The Making of the American Dream: An Unconventional History of the United States from 1607 to 1900 - Vol. 2

The Making of the American Dream: An Unconventional History of the United States from 1607 to 1900 - Vol. 2

The Making of the American Dream: An Unconventional History of the United States from 1607 to 1900 - Vol. 2

The Making of the American Dream: An Unconventional History of the United States from 1607 to 1900 - Vol. 2

Excerpt

In 1941, a book entitled The Mind of the South, written by an unknown Southernborn journalist, W. J. Cash, focused attention on the mindset of the average white male Southerner. Originally published in a series of articles in H. L. Mencken’s American Mercury magazine, one of the leading intellectual publications of that period, it enjoyed an immediate success and went through one reprinting after another. The author’s basic thesis was that the newly industrialized South with its textile mills of the 1920s did not represent a fundamental change in the mentality of the average Southern white male but merely placed him in a new environment and that he continued to live within the projective system of his antecedents and their attachment to the soil. What Cash set out to illustrate was that despite the passage of time, the Southerner retained much the same attitude as his ancestors who marched off to war singing Dixie in the belief that his way of life was superior to that of the Yankee, and he would have no problem whipping the Yankee’s ass. While in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind and David O. Selznick’s subsequent film, only the upper class was shown as voicing those sentiments, Cash viewed them as indigenous to the entire white male population. Moreover, nothing had changed over that 80-year period. The white male still was romantic and sentimental; he still loved the military and was dogmatic in his religious beliefs. At times he also showed a streak of cruelty. Cash viewed these characteristics as being shaped by two factors. First was the Southerner’s attachment to the small plot of soil on which he cultivated cotton, along with the fact that the growing season for the crop from planting the seed to picking the product was only three months. As a result, he had an enormous amount of free time at his disposal which he spent hunting and fishing and just dreaming. The other factor was the homogeneity of the population, almost entirely Anglo-Saxon, and the resultant . . .

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