This essay examines the notion of an American narrative, looking at a variety of myths that have been prominent and that have, in various ways, shaped the concept of a nation devoted to Enlightenment and Anglo-Saxon ideals. These include liberty, equality, and justice, which can be traced to thinkers such as Montesquieu, as well as ideals laid out in the Magna Carta. These lofty ideals took the place of more traditional narratives and tribal alliances, and they helped establish a nation that had been formed by so many different immigrant strands. That these stories – going back to the Puritans landing on Plymouth Rock, for example – have been influential seems beyond question. Yet it remains difficult to assess their broader value in determining the course of a nation. How might these founding myths prove useful in refashioning the American stories in ways that, in the future, could be productive?

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