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Free American Literature Essay Examples & Topics

Free American Literature Essay Examples & Topics

It is tough to come up with a definition of what American literature is. It is a product of the cultural diversity of people who live and write in the United States. However, not every literary work produced in the US can be included in this list.

Of course, American literature is predominantly in English. One of the early 21st century developments is an increase in authors who write in their language. However, they still can be considered American. As a result, African American, Asian American, and other ethnic branches of literature emerged.

Assigned to write an essay about American literature? In this article, our experts tried to simplify the task for you. We’ve described the periods of the United States literary tradition so you can navigate freely. Also, check a list of topics for your American literature essay. Finally, see some examples of the works written by other students.

The Many Periods of American Literature

Literature reflects society. It magnifies all the good and bad values, mirroring the life of the country and its development. In this section, we’ve described the main periods in US history. It will help you realize what to discuss in your essay on American literature.

  1. The Colonial and The Early National Period (1607-1830)

The first European settlers started describing their experiences in the 1600s. The narration was practical, direct, and copied the British literary style. The earliest American literary works were mainly nonfictional. The first president of the Jamestown Colony wrote about his personal experiences and published them from 1608 till 1624. Such prominent writers as Nathaniel Ward and John Winthrop elaborated on the topic of religion. African American tradition started during that period, too. For instance, Phillis Wheatley and Olaudah Equiano created the first slave narratives.

  1. The Period of American Renaissance (1830-1870)

Romanticism values a person’s emotions over reason. American writers embraced this movement at the beginning of the 19th century. For example, Edgar Allan Poe was one of the vivid examples of Romantic writers. In New England, several thinkers emerged too after 1830. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote essays, while Henry Thoreau wrote a story of his life. Poets such as Herman Melville and Walt Whitman began publishing their works at that time too.

  1. The Realistic and Naturalist Period (1870-1914)

The Civil War fueled the realistic period in American literature. Mark Twain was one of the most notable writers of that era. In his novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he depicted the actual Americans.

Naturalism is another literary movement that was prevalent at that time. For example, Theodore Dreiser embraced it. His novel Sister Carrie is an essential American naturalist novel.

  1. The American Modernist Period (1914-1939)

The modernist period was one of the most fruitful in American history. It got intensified after the advancement in science and technology. The outcomes of WWI and the Great Depression caused a lot of contradiction. Thus, it found its way into art and literature. Scott Fitzgerald, Richard Wright, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, T.S. Eliot, and many more writers became dominant voices.

  1. The Contemporary Period (1939-Present)

The period has started after World War II. American literature during that time became more inclusive and had a variety of voices. Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison tell stories of race and sexuality. American contemporary novels had many forms, like postmodern and feminist ones.

21 Amazing Topics on American Literature

You may wonder what to write in your American literature essay. The abundance of writers and literary works make it difficult to choose. That’s why we combined several ideas. We hope you’ll find them useful in identifying the topic for your work. If not, you can let our title generator create a few original ideas on the subject.

But first, check these ideas for your essay on American literature:

  1. Harriet Beecher’s art of persuasion as the author in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
  2. Naturalism and regionalism in American literary tradition.
  3. The influence of Phillis Wheatley on American Literature.
  4. What is American literature? What are its characteristics?
  5. The themes of early American literature.
  6. The importance of magical realism in American literature.
  7. Oral storytelling techniques in Native American literature.
  8. The influence of naturalism on American writers.
  9. Early American literature and the power of religious ideologies.
  10. The idea of masculinity in the colonial period in American literature.
  11. The black experience manifested through African American poetry.
  12. Historical factors that influenced the Romantic period of American literature.
  13. How did Gothic literature in American tradition start?
  14. Levels of literacy in African-American literature.
  15. Native American mythology in American literature.
  16. The issues of divorce and love in Latin American literature.
  17. The evolution of the role of women in American literature.
  18. The theme of perseverance in African American literature.
  19. The topic of slavery in early American literature.
  20. The significance of the American Renaissance for American literature.
  21. The role of James Fennimore Cooper in enhancing nationalism.

Thank you for your attention! American literature is indeed a vast subject. We hope that this article will help you focus on a good idea. If you are still unsure what topic to choose, check our American literature essay samples below. You can look through them faster if you use our summarizer.

1547 Best Essay Examples on American Literature

Edgar Poe and “Cask of Amontillado”

On the day of the carnival Montresor goes looking for Fortunato and finds him a bit tipsy and it is then that he tells him of how he had acquired a rare kind of amontillado [...]
  • Pages: 5
  • Words: 1465

“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

In interpreting the book, the main area of discussion will be supporting the meanings of the work whereas in evaluating the book, the focus will be coming up with the literary merit of the book [...]
  • Pages: 4
  • Words: 1235

Word Craft in American Literature

It is possible to little the use of the words and still drives points home this is attained by incorporating sign language amid the use of words.
  • Pages: 2
  • Words: 616

Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”

And Steinbeck offered his audience a clean view of the end when George made Lennie promise "to hide in the brush" if he gets in trouble again, as if it was an absolute fact to [...]
  • Pages: 2
  • Words: 614

Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” Criticism

To illustrate, The Story of an Hour narrative is based on the supposed death of Brentley Mallard - the husband to Louise Mallard - thus reflecting a number of real life deaths that characterized Chopin's [...]
  • Pages: 5
  • Words: 1412

“Being There” by Jerzy Kosinski

Since the purpose of this paper is to unveil the theme and the thesis Kosinski wanted to convey to the reader I am going to unearth the slightest details of the book's and movie's plot.
  • Pages: 5
  • Words: 1486

A Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

By the time of her death from cancer of the breast only 18 months after publication of this book, she had been awarded a freedom medal by the president and indeed a revolution to fight [...]
  • Pages: 7
  • Words: 1933

“Half and Half” by Amy Tan Review

To illustrate, Rose and Ted disregard their parents' race-based objections to the couple's proposed marriage, thus depicting fate and wrong decisions jointly facilitating the characters' downfall.
  • Pages: 2
  • Words: 627

Fredrick Douglas Characters. Impact of Slavery

The institution of slavery drove and shaped the enslaved people to respond and behave in different ways in that Fredrick Bailey was forced to flee away from slavery and later changed his name to Fredrick [...]
  • Pages: 6
  • Words: 1785

Analysis of Gwendonly Brooks’ Books

The African American are described to be living in distress and real poverty based on the description of the housing the environment and the lifestyle they lead.
  • Pages: 2
  • Words: 702

Muhammad Ali: “Redemption Song” Analysis

Even though most Americans consider him a traitor, he is regarded as one of the greatest boxers in the world."Redemption Song" by Mark Marqusee is a book that describes the cost of the choices that [...]
  • Pages: 6
  • Words: 1635

Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle Book Response

All the events in the book are connected to the author herself and their entire family and those who happen to be born in poor backgrounds, whereby she is after informing the reader on the [...]
  • Pages: 2
  • Words: 709

“Empire Rising” Novel by Thomas Kelly

As the story turns out to be, Michael, who is the main character in the story is being brought out as one of those Irish men who had come to America in pursuit of wealth [...]
  • Pages: 8
  • Words: 2240

Parallelism in the Declaration of Independence

This is the technique that Jefferson uses in writing the Declaration of Independence. In using this technique Jefferson enumerates to illustrate the patience of an oppressed people.
  • Pages: 2
  • Words: 556

Synopsis of “Water” Short Story by Lee Hoffman

From the story it is clearly indicated that, Evan was very disappointed with what Redmor treated the people of this area; and decided to take a ravage especially because his friend Hank was shot.
  • Pages: 2
  • Words: 629

American Literature and Community

This piece of literary work is written at the period of the end of the civil war in America, and the south's era of greatness is coming to an end. This is a reflection of [...]
  • Pages: 3
  • Words: 960

Four American Authors Review

The effect of this well-structured rhyme on the tone of the poem is evident upon recitation as it gives it a musical sound.
  • Pages: 2
  • Words: 714

Death Penalty in John Grisham’s ‘The chamber’

The first accomplice-Rollie Wedge was the person who was funding the operation, the second knew the location of the office to be bombed, and the third was an explosive expert who had a knack for [...]
  • Pages: 6
  • Words: 1700

Colorblind’ by Tim Wise Review

Tim Wise, one of the best speakers in the United States of America, says that even though the President states on the colorblindness society and he is sure that racism is combated and there is [...]
  • Pages: 6
  • Words: 1655

“Edge” by Sylvia Plath

As it is one of her last composed poems, there are a lot of discussions surrounding the influences of her near imminent death on the sad melancholic tone of the poem and is it is [...]
  • Pages: 2
  • Words: 571

Morality in Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland

The story presents a tale of the Wielands as a precautionary tale that is meant to cushion against taking hard stance in religious matters; Theodore Wieland's over-commitment to religion is presented in this book as [...]
  • Pages: 5
  • Words: 1423

American Society Through the Eyes of Hitchcock

Hitchcock's books and essays have been of great admiration by most of his readers throughout the years in America and all over the globe. His skills in presenting American culture and romance are quite admirable; [...]
  • Pages: 2
  • Words: 567

“Why I Live at the P.O” by Eudora Welty

The main character by the name "Sister" who is a first-person narrator, gives the story of her side of the family spat which served to her to leave the home of the family in which [...]
  • Pages: 2
  • Words: 567

Short Story “Ransom of Red Chief” by O. Henry

Yet, the worst was still laying ahead it is not only that Dorset had refused to pay ransom for the release of his son, but he himself demanded ransom from both kidnappers, in order to [...]
  • Pages: 5
  • Words: 1469

“A Stomach-Level Sadness” by David Foster Wallace

Since the beginning of his speech, David Foster Wallace indicates that the speech is going to be informal and tries to break the ice between the audience and himself by using such words as "bullshitty" [...]
  • Pages: 4
  • Words: 1130

Impression of Emily Dickinson’s Work

The "discerning Eye" that sees through society's "Madness" is certainly the poet's and, implicitly, belongs to certain other naysayers as well."I felt a Funeral, in my Brain" articulates a state of consciousness that follows the [...]
  • Pages: 2
  • Words: 1120

“Class and Community” by Dawley Alan

According to Dawley in class in community, wrote of the tremendous changes in the life of the shoemaker 'S" as the shoemaking industry moved from a cottage industry to the factory system.
  • Pages: 4
  • Words: 1080

Symbolism and Imagery in “Facing It” by Yusef Komunyakaa

The poem portrays a vivid image of the emotional rollercoaster the author is experiencing as he visits the Vietnam Veterans Memorial."Facing It" successfully incorporates the use symbolism and imagery throughout the structure of the poem [...]
  • Pages: 6
  • Words: 1564

Flannery O’Connor’s Famous Stories

Looking at the morbidly Catholic state of mind that is the necessary reason sustaining the short stories of Flannery O'Connor, it is necessary to pay attention to the special techniques that compose her style of [...]
  • Pages: 4
  • Words: 1095

“Rules of the Game” by Amy Tan

The opening page generally shows the life of the young girl who at the end of the book the reader expects a success story of the narrator.
  • Pages: 2
  • Words: 606

“Red Harvest” by Dashiell Hammett

Red Harvest was the first detective story written by Hammett and the first crime fiction that created a new sub-genre in a crime fiction literature.
  • Pages: 5
  • Words: 1475

“Between Two Nations” by Michael Jones-Correa Book Review

The author considers the life chances of generations of Mexican-Americans, who remain after a near-century of legal freedom the most obvious and, in view of the very considerable number of Mexican-Americans political refugees in the [...]
  • Pages: 6
  • Words: 1874

L. M. Alcott Signature of Reform

The book is a collection of experts of Alcott's writing, both non-fiction and fiction, that discloses the novelist's sincere commitment to the reforms introduced to America from the 1830s up to the 1880s.
  • Pages: 4
  • Words: 1109

“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe

One of the suggestions that dominate Poe's talent in writing "The Raven" was the succession of terrible events the author encountered in his life.
  • Pages: 3
  • Words: 1016

Jan Morris and her Memoirs “Conundrum”

For the writer, the concept of femininity means the expression of the ethical category; it is something elevated and sophisticated that so that it is always hard to tune up the strings of her soul.
  • Pages: 2
  • Words: 563

“Living Like Weasels” by Annie Dillard

However, there is no denying that human beings are not completely divine beings; there are animal instincts in us, like using the five senses to judge our environment and react to it; the desire to [...]
  • Pages: 3
  • Words: 846

Jon Sensbach on Black Christianity

Rebecca is torn apart by her racial and religious issues; as she "stood where the three main currents of the eighteen-century black Atlantic world flowed together: the dramatic expansion of the slave trade; the Afro-Atlantic [...]
  • Pages: 2
  • Words: 269

Failed Leadership Can Only Be Whipped by Satire

In what is a parallel to Marx's philosophy and attack on the exploitation of the workers by the capitalists; and therefore a call for a revolution, the farm animals are inspired by the counsel of [...]
  • Pages: 10
  • Words: 2609

“A Bear Named Trouble” by Bauer

The evidence from the plot of the book that supports the position taken on understanding the underlying factors of behavior is the realization that the bear had killed the goose due to the feelings of [...]
  • Pages: 2
  • Words: 799

“The Pursuit of Happyness” by Chris Gardner

It also help us study that we should be grateful for humble beginnings and in whatever we do we must do it to our best.we may go through hardships and at times life is intolerable [...]
  • Pages: 6
  • Words: 2248

Phil Cousineau’s “The Art of Pilgrimage”

Moreover, as we go on and discover the meaning and objectives of pilgrimage, we will realize we are dealing with a different kind of art: the art of seeing what is sacred."What legendary travelers have [...]
  • Pages: 15
  • Words: 4744

“Catcher in the Rye” by J.Salinger

The important literary device used to depict Holden confronting the pressure of the society and the corruption of the adult world is characterization, as the main character calls people he meets "phony" and refers to [...]
  • Pages: 2
  • Words: 1030

“Unpardonable Sin” by Hawthorne

The Novel, Unpardonable Sin written by Hawthorne is a detailed criticism of the way of life of the Puritan. The various examples of Jesus in His dealing with those who commit sin is relevant as [...]
  • Pages: 2
  • Words: 616

Willy Loman and the American Dream

As a result of his boasting, a great deal of what his family knows about Willy is based upon the image he feels he must portray of himself in order to bring himself in line [...]
  • Pages: 5
  • Words: 1737