The Agrarian and Frontier Myths Are Alive Today


*In 2016, the SOL program pivoted for the year to focus on political engagement in what was then called the “Political Engagement Pilot Project,” or PEPP. This was an alternative version of SOL that laid the groundwork for the development of the PEP program as it currently exists.

Americanism has been shaped by the portrayals of the malleable frontier and agrarian myths. Both myths have served as cultural glue, bonding the American people over the desire for individualism, opportunity and virtuousness. The frontier myth represents new beginnings and unlimited opportunity. The first American settlers alluded to the Frontier myth by saying “In England I was nobody, but here I am somebody” (Wilson). John Edwards corroborated the myth in describing opportunity as a birthright. Opportunity was then ingrained into America’s value system, and from there, America’s national character arose from the frontier (Wilson). Initially, the entirety of America was the new frontier. As the colonies became settled, the frontier was repainted as the unknown west. Once the west became civilized, the frontier myth did not disintegrate, it evolved. To this day the myth ignites ambition in the people. This is because the myth is not based on spatial territory; rather it is emblematic of having no borders, few restrictions and endless possibilities. The farming frontier enables the agrarian myth to thrive. “Slotkins ‘agrarian myth’ pictured the frontier as a rural utopia” (Amley 4). The agrarian myth idealizes the concept of the subsistence farmer who epitomizes purity and innocence, as a self-reliant and debt free man (Wilson). Working with the soil earned one virtue and happiness.