Compare And Contrast Zitkala-Sa

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Authors Frederick Jackson Turner and Zitkala-Sa can be compared in one aspect: they both have a great deal to say about land, agency, and the American frontier. The similarities between the two end there, however. Turner is a major proponent of typical frontier ideology. He is passionate about the land, but only insofar as it can be used for further westward expansion. He insists that “Americans” are characterized by their rugged individualism, yet cannot imagine Native Americans as anything other than a single-minded collective, a mere object for colonists to act upon. He believes that cultural consolidation is not only a positive thing, but the best possible indication of a society’s progress. Zitkala-Sa, on the other hand, understands the…show more content…
Bits of nature—water, wind, trees, shadows—are weaved into every part of her childhood. She says that, day by day, “cool morning breezes swept freely through [her] dwelling” and that “the mere shifting of a cloud shadow in the landscape near by was enough to change [her] impulses” (Zitkala-Sa 75). Zitkala-Sa’s attachment to land and nature is most obvious near the end of her work, when she compares herself to a tree while reflecting on the effects of her eastern boarding school education. She says, “Now a cold bare pole I seemed to be, planted in a strange earth” (112). Trees are not meant to be “shorn of [their] branches” and “uprooted,” as she was, but are supposed to remain where they were “planted” (112). For Zitkala-Sa, western land is not merely a series of boundary lines that can be bought, worked, and sold for profit. The land is all at once the backbone of her childhood, the home she wishes she had never left, and an innate part of her identity. She notes that during her time at boarding school she “lost all consciousness of the nature world about [her]” (111). And although she recognizes this phase of her life as a “stage of [her] own evolution” (111), she does not see it as a positive change. At the end of her essay, she questions “whether real life or long-lasting death lies beneath” this removal from nature and movement toward “civilization” (113). While Turner views land as nothing but an investment opportunity for pioneers, Zitkala-Sa believes there is something inherently valuable, even essential to her humanity, in having a personal connection to the earth. In this way, her attitude directly contradicts Turner’s frontier
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