Perception vs. Insight-Literature Analysis of American Immigration

Topics: Mary Catherine Bateson, Knowledge, Experience Pages: 5 (1812 words) Published: July 24, 2011
Perception vs. Insight
Experiences allow people to make future decisions based on what happened in their past. People use their background knowledge in order to help make informed decisions. Although one person may interpret what happened one way, another will see it completely different. It is like being in a classroom and learning from a teacher. We take certain pieces from the lesson and each come up with an interpretation based on their prior knowledge. Learning from one’s own experiences is a central theme found in a quote by Mary Catherine Bateson and a few selections from class.

Knowledge is the development of ideas about specific topics. What we do with that knowledge is a different matter. Mary Catherine Bateson once said, “Insight, I believe, refers to the depth of understanding that comes by setting experiences, yours and mine, familiar and exotic, new and old, side by side, learning by letting them speak to one another.” This means that we can learn a lot for the things that we experience throughout our life and what those around us have learned from their own personal experiences. However, we all interpret these events differently.

Everyone grows up in a different environment, generation, culture, or educational background. We may have a new ways of thinking about something that maybe our parents never did. Richard Frethorne’s “Letter to His Mother and Father” is an example that showed me how parents may have a different perspective than that of a son. Richard was writing a letter to his parents about what he was experiencing in America. His parents were sending their son to a country they thought would give their son a better life. Richard writes, “This is to let you understand that I your child am in a most heavy case by reason of the country, which is such that it causeth much sickness…And when we are sick there is nothing to comfort us; for since I came out of the ship I never ate anything but peas, and lablollie (that is water gruel) (Frethorne 1).” He is writing to say that what his parents are being told about America is not true. He is not experiencing a land that is supposed to offer opportunities for success. Richard’s experience teaches him that America is not about the “American Dream” his parents were told about.

A parents dream is not necessarily the dream that their child will wish to experience. Richard’s experience in America proves that dreams and experiences will be different from their initial thoughts. In the end Richard writes to his parents that his experience has made him want to die and be in a better place. His experience teaches him that he needs to find a new way to live. Richard writes to his parents, “And indeed so I find it now, to my great grief and misery; and I saith that if you love me you will redeem me suddenly, for which I do entreat and beg (Frethorne 3).” His experiences influence his decision to want to leave America. He takes what his parents think of America and the experience he has to influence the knowledge he gains while in America.

Mary Catherine Bateson’s quote refers to gathering an insight from the experiences that we have. In Frethorne’s reading Richard realizes that America is not what he expects. He takes the knowledge that his parents have, combines it with the experience he has is America and forms a decision for himself. He is able to combine the old with the new, his parents with his own, and then holds them side by side and decides that America is really not what everyone believes it to be. The character in John McElgun’s “Annie Reilly” gathers a lot of insight in his first days in America. One of the first experiences that the main character has is one that he will never want to repeat again. “He had been swindled out of the last penny by an ‘intelligence agent’; and after traveling up and down the streets, looking at every sign, stopping to make enquiries at every clothing establishment, he found himself at...

Cited: Frethorne, Richard. "Letter to His Mother and Father." Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing. Ed. Ilan Stavans. New York: Literacy Classics of the United States, 2009. 1-4. Print.
McElgun, John. "Annie Reilly." Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing. Ed. Ilan Stavans. New York: Literacy Classics of the United States, 2009. 63-69. Print.
Wilkins, Roger. "Confessions of a Blue-Chip Black." Voices in Black and White: Writings on Race in America from Harper 's Magazine. Ed. Katharine Whittemore and Gerald Marzorati. New York: Franklin Square Press, 1993. 127-41. Print.
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