E - Abitur - Arbeit Nr. 3 - GreenButterSolutions

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E - Abitur - Arbeit Nr. 3

Death of a salesman

Death of a salesman


Roger Rosenblatt, "The Rugged Individual Rides Again

       …If you would win over a crowd of Americans, use the term rugged individualism;
       they will salute it like the flag. Why not ? Everyone always says that rugged
       individualism is the backbone, and the jawbone, of America; that a country as
       grand and sturdy as this could only have been built by the self-propelled and self-
05   interested strivings of wild-eyed nonconformists, each fur-laden Daniel Boone
       pursuing his independent errand into the wilderness. The term is fairly precise.
       More aggressive than mere individuality, less narcissistic than the "me" decade,
       it does not refer to people who live in health clubs or on roller skates, or to the
       hotly cultivated yuppies who have come to mean so much to themselves. The
10    "rugged" saves "rugged individualism" from shabbiness by implying not merely
       solitary but courageous action. Look. Here comes America. Davy Crockett,
       Thomas Edison, Teddy Roosevelt, Henry Ford. Those fellows built a nation with
       their hands. Of course, the picture is pure hokum, and everybody knows it. The
       West was won by wagon trains, the East by sailing ships, and they all had plenty
15   of passengers aboard, by necessity working together. "In history," Librarian of
       Congress Daniel Boorstin explained, "even the great explorer had been the man
       who drew others to a common purpose." Try to imagine an individual so rugged
       he could raise a roof beam on his own. (...) Modern Americans see in their own
       lifetimes far more evidence of a tame, cooperative society than an open zoo of
20   unclean beasts. For all its apostrophizing of the open road, most of the nation
       dutifully drives at 55 m.p.h., willingly undergoes searches before boarding planes
       humbly douses cigarettes from time to time. Even those who storm against gun
       control require the collectivism of lobbies to make their individual stands. The
25   term rugged individualism was coined by Herbert Hoover only a decadebefore
       the onset of Big Government and of a war where victory depended on America's
       sense of belonging to the world. (...) So why the pretense - why the evident
       pleasure - in seeing the country as a collection of loners ? It may just be a game,
       a casually preferred national image requiring no analysis, like English gentlemen
30   or Latin lovers. It may be a holdover from the country's beginnings. Any institution
       that starts out with a Declaration of Independence may feel obliged to uphold the
       standard. The myth may also arise from a logical contradiction in a  revolutionary
       society; that once the revolution is done, every rugged individual must be whittled
       down to a mere citizen for the revolutionized society to function. Thinking of one-
35    self as a rugged individual may preserve the revolution as we cross at the green.
       Or it may be part of an effort to keep life simple, especially when simplicity swims
       increasingly out of reach. The simple life, too, is a basic American myth, but it
       was a lot closer to being realized before the age of genetic finagling, test-tube
       babies and nuclear arms. Complex social problems do not harry pioneers.
40    The constant conflict between capitalism and Christianity, for example, could be
       resolved, at least in words, by the figure of the rugged individual who gives to
       charity of his free will, not by paying his taxes. No socialists here. Perhaps we
       just seek to preserve our distinctiveness from the Old World. The American
       Dream, the American Novel, the rugged American Self. Perhaps the Pilgrim
45    nation has run out of places to wander to, and thus clings to a term that implies a
       perpetual future. The fact is that the country has consistently shown its best face
       and best strength when it has defined rugged individuals as those people rugged
       enough to come to the aid of their fellows, and intelligent enough to recognize
       when they need such aid in return. (...)
50    Do we preserve the loner ideal as an act of national defensiveness, to protect the
       country from conceding that it is too much alone in the world ? Before the Second
       World War, a great many Americans sought international isolation. Once the
       nation became a superpower it achieved more isolation than anyone ever
       dreamed of; in a bipolar world, both poles are alone. The individualist Henry
55    David Thoreau called America "The Great Western Pioneer whom the nations
       follow." Do they indeed ? All right, then, says the proud country: if we could be left
       alone, let us be alone gloriously, ruggedly. And by extension: Let every individual
       be alone. Prop him in front of his Apple II, and point him toward the prairie.
       It's an odd country that likes to say such things, yet knows, and believes in, the
60    opposite. One of America's saving graces has been its ability to live comfortably
       with certain forms of hypocrisy; essentially we are no different today from our
       forebears who gave their lusty solo king-of-the-hill yells helping the people across
       town to fight a fire and demanding that the central government provide roads,
       protection, cheap land and transportation.

(about 840 words)

from: TIME, October 15, 1984, slightly abridged


1. rugged - showing signs of strength; strongly constituted
2. to salute - to honor
3. jawbone - Kiefer
4. sturdy - marked by physical strength or vigor
5. yuppy - young urban professional
6. Davy Crockett (1786-1836) - frontiersman, congressman, who died in the defence of the Alamo, a fort in Texas, against the Mexicans
7. Thomas Edison (1847-1931) - inventor, e.g. of the phonograph
8. Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) - 26th American President
9. to whittle down - to cut down to size
10.genetic finagling - manipulation of genes
11.to harry - to worry
12.Henry D. Thoreau (1817-1862) - social philosopher, non-conformist advocate of passive resistance, of 'Civil Disobedience'
13.Apple II - a personal computer
14.forebears - ancestors


 1. Comprehension

1.1. What is the traditional meaning of rugged individualism?
1.2. Which explanation does Roger Rosenblatt offer for the survival of the idea of rugged individualism?
1.3. Show the author's personal attitude towards the notion of rugged individualism.
1.4. Which aspects of American social reality that do not fit in the traditional concept does Rosenblatt point out?

2. Analysis and discussion

2.1. Divide the given text into its constituent parts and find adequate headings for each part.
2.2. Explain the elusory concept of the American Dream. Make use of your reading knowledge.
2.3. A fundamental belief of Americans, which has always attracted immigrants to the United States, is stated in the opening lines of the Declaration of

           "We hold these truths to be self-evident:
           that all men are created equal, that they
           are endowed by their Creator with certain
           inalienable rights; that among these are
           life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Do you agree with these "self-evident truths" ? Are all people created equal? Do people have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
2.4. Does Willy Loman fit in the concept of the American Dream? Give reasons for your answer. Refer to Arthur Miller's play.
2.5. Would you like to live in the United States ? Explain why or why not in about 200 words.

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