans and the Land” with Robert Frost’s poem “The Gift Outright”, one can see similarities and differences with how they describe American’s relationship with their land (Frost 1). Frost talks about how the Americans were committed to their land as opposed to Steinbeck’s description of the heartless treatment that the Americans did to their land. Frost points out that many lives were lost defending the American land. On the other hand, Steinbeck recalls how the Americans used the land for their survival. Another aspect that depicted the Americans’ relationship with the land is the discussion about war. In Frost’s poem, he reminds the readers about how the Americans gave up their lives to protect America. Steinbeck’s mention of war refers to the dropping of the bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and how he regrets such move by the Americans because of the havoc it created. Steinbeck mentions about the detrimental impact of the early settlers on American land. Unlike Steinbeck, Frost does not indicate any harmful act that the English colonizers did to the American land. Frost conveys his thoughts about how the early Americans did not know what to do with the land that they possess. On the contrary, Steinbeck describes in detail how the early American settlers wrongly utilized the land. Frost’s remarks that the Americans consider the land as a gift, which has to be protected even if it has to result in war. Steinbeck in most part of his essay does not think that the Americans consider their land as a gift, citing ways of how the Americans unwisely use their surroundings. A similarity between Steinbeck and Frost is that they both agree that Americans should love their country and must actively defend it from colonizers.

Overall, one can say that both Steinbeck and Frost instill to the readers that Americans must value their land because it represents them. Love and respect for their land mean love and respect for their country.


Works Cited
Frost, Robert. “The Gift Outright.” n.d. Web. 15 June 2012.
Steinbeck, John. “Americans and the Land.” n.d. 64-67.

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