Myth In Neil Gaiman's 'American Gods'

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EXTENDED ESSAY Title: Myth and Modern America Research Question: How is contemporary America portrayed through the use of myth in Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’? ENGLISH A: LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE CATEGORY 3 4301 words Introduction As generations of people migrated to America from all corners of the Earth, they carried their stories and myths with them. These histories, cultures and religions of the people of America are represented here in the novel as Gods and Goddesses and other mythical figures. Gaiman’s novel American Gods examine what it means to be American by realizing the cultural legacy of the nation through its mythical beginnings and how these traditional values have evolved to form contemporary ideals, resulting in the…show more content…
But how many of them know who you are?” Easter’s resignation is seen, as she admits the fact of the matter and agrees to join Wednesday in his quest to fight the New Gods. This quote is also largely significant in showing the conflict between tradition and contemporaneity, where the origins of such festivals are forgotten and are celebrated without the knowledge of its true significance but rather has evolved to fit the conventional ideals of American contemporary society today. America is a land founded by immigrants who brought along their cultures and Gods with them. This is one of the big ideas that Gaiman presents in his novel to show the dichotomy between tradition dying out and modern ideals taking over. The entry of new Gods into America can be summarized through Wednesday’s narrative of his presence into the land. Wednesday, also known as the Norse god Odin, was brought to America by native Nordic men who upon their arrival, performed a sacrifice in his name. This act of sacrifice demonstrates the immense power of their belief, hence Odin “stayed”. However, through the progress of time, Odin had been forgotten and this is seen in Chapter One when the new gods of progress and the internet, relevant today, abduct Shadow and threaten him in an attempt to find…show more content…
From here, the importance of Shadow, one of the main protagonists of the story is seen. Shadow’s defining feature in the novel is his inability to be defined. Throughout the novel, Shadow begins to unravel more about his identity (including the fact that Mr Wednesday or more significantly Odin is his father), to fully be alive rather than merely passing through his life. As the reincarnation of the Norse God Baldur and a manifestation of the mysterious King of America, Shadow acts as a bridge between many different elements such as the Old and New Gods, the Gods and men, and also between life and death. In the death ritual at the end of the novel, Shadow reinvents this old Nordic tradition, adhering to its spirit and form, but modifying it to include elements of the modern day. Due to the fact that Shadow possessed the ability to blend the past with the ever-changing future, he does not cut himself off from the rich foundation of his past and is able to change and grow as a person at the same time. Shadow’s ability to embrace honesty where the other gods choose lies, makes him ultimately more successful in the Novel. Using the Gods to show this blend of preservation and modernization, Gaiman effectively shows that this model is the best way to honour tradition while still adapting to a changing world. It could be said that this is the very
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