Modern American Life: Isn’t It Romantic?

By Martha Quillen

Americans are romantics. For five centuries, people have been coming to America seeking land, fame, fortune, and glory. Eldorado, the Fountain of Youth, the seven cities of gold. From the beginning, we’ve been passionate believers in our dreams, our destiny, our freedom, and a chicken in every pot.

As Terry Coleman points out in Going to America, disappointment was routine:

It was an old superstition, sometimes half believed by the simplest emigrants, that the streets of New York were paved with gold. When they got there they learned three things: first, that the streets were not paved with gold; second, that the streets were not paved at all; and third, that they were expected to pave them.

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