Individualism has always been close and dear to American hearts. Even since colonial days, Americans have fought for and displayed individualism. Americans thrive on their differences and ideals to run their daily lives. The four stories Daisy Miller, Back to Babylon, Invisible Man, and Death of a Salesman display just that.
The first story Daisy Miller, by Henry James, is about an American female in European culture. Daisy, as you can see from her name, is a very plain and common girl. There is nothing royal or elite about her. On the other hand, she meets a Swiss man named Winterbourne. As you can tell from his name, he is very pristine and distinguished. This in a sense describes the vast difference in characters that compose America and other countries. The men around Daisy perceived her as a stereotypical American flirt.
On Daisy’s trip to Italy, she once again meets a man. Apparently, Daisy has an attraction to the foreign folk, this time an Italian chap named Giovanelli. He and Winterbourne constantly are fighting over the courting over Daisy. Finally, Daisy’s “flirting” got the best of her. She contracted Roman fever and passed away. From that point on, men were always in arguments, blaming each other for Daisy’s death. This shows how American ideals can effect other societies. Winterbourne, Giovanelli, and others were so enthralled by this American, it ultimately ended up in death.
Fitzgerald’s Back to Babylon also portrays Americans as different than their European counterparts. This story is about a wealthy American female who is falling for a French playboy. Here, Fitzgerald displays the Americans as individuals who are intrigued by foreigners. Americans have fought for separation for centuries, however ironically we cannot get enough of other countries. In the story, the American and Frenchman get married. They are a perfect match for one another, both drunks and separated from the rest of the world. Their life seems to keep going in the same direction, no where except down. Their drinking habits catch up to them and lose all their money in the great stock market crash. In the end, Fitzgerald shows of money, drugs, and life’s individual purposes sometimes get intertwined.
Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man depicts an African American salve in the Deep South. Presenting individualism in the Deep South by a black man was totally unheard-of in his days. The black man, Jackson, was very smart. So smart indeed, he received a scholarship for his scholastic achievements. One very hard moment for Jackson was when he was invited to the predominately white grand ball. The ball was put on by whites, for the whites, and to recognize the whites. Jackson swallowed his pride and attended the ball. This showed great individualism from Jackson to step up to society and take one for his people.
Authur Miller’s classic, Death of a Salesman is very different from the rest of the short stories discussed in this paper. Rather than comparing Americans to each other, Miller contrasts one person throughout time. Willie Loaman was a struggling salesman living in Brooklyn at the end of his career. Willie has a hard time facing with reality and realizes that his time is over. In order for Individualism to be present, a person must be strong-willed and self-sufficient. During his life, Willie has been both of those. However, nowadays he is living his life through his two boys and keeps having flashbacks of when times where better. Loaman was a very proud person. He always would proclaim how much he made a week and how he could sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo. He kept these figures and instances close to his heart and never gave them up. It takes a strong individual to do just that.
As you can see from the four stories Daisy Miller, Back to Babylon, Invisible Man, and Death of a Salesman, Individualism can be portrayed and examined numerous ways. It could be described as internal and external, personal or societal. Americans are for surely a different breed. We are unique in the fact that we express our differences and praise them. Individualism is one of the few traits that Americans can call “theirs”.