In the opening paragraph of “Grant and Lee: A Study in Contrasts” (BR 227), Bruce Catton states that, when Lee surrendered at Appomattox, “a great chapter in American life came to a close, and a great new chapter began.” If the story of America is indeed a book of continuously unfolding chapters, how would you define our current chapter? Is America in the early twenty-first century at all like America during the Civil War era? If so, how? What things are different now?
To bring your perspectives into focus, consider the historically evocative autobiographical essays we have read so far. For example, how is present-day America like or different from the early twentieth-century America depicted in Maya Angelou’s “Champion of the World” (BR 94)? How does the current chapter compare and contrast with the late-twentieth-century environment Brent Staples embodies in “Black Men and Public Space” (BR 166)? When did the current chapter begin? How did it start?
Compare and contrast the current American chapter with the chapter depicted in any one of these works. Use examples (from the various authors’ work and from your own experience) to bring the similarities and differences you cite vividly to life. To add depth to your observations and insights, feel free to include references to more than one work, but be careful to ensure that the scope of your thesis is appropriate to the designated length of the assignment.
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