Cultural and ethnic studies: social, political and economic development
Every society in the world has its own beliefs and culture that shape their way of life. Cultures are mostly reflected through artifacts like music, art, architecture, religions and even philosophy among others. As citizen of the United States of America, I am surrounded by many artifacts that reflect the culture and beliefs of this country. Among the many artifacts that exist in this country, the statue of liberty stands out from the rest. This artifact was a gift to the people of the United States from their French counterparts and its completion was meant to coincide with the centennial celebration of the American declaration of independence from Britain.
Among all the statues and artifacts in the country, the statue of liberty stands out from the rest because it reflects the culture, spirit and values that drive the American society. From time immemorial, the United States has established itself as the land of freedom where individuals have the right to achieve their full potential and where all people are equal under the law. This important aspect of the American culture is clearly reflected in this artifact. This paper will address the historical roots of this cultural artifact as well as how it symbolizes the beliefs and values of the American culture.
The statue of liberty is one of the main cultural artifacts in the United States that I believe best represents the culture and the values of the American society. This cultural artifact was a present given to the people of the united states by France in celebration of the friendship between the two countries that begun during the American Revolution. The statue was developed by a French sculptors namely Fredric Auguste Bartholdi. According to the terms of the contract, Bartholdi was expected to finish developing the statue in 1876 so as to coincide with the centennial celebration of the American declaration of independence. Although the statue was a gift to the American people from their French counterparts, it was a joint venture between the two countries (Martin H. Manser, 2008). The French were to build the statue its self and the Americans were to construct the pedestal on which the statue was to be placed. Shortage of funds during the early days of the project was a challenge to both countries and the two governments were forced to come with ways of generating the required money. In France, funds were raised through lotteries, entertainment and public fees among other methods. In the United States funds for supporting the project were raised through art exhibitions, theatrical performances and prize fights among others.
Back in France, Bartholdi did not work on the statue alone but sought the help of a renowned engineer namely Alexandre Gustave Eiffel who designed the Eiffel tower in Paris. Mr. Eiffel was to take care of the structural aspects of the statue while Bartholdi took care of the rest. Back in the United States, the construction of the pedestal was slow than expected and it took the efforts of Mr. Joseph Pulitzer to get things back on track. Joseph owned a newspaper namely the “The world” and used it to urge Americans to contribute funds towards the financing of the construction of the pedestal (Martin H. Manser, 2008). He particularly criticized the rich for keeping all their riches to themselves and failing to fund the project as well the middle class whom he accused of relying on the rich to provide funds for the project. This campaign of harsh criticism proved successful and in short time, the project received more funding than it actually needed.
The statue of liberty represents a female form standing on a raised ground. The form holds a tablet in one hand and on the tablet the following inscriptions are written, July IV MDCCXXVI (July 4, 1776) which is indicates the date that the United States gained independence from the United Kingdom. Other than the tablet, the statue also holds a torch on the other hand. From the Brooklyn Bridge, the statue of liberty appears like a small figure but indeed it’s magnificent when viewed from close range. From the base of the pedestal to the topmost spike on her head, the statue weighs about 225 tons and has a height of 305 feet. The face alone measures about 8 feet in height and has a waistline of 35 foot (Marc Tyler Nobleman, 2003). There are 154 steps that are used to climb the statue from the pedestal to the head. Occasionally, a green color appears on this cultural artifact of the United States and this is due to effects of weather on the copper that was used to make the statue. Until 1986, the torch held by the statue was made of copper but was replaced with a 24 carat gold torch. Lastly, the female form of the statue of liberty has chains on her feet and a crown with seven spikes.
Since its foundation, the United States has stood for freedom and democracy where individuals have the freedom to realize their full potential. These national values are clearly portrayed in the statue of liberty. To begin with, the statue holds a torch in her right hand. Just like in all other societies, the torch is used to symbolize the authority of light over darkness and that of hope over despair. The torch also symbolizes the many struggles that the United States had to pass through in her efforts to ensure that freedom and democracy were embraced by all in the society. The female form in the statue appears to be looking upwards to suggest that in her fight for freedom, she knows that no forces will conquer her because her strength comes from God. Another feature of this artifact that relates to the beliefs and culture of the people of United States is the tablet that she is holding in her right hand (Susan Ashley, 2010). The tablet symbolizes the constitution of the United States which stands for liberty and justice for all. The tablet also symbolizes the key principles upon which the United States was founded and which are contained in the declaration of independence. The table also symbolizes individual freedom and the basis upon which all people should live and be judged therefore reflecting the famous phrase that “all men are born equal and have a God given right to freedom, life and pursuit of individual happiness”. The statue of liberty symbolizes these values contained in her tablet while symbolizing hope and determination to stand against all forces of evil that oppression that may try to violate them.
The crown with seven rays on her head symbolizes the seven ways through which God manifests himself to the human beings. These rays are part of human consciousness that the statue of liberty has mastered over the years. These arte the basis upon which her thoughts and consciousness are founded and they also link her with God. Finally, the statue appears to wear a flowing gown which symbolizes authority and her majesty (Jill Braithwaite, 2010). The gown is a mythology one to symbolize her relationship with past, present and the future therefore portraying her as timeless. The gown together with the crown stands for her heavenly origin and everlasting mission to be the spruce of hope and light to all mankind.
The historical political cooperation between France and the United States had a lot of influence in the development of the statue of liberty. The idea to build the statue was first put forward by a French law professor namely Edouard Rene de Laboulaye in 1865. Although his idea was not meant to be a proposal, Frederic Bartholdi took it seriously and begun to think on how a statue could be built in the United States and act as a symbol of freedom and liberty to all mankind (Darlene R. Stille,2008). The development of the statue was greatly influenced by the neoclassicism which borrowed a lot form the culture of ancient Greece. The statue of liberty has been identified as a heritage site and is therefore well taken care of to protect it from destruction and ensure that it’s kept intact for the sake of future generations. As a cultural icon, I don’t foresee the statue of liberty undergoing any kind of changes regardless of cultural changes. Although interpretations about the statue have changed over the years, the statue has remained intact and this is expected to continue even in future.
Darlene R. Stille (2008). The Statue of Liberty; our nation’s pride. ABDO; ISBN1602701156, 9781602701151
David Glassberg (2003). Rethinking the Statue of Liberty: Old Meanings, New Contexts. Department of history, university of Massachusetts.
Jill Braithwaite (2010). The Statue of Liberty. LernerClassroom; ISBN0761360522, 9780761360520
Marc Tyler Nobleman (2003). The Statue of Liberty; First Facts American Symbols. Capstone Press; ISBN0736816321, 9780736816328
Martin H. Manser (2008). The Facts on File Dictionary of Allusions. InfoBase Publishing, ISBN0816071055, 9780816071050.
Susan Ashley (2004). The Statue of Liberty; Places in American History. Gareth Stevens Pub; ISBN0836841506, 9780836841503
William A. McGeveran (2004). The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2004. World Almanac Book. ISBN0886879108, 9780886879105