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View Diary: The American Myth of the Self Made Man and the Loner Hero (58 comments)

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  •  Shouldn't the title be "Myths" instead of "Myth"? (9+ / 0-)

    Just as contemporary American conservativism actually embodies several different movements that sometimes have coalitioned with each other and at other times conflicted with each other (see the Republican Presidential nomination process for good examples!) despite being viewed by many Americans as a monolythic movement, the different beliefs of American individualism and lone heroes should not be seen as a continuous evolution of a single myth.  I don't believe that Ayn Rand and her Objectivism would have subscribed to Horatio Alger's morality tales or vice-versa.  I doubt that Howard Roark would have lifted bootblack Ragged Dick out of poverty and into middle class economic security like Ragged Dick's benefactor does because of Ragged Dick's virtues or that Ragged Dick would find it within his moral values to blow up his own building like Howard Roark does because it wasn't designed and built his way.

    Also, Horatio Alger's boys juvenile fiction can be easily seen as an expression of Alger's probable homosexuality and his alleged sexual interest in boys (I do not know what age levels that covered).  He left his two-year career as a Unitarian minister because of charges of inappropriate relations with two teenage boys.  Later as his boys books became successful, he became very involved in befriending street boys (I have never seen any mention of an interest in street girls whom I assume existed too at that time).  He adopted one boy and a few years later took in another one to live in his apartment.  One biographical article that I read (I believe it was in the book "The Christopher Street Reader") posited that reports of the relationship between him and his adopted son paint the picture of lovers, albeit "daddy-son" lovers with Alger as the sugar daddy.  (Adoption was sometimes used in the past by gay and lesbian lovers to create legal protection for their relationships since marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships were not available options.)  Likewise, in his stories a virtuous boy is eventually noticed by an older, wealthy benefactor who lifts the boy up the socio-economic ladder.

    His morality tales, cleaned up for Victorian heterosexual society, are disguised ideals of the same-sex relationships that he was familiar with in his personal life.  When put in perspective, the only individualism exemplified is a young poor boy who strives to live out societally and culturally expected virtues of honesty and hard work.  The moral of the story was that American boys should be inspired to do the same thing, and then they too MIGHT be rewarded by being noticed and boosted by an older male benefactor.  These stories really reflect a combination of Alger's same-sex sexual relationships as well as the old-boy networks that permeated his higher education experience at Harvard University.  It's not about bucking society and doing things one's way; it's about joining and fitting into society.

    •  Wow! The things you learn here at the DK! (0+ / 0-)

      I never knew those things about Alger.

      The whole premise of being Republican is the awful thought that somewhere, some poor person has a dollar that some rich person actually deserves. - Olbermann, at Cornell, 3/31/2011

      by TC MITS on Wed Mar 14, 2012 at 10:25:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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