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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

5. Masculine

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Activities: Author Activities

Nat Love - Teaching Tips

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  • During both his career as a cowboy and his stint as a railroad worker, Love records his feelings of awe for the natural beauty and vast expanses of the United States. Ask students to think about his relationship to the western landscape and to America as a nation. At the close of Chapter XX, after detailing the beauties of the land, Love exhorts his reader to "let your chest swell with pride that you are an American." He goes on to proclaim, "I have seen a large part of America, and am still seeing it... America, I love thee, Sweet land of Liberty, home of the brave and the free." How does the landscape contribute to Love's sense of pride in his country? How does Love's status as a former slave complicate his celebration of the "liberty" and "freedom" of the United States? You might ask students to look at images of Yosemite or the Grand Canyon as they think about this issue.

  • When Love is taken captive by the Native Americans he calls "Yellow Dog's Tribe," he attributes their generosity in sparing his life both to his own bravery and to the fact that he is black, since, as he puts it, the tribe "was composed largely of half breeds, and there was a large percentage of colored blood in the tribe." Despite this acknowledgment of shared racial heritage, Love conspicuously distances himself from the Native Americans who adopt him. Ask students to consider the racial politics of this scene. How does Love respond to his captivity? How does he portray his Native American/African American captors? What seems to be his role within the tribe's social hierarchy and how might it be influenced by race? How and why does he escape?

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