Difference between American and British Literature Essay

The research paper investigates and analyzes differences between American and British literature. This work is based on the analysis of feminine fairy tales Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (or Alice in Wonderland), The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and masculine novels The Jungle Book (stories about Mowgli’s adventures: “Mowgli’s Brothers,” “Tiger! Tiger!” and “Mowgli’s Song”), and Tarzan of the Apes. It includes the analysis of these fairy tales and novels in works of different researchers described in the literature review. The main method used in this research paper was the method of comparison of similar situations, events and characters of heroes from the above mentioned literary works. It is notable that American literature describes individualistic society and makes more stress on democracy, revolution and geographical extension of the country, whereas British literature describes collectivistic society and pays attention to historic events and autocracy of the ruling class. The language used in British literature is much more complicated, diverse and bright compared to American literature.

This research paper describes numerous differences between American and English literature, like plot, characters of main heroes, literary language, etc. It is based on the examination of fairy tales written in the USA and the UK because fairy tales thoroughly reflect different historical, social, and political events and show them in a simple and understandable (for children) manner, without strong influence of personal author’s attitudes. These differences are shown in the analysis of four fairy tales and novels for children: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (or Alice in Wonderland), The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Jungle Book (“Mowgli’s Brothers,” “Tiger! Tiger!” and “Mowgli’s Song”), and Tarzan of the Apes. These fairy tales have some similarities, which produce more valuable outcomes of research of differences. American and English writers provide different descriptions of heroes and their destiny, environment, and events which took place in fairy tales. They use different language to describe similar events. There will be provided a more thorough description and analysis of differences between British and American literature further.

This research paper uses works of different researchers for providing a more detailed and relevant analysis of differences between American and British literature. Each researcher analyzed different distinguishing features of the above mentioned fairy tales and novels. This research paper unites their outcomes and provides a joint understanding of differences in the literatures of the USA and the UK.

In her work From ‘The Wizard of Oz’ to ‘Wicked’: Trajectory of American myth, Burger pointed out that The Wizard of Oz portrays racial diversification of people in the USA. There is a great variety of nationalities that live in different places of this geographically extensive country. Her ideas are supported by Okihiro (2001).

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In the article “Difference between English literature and American literature,” much attention is paid to differences in the literary language of American and British literature. The author stated that the language of British literature is more complicated and bright. It contains more descriptions of landscapes, events and creatures.

In her work “Language -games in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, or: How language operates in Carroll’s text to produce nonsensical meanings in common-sense references,” Lemos provides numerous examples of language games from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She also analyses these language games and describes the actual meanings of expressions used by Lewis Carroll. Pokrivcak in his work “Multiculturalism, transcendentalism, and the fate of American literature” stated his vision of the reasons for linguistic differences between American and British literature, which is based on social and ethnic homogeneity of the UK and diversification of the USA.

This research paper is also based on the ideas from the work of Zanger “Some differences between American and British fantasy literature.” The author describes distinguishing features of feminine and masculine literature and provides an analysis of fairy tales and novels used in this work.

This research paper will provide an analysis of American and British fairy tales in terms of differences between the literatures of the two countries. Fairy tales form social behavior of children and the society in general. They describe what is good and what is bad; different social, political as well as economic events; the way the society treats people’s actions. They develop an understanding that any action can lead to certain positive and negative consequences. The second reason why fairy tales were chosen for the investigation of differences between American and British literature is that they provide a more impartial reflection of history, social structure, vision, needs and wishes of people living in a particular period of time compared to other literary works, like novels, poems, etc.

The main part of this research is based on the examination and comparison of four different fairy tales and novels. The first one is Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, written in 1865. It reflects the social and political behavior of Victorian England. Alice in Wonderland is compared to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This American fairy tale was written by Frank Baum thirty five years later than Alice in Wonderland. It reflects social and political vision of people living in the 19th century in the USA.
Some people consider that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is some kind of American transformation of Alice in Wonderland. This understanding is grounded on several reasons, including a similar subject. Alice and Dorothy are travelling in unusual places and are surrounded by unusual creatures. Both girls left their families due to different circumstances and are searching for the way to come back home.

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Both fairy tales are female writings, i.e. they are oriented on young female readers. This is reflected in the use of a young girl as the main hero; in more complicated and unusual language; a great number of descriptions (much more than dialogues); attempts to resolve conflicts in a peaceful way. Also, both fairy tales incorporate miracles, thaumaturgy, mystics, etc. All above mentioned similarities promote the understanding that the analysis of differences between American and British literature should be performed particularly on these fairy tales for elimination of any considerable improper outcomes based on differences in plot, main hero, etc.

In addition, two male’s fairy tales were chosen for analysis and assessment. The first source is the collection of stories about Mowgli The Jungle Book written by Rudyard Kipling in 1894. It will be compared with the American fairy tale Tarzan of the Apes, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs eighteen years later. These fairy tales are also united by a similar plot, description of jungles, and the male main hero. Masculine character of these adventure fairy tales is reflected in numerous dialogues; short sentences and simple word constructions; martial character; more warlike ways of resolving the conflict (through a fight). Both The Jungle Book and Tarzan of the Apes include stories that describe adventures of the main heroes, which are closer to reality.
The four fairy tales were chosen because all of them have considerable similarities, such as the plot, struggle against different enemies, and search for a way out from difficult situations. All actions and adventures have some particular goal that is finally reached, which can be united by the understanding that virtue conquered evil. They describe adventures of the main hero and his or her surrounding (like-minded creatures). The second similarity is reflected in the description of numerous unusual animals and creatures. The third one lies in uncommon environment where adventures take place. The last similarity is that the fairy tales were written in almost the same time period and reflect the same historical and social events.

This research paper will provide an investigation of differences between British and American literature by using the method of content analysis (analysis of social and historical background); analysis of characters and behavior of the main heroes of British and American fairy tales; locations where adventures took place; literature language used in these writings; representation of virtue and villainy; background of good and bad actions; characteristics of the societies shown in these fairy tales; representation of the ruling class and its behavior; the way how the hero overcomes obstacles in the path of his or her goals.

The content, main heroes and their characters, social and political background of these writings will be thoroughly analyzed and compared. Several citations from these fairy tales will support ideas formed during the research of the differences between American and British literature. This research paper will not describe the plot of fairy tales or pay much attention to the historical period when these fairy tales were written as it seems to be unnecessary for this research. Discussion and dissection of different parts of four tales will be enough for reflect the differences between the literature of the USA and the UK.

The results of analysis of Alice in Wonderland and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Jungle Book and Tarzan of the Apes are provided below. The majority of outcomes are supported by explanations, researchers’ thoughts and citations.

The first difference between British and American literature is reflected in the behavior of the main hero. Dorothy and Tarzan are self-confident, self-sufficient and a little bit egoistic personalities. They are aimed primarily at gaining personal benefit, such as coming back home, and only then at providing benefit to the society. These heroes in many situations can rely only on themselves. American literature reflects the individualistic nature and history of Americans. Several centuries ago these people came to the continent of North America and could rely only on themselves for survival.

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Additionally, it should be mentioned that American literature contains descriptions of close groups of people (or creatures) who put their interests above the rest. In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, such group of creatures consists of the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man. The story begins with the description of the main goal of their adventure: Dorothy wants to find the way back home, and each of the creatures has its own personal goal in this adventure. Providing help to the other is represented as by-effect of the adventure. This reflects the behavior of Americans, who distinctly separate interests of their nation from the interests of the other nations.

The characters of the main heroes in the British fairy tales are quite different. Alice often receives help from the Hatter, the dog, etc. The story Alice in Wonderland reflects the behavior of the collectivistic society, where a group of people (or creatures) have one joint goal.

Special attention should be paid to the social structure described in the female fairy tales. Alice comes from an aristocratic family, whereas Dorothy’s family (grandparents) lives in more stringent conditions (like the majority of Americans of the 19th century) (Dobrinescu, n.d.).

Close attention should be directed at the time and place described in American and British fairy tales. Usually in American literature “the fantastic is continually mingled with the ordinary, with the ‘real’ world” (Zanger, n.d.). Zanger (n.d.) states that “magic countries” in Africa and in Oz “employ the familiar American device of incongruity.” However, both fairy tales, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Tarzan of the Apes, describe adventures that happened in a present time.

At the same time, the majority of British fairy tales describe adventure of heroes in prehistoric or even mythic past (Hevesiova, 2010). Familiar lands, sights and histories (for example Stonehenge) are usually shown in these fairy tales. British writers can reflect a great history of their country in their stories, whereas American writers rely more on their imagination and great unstudied scopes of their country. Frank Baum described a great variety of different races that lived in different locations of America (Okihiro, 2001). He portrays different racial groups living in separate locations in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, “Gillikins in the North, Munchk in the East, Quadlings in the South, and Winkies in the West” (Burger, 2009).

In addition, special attention should be paid to the attitude to the ways of administrating authority that are reflected in American and British literature. Thus, British society paid much attention to the king or lord and his power. The society has strongly differentiated the political structure (or fixed system of ranks), which is usually turned on the basis of birth. By contrast, in American literature the power is obtained by force and remains in the hands of the main hero as long as he or she is strong and skillful. Thus, Dorothy and Tarzan at the end of the stories “move from private obscurity to greatness, then back to relative obscurity again” (Tarzan went back to his Jungle, and Dorothy returned to her family in Kansas) (Zanger, n.d.).
Different heroes of British fairy tales pass through different social stages and integrate into the community and social or political order, reflected in the aristocracy and kingship. Alice realized her role and responsibility of saving Wonderland only through overcoming numerous difficulties. Mowgli also burned and later killed Shere Khan only after becoming wiser, older, and stronger. Numerous animals supported him in his struggle against monkeys, the tiger and people.

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Moreover, considerable attention should be paid to the fact that British literature describes the absolutism of power, i.e. the presence of one king or ruler in the society (like Akela and Mowgli). American literature shows political power and rulers in a different way. At the end of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, three main creatures (the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow and Tin Man) “move to take their respective kingdoms” where they act as “politician, the worker in agriculture and the mechanic” (Zanger, n.d.). The election process of ruler is performed by acclamation. Frank Baum describes democratization and separation of power in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Differences in American and British literature are also manifested in the description of evil in the above mentioned and other popular fairy tales. In British literature “evil is often depicted as emerging from below — Goblins, Weasels, Orcs, Morlocks, Shere Khan, cobras Nag and Nagaina (from Rikki-Tikki-Tavi) — possessing a kind of intrinsic wickedness quite apart from any inspired organizing principle that leads them” (Zanger, n.d.). Evil forces are usually represented as proletarian creatures. At the same time, American evil is more autocratic. In Tarzan of the Apes, evil comes from outside “from above in the farm of British bankers slaughtering game, or Arab slavers, or German diamond hunters, or a variety of European types motivated uniformly by greed” (Zanger, n.d.). As a rule, American bad heroes did evil things (like Munchkins) under constraint of stronger features and forces which they cannot withstand (like in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Tarzan of the Apes).

Also, much attention should be paid to finals of such male fairy tales as The Jungle Book and Tarzan of the Apes. The main heroes of both writings were brought up by animals: Tarzan was brought up by monkeys, whereas Mowgli was brought up by different animals that lived in jungles (a bear, snake, panther and wolfs). However, in the final Mowgli found his bellowed and started to live with other people, whereas Tarzan felt uncomfortable with other people and returned to jungles. The finals of two fairy tales reflected differences in British and American society. The former is more collectivistic, whereas the latter is more individualistic.

Much attention should be paid to literary language of fairy tales of the UK and the USA. The language of British fairy tales contains more bright descriptions and sophisticated literary expressions than the language of the American ones (“Difference between,” 2014). For example, in Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll used numerous language games, where words have indirect meanings. Examples of such language games are thoroughly analyzed by Lemos.

The evaluation of a dialogue between Alice and the Hatter will be provided below:

Alice had been looking over his shoulder with some curiosity, ‘What a funny watch!’ she remarked. ‘It tells the day of the month and doesn’t tell what o’clock it is!’
‘Why should it?’ muttered the Hatter. ‘Does your watch tell you what year it is?’
‘Of course not,’ Alice replied very readily: ‘but that’s because it stays in the same year for such a long time together.’
‘Which is just the case with mine,’ said the Hatter (Lemos, 2009).

The author combined meaningful language of Alice and on the first view nonsensical language of the Hatter in this dialogue. However, Hatter’s language has more sense than Alice’s, because at the March Hare’s house the time remains the same (six o’clock). Therefore, common clock are useless, and Hatter’s clock is useful because it shows the time (Lemos, 2009). Numerous linguistic challenges make the whole British literature and works of Lewis Carroll in particular unusual and memorable.
The background of linguistic differences between American and British literatures are analyzed by Pokrivcak are reflected in the following words: “the difference lies especially in the fact that while European literatures have grown out of linguistically and ethnically homogeneous sources, the literatures of the United States have always been a product of several cultures speaking various languages” (Pokrivcak, 2010).

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American main heroes (Dorothy and Tarzan) are a little bit egoistic personalities that have such features as self-reliance, self-esteem, and self-sufficiency. They usually rely only on themselves. These heroes reflect the individualistic character of the American society. On the contrary, British society and characters of main heroes (Alice and Mowgli) are more collectivistic. Mowgli and Alice rely on the help and support of the group of like-minded creatures.

Places where the adventures happen differ greatly in the writings of American and British authors. Events in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Tarzan of the Apes took place in real time, but in places which are far from readers. On the other hand, events of British fairy tales usually happen in pre-historic and mythic time periods.
Attitudes to political order and administration authority are also quite different in the literatures of the USA and the UK. British fairy tales contain numerous descriptions of immortal soul of kingship and strict political order. Kingship is usually based on birth. In American fairy tales the authority is gained by power and skills. American literature describes a more democratic political order and availability of several rulers. The nature of evil is different in American and British fairy tales. In American fairy tales evil comes from outside, whereas in British fairy tales evil usually has an inherent character.

Literary language of British fairy tales is more bright and colorful. It contains numerous complex language constructions and even language games (in Alice in Wonderland). By contrast, American literary language is simpler, with larger number of dialogues and shorter descriptions.

This research paper provides an analysis of extinguish characteristics of four fairy tales and novels written by American and British writers. These fairy tales and novels are Alice in Wonderland and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Jungle Book (novels about Mowgli’s adventures) and Tarzan of the Apes. They are connected by similar plot and time of creation. This provides more thorough and reliable outcomes of analysis of the literature of two countries.

American and British literature have numerous differences reflected in the characteristics of the main heroes and description of their adventures, plots of the stories and literature language. All of these differences are based on distinctive histories, social orders, and views of life.

Both American and English literatures depict different aspects of life of people who live on the territories of these countries. No one can definitely state that one literature is much better than the others. Every reader chooses the literature that is more suitable and attractive for him or her. This research paper not only describes differences between literatures of the USA and the UK but also recommends familiarizing oneself with both of them. Apart from that, it states that analysis should be made on similar types of writings which were created in the same (or almost the same) time periods for elimination of irrelevant outcomes. It is recommended to analyze works that have similar plots and characters in order to find out particularly literature differences. This will allow supporting the statements described in this work. Also, readers can find other differences between the literatures of the two great countries.