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Final Paper= Chase White

Page history last edited by Chase White 8 years, 3 months ago

Abraham Lincoln, an American Hero

Chase White

American Literature


What is a hero? By definition, a hero is “someone, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.” When someone thinks of a hero, they automatically think of a super-human that possess a special power that allows them to fight crime throughout their lives. These super-human heroes are mostly seen in comic books and unrealistic. These unrealistic expectations, such as, the ability of flying or super strength are some of the reasons that we as humans associate super human as heroes. Real men and women in our society cannot fulfill these expectations. However, if we were to view “normal” people in our lives in great detail, one would begin to see characteristics within them that would be equal or similar to the type of super-human heroes’ qualities that we have in our minds associated with being a hero.It is believed that a hero can be anyone that shows courage when faced with a problem. It is believed that a hero is someone that is able to help out another in various ways. It is believed that a hero can be someone who saves another in danger, no matter the degree. It is believed that a hero is someone that is there to help others and gives them strength to go on through life's difficulties. It is not about a tight suit, a cape, and super strength.

            In American history, many men have stepped up to form this great country that we as Americans call home. From George Washington becoming our first president in 1789 to Martin Luther King Jr. fighting for Civil Rights in the 1960’s. Sadly, we do not portray these men as heroes due to the expectations of what a hero is created solely on we see in movies and comic books. By definition and based on actions along, these two men are what we call American heroes. We do not call them this because they fought crime, but because they defied the assumptions put on them by other countries and even the expectations that were put on them by American society. Both George Washington and Martin Luther King Jr. had a journey they endured throughout their lives that would compare to that of the super-humans that we usually associate with the term hero. These men stepped out of the expectations of society to pursue what they felt was right, and to bring forth the truth behind their actions during their time. Having this courage in time of distress in America is what magnifies these people among the rest of society.  

A prime example of an American hero and a reflection on character studied in American Literature would be the way William E. Genipap portrays Abraham Lincoln in his book, “Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America”. William E. Genipap depicts Abraham Lincoln as a “normal” American hero with modernistic ideas through his actions throughout his life, and not a super-human. Genipap shows his struggles through his early childhood with his parents along with the extra effort he had to make to achieve what he felt was right. The book continues to show his heroism with the inclusion of his beliefs of slavery in America and how Lincoln stood up for his beliefs even if that caused internal warfare. Lincoln showed how equality could not and cannot be gained without inequality by having courage and doing what he felt was right. Throughout the book, “Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America”, William Gienapp magnifies Abraham Lincoln from the beginning of his childhood through his presidency during the Civil War. These years were the most important years in Lincoln’s life. His experiences as he matured molded him into being who he was going to be as an American President. As a young man, Lincoln was raised on a farm with his father who had very little education. During the 1820’s, men that grew up on a farm were made to aid their fathers in every aspect they could handle. Education of any other profession was not easily accepted. The farm was the key to feeding the rest of the family and it was your duty to work and fulfill the needs of your father. Lincoln struggled with these tasks as a young boy because of his persistent craving to gain knowledge. This craving was not normal in boys his age, but even if it was, it was highly disregarded. However, Lincoln was set on gaining as much knowledge as he could. He would speak to workers nearby on his breaks in order to improve his fear of public speaking skills (Gienapp pg. 8). As a young man, he was a member of the Whig party, where men would stand up against slavery and racism in America. As a Whig Member, this prohibited him from getting the role of the President of the United States five different times before getting elected. Many people thought that he would get rid of slavery in America and so this cut down on the votes for him because southern states favored slavery. The courage to stand up for his beliefs in this time of America was what set him apart from others. Not only that, he ran for the most prestigious role that an American can achieve. Upon failures, he stood by his beliefs and was finally elected into the presidential role on November 6, 1860. Gienapp allows us to think that if Lincoln did not have the obstacle with his parents in his childhood, he may have not had the same enthusiasm to become someone great in society. Which we will also see with his enthusiasm towards winning the Civil War. He had a vision of America being greater than it already was, and he was not going to allow others to influence his beliefs.

            Upon a close reading of book, “Abraham Lincoln: And Civil War America”, one begin to notice how the author’s focus is on the small things that he done as a young boy and the way Lincoln was raised. He uses Lincoln’s parents in most of the beginning of the book to explain the severity of the atmosphere that Lincoln was born into. Gienapp tells the background of his parents and the actions that they did while raising Lincoln. Displaying an uneducated father, with a mother that passed away early in his life (Gienapp pg. 2). This shows the dysfunction of the family before he was even born. The attitude that Gienapp has towards Lincoln’s parents shows the significance of his struggle to gain a higher education and find his identity in the world. Gienapp specifically addresses the problem of limited education opportunities in Lincolns life to shows us how Lincoln would come from nothing, to teaching himself to be a great reader and oral speaker (Gienapp pg. 6). William Dodd and, “Lincoln or Lee” also speaks upon Lincoln’s parents and their poor background as a significance to Lincolns struggle. He says, “Abraham, son of poor Nancy Hanks and trifling Thomas Lincoln who had hired the boy to hard-fisted farmers on Pigeon Creek, Indiana, for twenty-five cents a day and put the proceeds into his own dirty pockets….”(Dodd pg. 3). This agrees with the concept that Lincoln was born unto parents that would give him a very slight chance of becoming a man of great significance to the American society. This comparison displays Lincoln as an American hero before we even get past the first chapters of either book. Allowing us to see the struggle he was forced into from the start of his life.

            Lincoln’s struggles in his early years allowed him to acquire attributes that enabled him to become the great leader that he was as President during the Civil War in America. His views on slavery were not that of a normal American during this time (Gienapp pg. 23). He wanted to halt slavery instead of totally abolishing it. He knew that if he were to abolish it, the southern states would want to go to war against the northern states. He also wanted to give the new states a chance to decide on their own, so he set up the Kansas-Nebraska Act which allowed the people to vote on the new states becoming free or slave states. The only problem with this was, if there were more slave states than free states, then the slave states to outvote the free states in a battle of keeping slavery in American. The battle of keeping slavery fell with a division of the northern states and the southern states (the crucible pg. 110). The southern states wanted to keep slavery, and the northern states wanted to get rid of it (Race, Slavery pg.2). Lincoln came up with a plan to give both sides what they truly wanted. He planned to keep slavery in the states that already had it, and keep it from spreading to the new states. However, when the Kansas-Nebraska Act was set in place, it caused a massive rise of nationalism between the north and the south. This nationalism would become the Civil War in a short matter of time.

            Looking into Abraham Lincoln’s plans with the Kansas-Nebraska Act, this was an aim to bring about a peaceful way to give the southern states what they truly desires, states’ rights. In his book, “Lee vs Grant”, Gene Smith says that this act was a failure by the United States Army to keep peace. However, Gienapp shows this as Lincoln having a plan with this act. Lincoln knew that this equality was not going to come without violence. Smith fails to recognize the severity of the problem within America at this time. It was a battle between the north and the south as to which state became free or a slave state. This would ultimately lead to there being more states in favor of slavery, thus causing the north to protest regardless. On the flip side of that, if there were more free states than slave states, the same result would occur with the south protesting, which would later be known as the Civil War. Lincoln knew that there would be violence; the violence is inevitable with a country that is divided at the core from the Declaration of Independence which states that all men are created equal. Gienapp shows how Lincoln was prepared when the violence broke out through the observance of Lincoln becoming a war general to counteract the violence in which he knew would occur. After implementing his strategy, Lincoln then turned the effort over to George McClellan as the leader of the science behind the plan, along with Ulysses S. Grant to cover the actions.

            With the Civil War starting, Lincoln had to stand up for the United States of America. The Confederate States, or the south, would come together and form their own army under their new President, Jefferson Davis. They would then adopt a general to lead the Confederate Army. This would be General Robert E. Lee. The north in turn would be led by President Abraham Lincoln, and their general would be General Ulysses S. Grant. Jefferson Davis and the Confederate States were fighting for states’ rights against the United States. They felt that they states should have the right to have slavery in that particular state if they so choose. Lincoln and the United States were against this argumenta which was the root cause of the war. Slavery would not be the root cause of the Civil War. The Confederate States were not going to allow the government to have control over the states and the people.

            With the north winning the civil war and slavery being halted in the south, life in America after the Civil War would reflect what he had done while in office. After his assassination on April 14, 1865, many people would begin to see the light behind Lincoln’s outrageous thoughts while in the presidential role. One particular memory that would live on even through our time would be the Lincoln Memorial. This artifact that I used is a picture of this massive statue that can only be described as something that would have been built in remembrance of a Greek god. The Lincoln Memorial was built in Washington D.C in 1922. Above that is the sentence, “In this Temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever”. This sentence allows us to see the impact that Lincoln had on America during that time as well as the impact that remains with us today.

However, understanding the significance of this memorial could pose a bigger problem in America. When seeing the Lincoln memorial, one cannot help but notice the size of this statue. The size could pinpoint to many specific instances as to why it is as big as it is. If we think about the significance that the Civil War had on America, and how much pain and suffering it took to overcome such a tragic war, and the battle of slavery in the states, one man stepped out and stopped the madness that was occurring. The size could measure the courage or the strength that it took to overcome such a large obstacle. Displaying Lincoln as a god-like figure. In further detail, the size could be viewed in resemblance of the great pyramids built in Egypt as well. These pyramids are viewed as being built by something larger than humans are. This could display how Lincoln was molded by something larger than human and thus made him be able to endure this time with great success. He was someone that people saw as a person doing the impossible. Wanting to abolish slavery in an America that had known slavery since it was founded. This comparison with this larger-than-life phenomenon is very relevant to the modernistic views we see in post-Civil War America also.

The modernistic view on society was going against the views of society. Modernism would magnify this statues core value by standing the test of time and being used as a higher power in times of distress. An example of how this relates to modernism would be the “I have a dream” speech given by a modernist named Martin Luther King Jr in front of the Lincoln memorial during the Civil Rights movement. In comparison to the abolition of slavery in America with Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. was mirroring that concept of standing up for his beliefs in an America that wanted segregation. I believe there is significance with him giving his speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial because of the courage that it was going to take to overcome this standard of living. The larger-than-life phenomenon boils to the surface as we begin to look at the significance of the speech being given here. The argument could be made that King gave this speech here to display the picture of Lincoln watching over him as he walks through this struggle with the white population against him. Such as the Greek’s use their statues as references to certain situations that they are going through. Knowing King was a Christian, the significance of having Lincoln, a man that stood up for African Americans in his time, and King standing up for African Americans shows how he wanted to use Lincoln as a testimony of change and courage throughout the struggle.

            Seeing this comparison of Modernism and the American Heroic journey is why Lincoln is considered one of the brightest men of his era. He seen the future of what America should be and displays this throughout his heroic journey. Examples such as being an abolitionist, along with accepting a Civil War in order to gain equality in America. Gienapp highlights this comparison throughout his book by repeated instances of Lincoln being different from others in his community, and his congressional indifferences. Specifically, Gienapp proves this by explaining the favoritism from the northern states, while the southern states voted against him in order to keep slavery. Thus, showing how Lincoln had modernistic views in an America that was afraid of change which sparked the Civil War.

            William E. Gienapp displays Lincoln as a true American hero through the modernistic ideas, along with the struggles through his childhood to prove how Lincoln became a hero while being president of the United States during the Civil War. Giving explicit examples of the way Lincoln was able to be courageous and stand out in America during this time. He knew people did not fully agree with his abolishionistic views on America, but his vision of how America should be further displayed his modernistic mindset to justify his actions. Also viewing the Lincoln memorial, we see how Lincoln’s modernist ideas and his American heroic journey not only shaped the society he was in, but withstood the test of time and became a phenomenon that would be used in later movements within America.

Abraham Lincoln still stands as one of the most influential people in American society. He will forever stand as a testimony to the courage and heart that it takes to evoke your belief in a society that will not always stand with you. He also stands as showing how inequality can lead to equality with just a little perseverance. A hero is admired and idealized for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. A hero is someone that shows courage when faced with a problem, is able to help out another in various ways, who saves another in danger, and is there to help others and gives them strength to go on through life's difficulties. It is not about a tight suit, a cape, and super strength.



















Denney, Robert E. The Civil War Years: A Day-by-day Chronicle of the Life of a Nation. New York: Sterling Pub., 1992. Print.

Dodd, William E. Lincoln or Lee: Comparison and Contrast of the Two Greatest Leaders in the War Between the States: The Narrow and Accidental Margins of Success. New York: Century, 1928. Print

Findley, Paul. A. Lincoln: The Crucible of Congress. New York: Crown, 1979.

Gienapp, William E. Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America: A Biography. New York: Oxford

UP, 2002. Print.

Harrold, Stanley. The Abolitionists and the South, 1831-1861. Lexington, KY: U of Kentucky, 1995. Print.

Horton, James Oliver., and Amanda Kleintop. Race, Slavery and the Civil War: The Tough Stuff of American History and Memory. Richmond, VA: Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission, 2011. Print.

Smith, Gene. Lee and Grant: A Dual Biography. New York: New American Library, 1985. Print.


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