After reading the story “What You pawn I redeem” I considered the questions raised by the main character as they could relate to my own life and concluded that we, as human beings and members of a great, diverse community in America, should embark on a similar journey, a search for self and how we fit in with those around us. The main character was trying to understand what it was to be a native American, what his “roots” were” and how to find himself in order to reestablish his connection with his ancestors.
I think that everyone should take such a journey, especially in a nation as ethnically diverse as America, a place where what is considered to be “American” is, in face, a combination of many cross-cultural influences which we have picked up over the course of decades or centuries of movement throughout America.
In my case, my ethnic ancestry is fairly simple to backtrack(or is it?). As far as I know, I am ethnically German and English, based on what I was told by family members. I can’t vouch for that information, as many Americans can’t, because I have insufficient data to back up any word-of-mouth references to my ancestry. In that sense, I share something of a common bond with characters in “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” in that I am searching for a connection to something which will give me more of a reference point than just being considered an “American”. I have many questions about my place in the great family of peoples around the world and expect it may take a long time to answer any or all of them. I was fortunate enough to live for four years in Germany and England and try to “reestablish” some sense of personal connection with the cultures of those countries through experiencing how people lived there, their habits, their behaviors, their beliefs . In turn, I acquired some of their habits and brought them with me back to America, much like my ancestors did, I suppose, such as an unconscious desire for British humor (Monty Python, Benny Hill) and an instinct to search out the best markets for sausages and beer. I have also acquired a clearer perspective on how my ancestors may have viewed their new country based on their perceptions of their old country. In this sense, America was probably never so much America to them but America through German eyes or America through English eyes . I think this particular perspective affected what course of action the European explorers took when they decided what America should be instead of what it was.
In this light, I was at odds with the writers we discussed who had taken the view that immigrants to America chose the journey as a method of “escape” from their native countries. I take quite the opposite view. I believe that , in the fashion of their ancestors, they were of a restless, creative frame of mind and chose change over stagnation. They were immigrants within their own countries and chose to keep moving, always exploring, always learning about new places, people, ways of doing things and improving their lot. America was, and is, not so much a place of refuge as a land of opportunity. The main character in “What You Pawn I Redeem” was, in truth, still on a form of immigration within his own land in the sense that he was trying to establish a real place he could find connection with. The quests and the solutions for attaining the American dream are much too varied and theoretical to contain inside a narrow framework of reference. In reality, the “American” dream is really the dream of everyone.