By Thomas S. Gladsky
A learn of how within which ethnic identities are created and formed through literature
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Additional resources for Princes, Peasants and Other Polish Selves: Ethnicity in American Literature
The debate in the periodical press over immigration, at times nothing more than the racist protestations of a threatened Wasp establishment, was for the most part an honest and necessary exploration of the effects of immigration on American institutions. It was also the first extended discussion of ethnicity and its role in American life. To a great degree, the periodical press reflected America's ambivalence toward the new immigrants, alternately characterized as a blessing and a plague. Even the most prestigious journals, The Atlantic, Century, Forum, The Nation, published articles about the economic, political, and racial threat posed by the immigrants.
Although we learn very little about the Pole with the non-Polish sounding name, Alex Kalouga fits the model introduced earlier in the century. Kalougaa soldier of fortune who was engaged with Guy Fawkes, served as a hired sword in various campaigns, buccaneered in South America, and involved himself with Lord Baltimore's intriguesbrings romance, adventure, worldliness, and bravado to Maryland's shores in 1644. He speaks only a few sentences in the novel, enough to explain that his wife is the heroic Marie Zelenski and that he intends to name his Maryland grant "Luckenough," a corruption of Loekenoff, his wife's village.
And although in the last half of the century only a few writers used Poles as characters, their work illustrates both the persistence of the literary image created in the 1830s and the gradual emergence of a new set of symbolsresulting in a somewhat different conception and definition of ethnicity in general and Polishness in particular. In the latter half of the century, writers continued to draw upon the images and themes of the 1830s to portray the beau ideal of European character. Louisa May Alcott is a case in point.