California History Term Paper

Total Length: 775 words ( 3 double-spaced pages)

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California History: A Tour of the State through Three Novels

California is the nation's largest state. Within its borders it encompasses many contradictions and offers different modalities of life. The idea of an 'alternative lifestyle' may have been coined in California, but clearly there is more than one alternative offered by the state. Even the state's stereotypes, such as the 'outdoorsy' person, or the beatnik who distains social conventions, or the Pacific Rim immigrant who needs to make a new social and economic future for him or herself within the state, are diverse in their nature. California exemplifies the vastness of the American dream in imagination and financial growth.

The one connecting element between all of these stereotypes, and indeed between all of the fictional individuals that embody them over the course of Helen Hunt Jackson's novel Ramona, Jack Keota's quasi-autobiographical The Dharma Bums, and the more recent Picture Bride by Yoshiko Uchida, is that all of these Californians embark upon a quest for an alternative form of identity that they eventually find, though not how as they envisioned it. This is the story of the state, one might say, its myth of untapped promise, as well as the more prosaic evocations of historical events in the works.
Helen Hunt Jackson's novel catalogues Ramona was written to call attention to the terrible plight of the Mission Indians in Southern California. Their struggles are mirrored in the fate of the heroine, however. At the end of the novel, Ramona weds an Indian man, Alessandro. Her decision comes after she has decided to live with the Indians because she was not told she was a 'half breed' until she had lived for many years with whites. Eventually, the novel ends with the words that she has given birth to another "Ramona," the "daughter of Alessandro the Indian." (Jackson, Chapter XXV, novel retrieved on December 8, 2003 at (http://www.xooqi.com/iboox/xo_0024_jackson_ramona.html) After many years of struggle trying to find her identity, Ramona gives birth to a girl whom presumably will have no such struggles. However, the first Ramona's struggles highlight the prejudice and intolerance waged against these native people, the often insurmountable divide between white and native in terms of culture, and the persistence presence of those such as the title character whose very existence was a challenge to this divide.

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