American Literature Week 15 Weems Washington

Prompt: “How believable is this book?”

Parson Weems was the author of Washingtons first biography, and a heavy component in many of the myths that have been told about Washington through the centuries. The most famous of these is the legend of the cherry tree, in which a young George Washington accidentally damages his fathers cherry tree with a hatchet; when confronted Washington proclaims that he cannot tell a lie and that it was him who cut the tree. His father is overcome with joy, realizing his sons honesty is more important than a tree.

Many of the stories in Weems book are similar to this, and the book itself being labeled a biography creates the assumption that the stories are true. The assumption is made that Washington was nearly ethereal, an ethical wonder from a young age. But its taken to the extent that Washington seems almost inhuman, angelic and honorable in every deed. This is where the book loses its believability for me, when it becomes unrelatable it becomes less and less likely to be historically accurate.

Washington was a great and noble man, but he was still just that: a man. People have flaws, people make mistakes. This is something that separates us from angels, but its also something that gives strength, determination, and eventual extraordinary results to humanity. As individuals we get to grow. We get to experience, and learn, and grow stronger than our flaws. That is where the true ethereal wonderment is, in our individual capacity to better ourselves through time, love and determination. I believe if Washington was better shaded in the book (with his flaws and motives and personal journey made more accurate) well we wouldn’t look at him as a deity. But we would get to see a more believable, relatable, and ultimately more inspiring look into the founding fathers life.

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