What exactly does it mean to be an American? This question has thousands of possible answers, all depending on the person. It is difficult to answer though, according to separate pieces of literature when one's own opinion might differ. However, according to many novels and plays, to be an American, especially an American Hero, is to work an entire lifetime to reach the American Dream, then fall just short, all the wasted tears and effort in vain. The fourth stage of the hero's journey is never reached.
In the Scarlet Letter, the young woman has committed a sin and is forced to wear a scarlet A on her chest for the rest of her life as punishment. She has a child, and her lover remains a secret. Then her husband shows up and she and her lover are forced to keep quiet. Throughout a time period of 7 years, the child grows, her lover tortures himself, and she is ostracized.
The only thing Hester Prynne wants is to run off with her child and her lover and be alone together, her dream. All this pain and hurt and frustration, yet at the end her lover commits suicide. She came so close to reaching the American Dream, and fell pathetically short.
Jay Gatsby is the number one character in American Literature, and for a good reason. He never quits reaching for his dream. All he sees and all he does is to obtain Daisy, his American dream. Gatsby goes through five whole years of patient dreaming, buys a house, and persuades Daisy to leave with him. However, Daisy chooses not to leave, runs off with Tom, and Gatsby gets shot in the back in his pool. Again, so close, yet so far.
Another example of an American hero would...