Portrait of the American; Rugged and not-so-rugged individualists
I wish to come here and say that I am a man who does not exist for others. It had to be said. The world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrifice. I observe the result on a society built on the principle of individual ism. This our country the noblest country in the history of men the country of greatest achievement greatest prosperity greatest freedom this country was not based on selfless service sacrifice renunciation or any precept of altruism. It was based on man's right to the pursuit of happiness his own happiness not anyone else's. A private personal selfish motive. Now you know why I dynamited Garcon. I designed a corpulent. I gave it to you. I destroyed it. You know I had the guy give and take of socially new cause it had to be you all the way you had to make individual is in the most frightening ism of all.
You act as if the world is just a blindfold Free-For-All you are alone pal all alone. That's the way you want to do it that's the way you learned it. Sing it Sammy sing a deep and sad all alone and feelin blue. Someday I'd like to see it published a record of what made Sammy run as a blueprint of a way of life that was paying dividends in America the first half of the 20th century. The two voices you have just heard arguing the merits of individual ism might have come from the same novel but they don't. The first was the voice of Howard Roark the hero of Ann Rand's the fountain hand. The second was the narrator and Budd Schulberg. What Makes Sammy Run. Although these two authors hold directly contradictory attitudes toward their central characters both Howard and Sammy are rugged individualists and as such one is the American hero the other the American villain. I am betting me and this is a portrait of the American portrait
of the American protest with a national education already on network under a grant from the National Home Library Foundation. Program number 7. Rugged and not so rugged individualists. The producer moderator Dr Bedi may author scholar and teacher of American studies. The word success has always had a special magic for Americans. The idea of success itself is very old but the American dream of success and the concomitant fear of failure which might be called the American nightmare or the American tragedy. These have had a significant part in making America and in shaping American character consider our every day language for instance. We speak of getting ahead of moving forward progress of doing better. Rising to the top making it or having it made and somewhere in the backs of American imaginations there is the image of the latter and we expect to climb that ladder rung by rung. In fact we've always been especially
interested in the stories of our self-made heroes who've gone the full distance from rags to riches from immigrant to go from log cabin to the White House and so on. How important is this success mythology this desire to have to achieve the drive to strive in American life. How much does it influence or influence us and how does it influence us. I'd like you to hear now three answers to these questions. First from a sociologist then from an American studies scholar and then a personal testimony of a young novelist. First I met author of Free Society and moral crisis at his office at the University of Michigan in a building that bears the interesting name Center for Research in conflict resolution and whose acoustics you have to get accustomed to. I asked him which of the Central American values that he listed in his book would be
regarded today by most sociologists as being most important to Americans. Well I think almost everybody would name two to start with. One of them would be what you might call the achievement orientation All right I think I heard it at a high level after another one which may be the idea of equal opportunity. We cherish all of I think we've shared a number of. We discussed quite a long list of others and then I asked Angel specifically about the importance of personal achievement as the American value. There certainly has been a great emphasis on this I mean ever since the pioneer days of the individual getting ahead against the wilderness or even Lincoln getting a head against his hand or the Horatio Alger heroes hitting your head against whatever handicaps they had. This is certainly been a scene of great strength in American history. Yes a strong beat. I've been trying to push you
with a name that I would not you would not I would what you charge. I would need the dignity of the person. If I had to name a central one that's the one I would feel natural. Well perhaps perhaps I'm showing here what I think ought to be the South American value rather than what is I guess I. I'm saying that if I had to put my. If I had to choose one this is the one I would choose as all important because I think an essentially humanitarian society depends upon that. But I guess I would also have to agree that perhaps most Americans would not would not choose as a center. But you probably don't want to suggest that one of the high level. And there's the rub. Even those who would prefer to believe that the humanitarian virtues the respect for others ought to be the central American value. Concede that the compelling motive is actually the desire to achieve. I talked
to Marshall Fishwick at moment in Delaware where he teaches American studies and is director of the Weems Foundation and we discuss the kinds of success that Americans have been particularly interested in. I would say Americans are able to combine personal success with patriotism and with the larger success of the new world of the nation. No they didn't and the family so much. Now that's right I think I think a successful enduring family of the leader of the Adams variety is rather rare in American life. I think the most dramatic example of the pathing quality of success is spectator sports and bestsellers among our books and entertainers. You're here today and gone tomorrow and there's nothing really more pathetic than the American who was in our phrase that had been we tend to forget about affairs you know if you were to analyze a large number of American movies and television programs you'd find that always the story had to do with the conquest with the consummation
with the achievement for example in the Boy Girl story always. He liked her and after many adventures they are married but very few boy girl stories then follow through the drive through the rare innocence of the K through the snippiness of the marriage and especially through the decline of the romantic ideal. Now some of us may feel that we escape these pressures to succeed or more likely we remain unaware of their effect on us until one day the invitation comes to a class reunion a conference a cocktail party an occasion of some sort involving our peers or former peers and we suddenly find ourselves full of strange forebodings. But few of us I suspect would be able to give as candid and poignant an expression of these feelings as Alan Harrington the author of Life in a Crystal Palace and the revelations of Dr. Modesto who was just finishing his third book when I interviewed him in New
York. Stricken with something which may be an American disease I don't know. But that if I. Am not. An absolute success. I don't. Dare show up as it were. Socially I. Was curious and my own work and I have been pretty. I've only produced two books on this new 500 page one of the rather large edition I find if I haven't written anything that's been published. Recently a magazine article or something that I get increasingly he's socially embarrassed. And. That my existence. As a human being in New York City. Depends on my having produced something. And when I haven't produced it. I feel terrible and small and I think that this is the way. A lot of people feel here I notice in Europe why you can still be a man if you've written something 20 years ago you can still. Amount to something.
Now these fleeting moments of fear which I suspect many of us have had are the culmination of a long and interesting history. The history of the success myth in America which will be my theme for the next four programs. Let me begin with American literature. I really should begin with the writings of Benjamin Franklin on success or of the ROE on individual ism or with the economic theories of laissez faire and social Darwinism and classical economics or with the discussion of the Protestant ethic. But instead I'm going to use three literary heroes and break in on the historical continuum much later. At the time when the popular dime novels of Horatio Alger made manifest what had by then become a classic formula for success the formula for the self-made man born poor rural or immigrant parents with very little formal education to start out on his own
at a tender age perhaps display a genius of some kind. Americans are especially fond of eccentric geniuses like Thomas Edison or Henry Ford. And then to rise by his own efforts by practicing the virtues of industry thrift sobriety honesty chastity and so forth. Though he was also admittedly lucky on occasion and often ended by marrying the boss's daughter. Well if only a small percentage of the business barons and captains of industry who emerged in the post-Civil War period actually followed the formula there were enough and they were publicly displayed enough people like Andrew Carnegie so that the belief in what Max Weber has called the Protestant Ethic was very strong at that time. In the Horatio Alger stories the hero often starts as a street boy or a newsboy who attracts the attention of some important personage of the business world. There would always be certain stock
characters and stock scenes like this one from the book. Rufus and Rose subtitled The fortunes of rough and ready in which the boss calls the ambitious young man into his office. Now how long have you been with me Rufus. About four months or your services have been quite satisfactory thank you sir. I intended at the end of six months to raise your pay to ten dollars a week if you suited me. But I may as well anticipate two months. Mr. Marston you will hear after pay Rupesh ten dollars a week who I am obliged to you Mr. TURNER. I didn't expect to have my pay raised for a good while for I knew that I received more already than most office boys. I've tried to do my duty and shall continue to do so. That is the right way Rufus. It will be sure to win success. You were working not only for me but most of all for your sound. You are laying the foundation now a future of prosperity when an opportunity occurs. I shall promote you from the
post of errand boy to walk clerkship as I judge from what I have seen that you will be quite competent to fill such a position. Whereupon Alger comment this intelligence was of course very gratifying to Rufus. He knew that as yet he was on the lowest round of the latter and he had a commendable desire to push his way up. He felt a pardonable pride in his promotion and seeing that Mr. Turner was well disposed to help him. Here is all that he would work harder than ever for his next one on the comment at the end of the novel. After our hero has achieved his success is also typical. Now as you pass through Wall Street if you will closely examine the signs on either side of the street your eyes may light on this one Turner and Rushton bank. You will have no trouble conjecturing that the junior partner and this is the same Rufus who was first known to you as rough and ready. If you think that our young friend the newsboy has had rare luck I hope you will also admit that
by his honesty industry and generous protection of his little sister he has deserved the prosperity he has attained. The recurrence in these works of a little sister or a dependent mother who the hero cares for and cares about and never a father. In this example for instance the father is a man who thinks society owes him a living and Alger paints him very vile he ends up a drunkard and his son disowned him. But the recurrence of the little sister or the mother who the hero cares for made me wonder whether Alger intended to portray a character who was also capable of compassion. And so I asked Professor Fish week who is an authority on the Alger hero whether he found this true. I don't like your use of the word compassion I don't feel any compassion in the end they and their hero it's a matter of duty. You don't have a good a poor ole mom because she washes clothes all those years and she stood by him and when the bullies beat him he always
suckered him and sent him on. No he will do it duty and he will stand by his obligations but that is not the Good Samaritan. The key word here which we haven't said yet is Darwinian. This man is he is the survivor among the fittest. He is the result of natural selection. He is indeed nature's answer to the problems of the jungle which is what the laissez faire marketplace was. But that sort of portrait soon came in for some bracing criticism in American literature especially when it became apparent that these self-made industrial barons were more apt to rise by practicing dishonesty or shrewdness as they preferred to call it. And in no time at all the rugged individualists became the villain in the novels that dealt with these things and his acquisitive motives were the things that attracted the attention of our best novelists. I'm going to pass over such examples as William Dean Howells Silas Lapham or
drives or as Cowperwood or Fitzgerald's Gatsby in favor of Budd Schulberg Sammy Glick because Sammy is so completely immoral and because he contrasts so neatly with his contemporary and Rand's Howard Roark. We get a glimpse of the ideal Sammy Glick lives by in the models and platitudes he uses. For instance here's a little model your uncle family made up in self. Hang it in your office. I'll give it to you free. Work hard and if you can't work hard be smart. And if you can't be smart be loud. And when his ideals are a challenge he says don't be a sap. You've heard of survival of the fittest. You can give it all the fancy names you want but when you come right down to it it's dog eat dog and other Glick platitudinous one's my favorite. Talent can get to just so far. Then you've got to start using your head. After he has climbed several rungs of the ladder Sammy observes It's a funny
thing about this racket the bigger you are the jumpier you get. And when he finally made it to the top he's ready to crow. Now it's mine everything's mine I've got everything. Everybody's always saying you can't get everything and I am the guy who won it. I've got the Harrington connections and I've got the studio and I've got the perfect woman to run my home and have my children I'm a how does it feel how does it feel to have everything. It makes me feel kind of patriotic. Robert Angell requires his students at the University of Michigan to read What Makes Sammy Run for a major sociology course called the structure of American society. I asked Angel why he chose this book or specifically what it was in American society that he felt Sammy represented. Well I think he's probably the typical Do you know and I think I would put it that way. He's a man given some of the
conditions of our society particularly in Islam given the character of our whole social process. He is one who has taken advantage of all way of all the opportunities where there is a good deal of freeplay in our society and as a devoted his whole life to to try to get to the top by any means and without any scruples. I was interested in this description of Sammy as a typical deviant. And I wanted to know if there wasn't a contradiction here. Is Sammy the outsider in our society or is he part of the mainstream. I think he's the outsider who is in a sense getting some of his ideas from the mainstream of what he's doing is he taking what we would regard as legitimate striving and legitimate accomplishment of a legitimate success and is trying to get there in a hurry by cutting all the moral
corners and in that sense he does reflect American society but on the other hand we hope that our society does have some more controls that are in that sense he's he's a deviant but perhaps a typical deviant because he does reflect the the aspirations that many people have to get ahead. Would you say he's a rugged individual. Yes in the worst sense of that word he's a rugged but the word right here is it's got to be paid extra because it made him more risky and not all rugged individuals I think are more. Now let me introduce here a rugged individualists who is certainly not immoral not in the author's view at any rate. Howard Roark from Ann Rand's The Fountainhead. This is a character who has always fascinated me because of the interesting parallels with the career of Frank Lloyd Wright Rourke is an architect but this doesn't exempt him from the rigors of the marketplace. He's the individualistic as hero a giant of a man
with a face like a law of nature. Rand says he's one man against the world perishing from an orgy of self-sacrifice. In fact it's the humanitarian in this work who becomes the villain and who cuts the moral corners. The ideals Howard lives by. In contrast to Sami become apparent in such passages as this one in which one Peter Keating tries to convince him to design a low rent housing project. Well I want you to give me a reason why I should wish to design Coughlan. I want you to make me an offer where you can have all the money they pay me. I don't need it. You can have twice the money I'll double their fee. You know better than that Peter. Is that what you wish to tempt me with. It's a great public project Howard a humanitarian undertaking think of the poor people who live in the slums. And if you can give them decent comfort within their means you'll have the satisfaction of performing a noble deed. Peter you are more honest than that. You love designing it.
Peter Now you're speaking my language. Now listen to me. I've been working on the problem of low rent housing for years. I never thought of the poor people in the slums. I thought of the potentialities are our modern world the new materials the means the chances to take and use. I worked on it for years. I loved it. I worked because it was a problem I wanted to solve. Whatever we do we don't want to talk about the poor people in the slums. They have nothing to do with it. Peter before you can do things for people you must be the kind of man who can get things done. But to get things done you must love the doing not the secondary consequences but work not the people. Your own action of any possible object of your charity. I'll be glad if people who need it find a better manner of living in a house I designed. But that's not the motive of my work. I like to receive money for my work but I can pass that up this time. I like to have people know my work is done by me. But I can pass that up. I like to have tenets made happy by my work. But that doesn't matter
too much. The only thing that matters. My goal my word Lord my beginning my end is the work itself. My work I've done my way. Peter there's nothing in the world that you can offer me except this my work done my way. A private personal selfish egotistic. Motive the only way I thank you. That's all I am. Now at first glance this would seem to be a very different type of person from Sammy Glick. But the real difference I wish to suggest is in the author's attitudes the same motives that make Sammy a he'll make Howard a hero. Even the criminal impulse the willingness to destroy the willingness to let others do their own suffering these become virtues and Howard. When the housing project is not built his way he blows it up. He Dynamites it and he's exonerated the jury finds him not guilty. Howard stands for ego with a capital E in the author's mind a triumph of ego over matter. Sammy and shill Berg's words is the OUT IN THE
OPEN. The authors agree that the individual list is often a lonely man. But Schoenberg character taunts the successful Sammy with being all alone and feeling blue while a Rand character declares poetically that every loneliness is a pinnacle. But and here's the crucial difference. While Howard gets all the credit for himself for being what he is in fact we know very little about his childhood. Sammy is blamed on society. In fact Al narrator finally figures out what made Sammy run by going back to the ghetto on Reddington street where Sammy grew up. I thought of Sammy Glick rocking in his cradle of hate malnutrition prejudice suspicions a morality the anarchy of the poor. I thought of him as a mangy little puppy in a doggy dog world. I saw Sammy Glick on a battlefield where every soldier was his own cause his own army and his own flag. And I realized that I had
singled him out not because he'd been born into the world any more selfish ruthless and cruel than anybody out even though he had become all three. But because in the midst of a war that was selfish and ruthless and cruel. Sammy was proving himself the fiercest the fittest and the fastest. You get a neat and humorous contrast between the author's attitudes toward compassion which might be seen as the antithesis of individual ism here in two other scenes. Here's the first one. It's Al again slightly inebriated explaining his newfound theory to his favorite bartender. And you know what I've been doing the past two hours working out a theory that I'll end hate in the world. Now Henry I want you to listen carefully because fate has chosen you to be the first one to hear my message. You remember Sammy Glick when Sammy Glick first walked into
my office he turned my stomach. But just think of it when he walked in I knew as much about him as I do now. We only hate the results of people but people Henry on just resolved that our process and to really give them a break we have to judge the process through which they became the result we see when we say that so-and-so is a heel. Now the world is full of people hating each other's guts. OK now Henry answer me this. What if each one of them took the time to go down to raving 10st I mean each person's particular ringtone Street Henry we would begin to have compassion in the way. That's what not so much this time. Contrast to this a little dissertation on compassion given for the benefit of one Mrs
Jones at a cocktail party by Dominey Franco the woman who loves Howard Roark and is sympathetic with his ideals. You met Mr Roarke Mrs Jones and you didn't like him. Oh he's the type of man for whom one can feel no compassion. How through compassion is a wonderful thing. It's it's what one feels when one looks at a squashed Caterpillar an elevating experience one can let oneself go and spread. Do you know Mike taking over Godel. You don't have to hold your stomach all be all hot for your spirit. When you feel compassion. All you have to do is look down. It's much easier when you look up you get a pain in the neck. Compassion is the greatest virtue. Oh it has an antithesis but such a hot demanding one. Admiration. Sit down admiration. But that takes a lot of integral Jo'burg versus Rand on
compassion as a virtue. Well now how far have we really come by now. By the 1940s both books were written in the early 40s 40s from that formula for success that I outlined earlier. Note that both Howard and Sami like the Alger hero have been familiar with poverty that all three break their ties with family early in life and that all three learn more by themselves than from formal education. All possess some kind of genius if only in Sammy's case a genius for making money and finally become successful by their own terms. But if the individual list has become the deviant in our culture the screwball the kook the caricature surely we have come a long way from the time when he made America what it is. And when his rugged features informed the portrait of the American portrait of the American program number seven rugged and not so rugged individualists the producer moderator Dr Betty Schmidt author scholar and
- Portrait of the American
- Producing Organization
- Wayne State University
- WDET (Radio station : Detroit, Mich.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- Third theme: the American success myth; Protestant ethic; versions of individualism.
- Series Description
- Series that examines assessments of the American using the themes of innocence, affluence, success and the American self. Features analysis by Dr. Betty Ch'maj, interviews, dramatic readings. Series features interviews with John Dos Passos, James Farmer, Marshall Fishwick, Alan Harrington, Ihab Hassan, Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, R.W.B. Lewis, and William H. Whyte, Jr.
- Broadcast Date
- Asset type
- Media type
Host: Ch'maj, Betty E. M.
Interviewee: Fishwick, Marshall W. (Marshall William), 1923-2006
Interviewee: Angell, Robert Cooley, 1899-1984
Interviewee: Harrington, Alan, 1919-
Producer: Gouds, Moyra
Producing Organization: Wayne State University
Producing Organization: WDET (Radio station : Detroit, Mich.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 66-3-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Portrait of the American; Rugged and not-so-rugged individualists,” 1966-01-21, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 27, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-ff3m1h1n.
- MLA: “Portrait of the American; Rugged and not-so-rugged individualists.” 1966-01-21. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 27, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-ff3m1h1n>.
- APA: Portrait of the American; Rugged and not-so-rugged individualists. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-ff3m1h1n