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The notion of the Great Plains as a vast roaming ground for cowboys an

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The notion of the Great Plains as a vast roaming ground for cowboys an  [#permalink]

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New post 04 Feb 2018, 11:54
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The notion of the Great Plains as a vast roaming ground for cowboys and their herds of cattle became popular more recently than some might think. Let us first put aside that now cliché notion of a lawless Wild West with gunslingers and bandits running rampant and shootouts in front of salons every day at high noon. To be sure the west was a dangerous place, but the vast majority of the mystique surrounding the times and places comes more from East Coast writers and later imaginations than anything else. The image of a Great Plains populated by cattle herds and homesteaders was slow to emerge. Much of the settling of the West happened in land grabs after the Civil War.

In spite of the conventional interpretation, a survey of source material reveals that the image of the plains as Desert was restricted in 1825 to certain portions of the country and to certain segments of the population. Analysis of newspapers and periodical literature indicates that the Desert image was strongest in the rural areas of the Northeast and weakest in the rural areas of the South and trans-Appalachian West. Acceptance of the Desert concept was more likely among the well-educated elite, particularly in the Northeast, and acceptance of a ―Garden‖ notion was greater among the rural populations, particularly in the South and West.

American historians have argued that the myth of the Great American Desert dominated the pre-Civil War view of the Great Plains. It was this conception of the plains as Desert, according to the traditional interpretation, that caused the American folk migration westward to leap over the region during the 1840‘s and the 1850‘s. This conventional understanding is neither completely invalid nor necessarily incorrect; but it is too simplistic to be fully satisfying. To claim the universal acceptance of stereotyped images of the Great Plains is to ignore the presence of a considerable array of data to the contrary.

By the middle of the 1840‘s, the concept of the plains as Desert had become prevalent, but even then the Desert image was not the exclusive one. The year 1845 is critical, for it marked the beginning of the migration of Americans across the Plains to Oregon and California. An examination of the sources of American images of the plains in that year does not support the contention that the folk migration failed to halt on the Great Plains because that region was viewed unfavourably by the migrants. By 1845 the American frontier was bursting with what one Missouri newspaper editor called ―perfect Oregon fever.‖ But those who encouraged migration to Oregon did not deny the agricultural potential of the Plains. They simply made Oregon the logical and desirable culmination of the American drive to the Pacific.

This notion of Manifest Destiny was so pervasive during that time. It was considered by most Americans to be not merely a right, but a duty to settle the continent from shore to shore, plowing through the middle of the country to reach the inevitable destination. To substantiate the point that the folk elements of American society did not see the plains as Desert, one need only look at the records of those who crossed the Plains on their way to Oregon or California. A survey of the diaries from the years preceding the Civil War uncovers only 17 references to Desert conditions in the Great Plains.

1. According to the information presented by the author in the passage, American migrants travelling throughout the United States in the mid-1840‘s often:

A. doubted the economic potential of the Great Plains.
B. had an overly optimistic image of the Great Plains.
C. had geographical destinations other than the Great Plains.
D. were misinformed by newspaper stories.
E. faced threats from bandits


2. All of the following can be found in the author‘s argument about the Great Plains EXCEPT:

A. a contrast between the views of Americans who lived in different regions.
B. a comparison of written and oral accounts of the migration experience.
C. a general description of people who believed the Great Plains to be a Desert.
D. an indication as to when westward migration activities increased in scope.
E. a mention of the opinion of American historians


3. Which of the following best summarizes the author‘s attitude toward the traditional view as posed in the passage that most Americans regarded the Great Plains as Desert?

A. It ignores conflicting evidence.
B. It is irrelevant to historical understanding.
C. It is substantially correct.
D. Its importance has been unappreciated.
E. It is absolutely absurd


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Re: The notion of the Great Plains as a vast roaming ground for cowboys an  [#permalink]

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The notion of the Great Plains as a vast roaming ground for cowboys an  [#permalink]

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New post Updated on: 26 Oct 2018, 01:13

Topic and Scope

- Popular perception of the myth of the Great American Desert in the mid-1800s

Mapping the Passage


¶1 puts into context the notion of the ―Wild West.‖
¶2 lists the geographical differences in acceptance of the myth of the Great American Desert.
¶3 describes the myth and the traditional view that it was widely-held in the mid- 1800s. The author argues that it oversimplifies the case, though.
¶s4 and 5 argue that the Plains were overlooked partially out of a desire to get to Oregon, not out of a belief that the Plains were a desert, and cite more evidence supporting the contention that many Americans did not regard the Plains as desert.

Strategy Point:
Very often, when a traditional view is presented, a new view will be offered that
argues that the traditional view is too simplistic or too black-and-white
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Originally posted by GmatWizard on 26 Oct 2018, 01:10.
Last edited by GmatWizard on 26 Oct 2018, 01:13, edited 1 time in total.
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The notion of the Great Plains as a vast roaming ground for cowboys an  [#permalink]

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New post 26 Oct 2018, 01:12

Answers and Explanations OE


1)

The mid-1840s are mentioned in ¶s3 and 4. Review the author‘s basic points: Not everyone thought the plains were the desert, and many settlers simply passed the Plains up because they were on their way to Oregon. (C) reflects the latter point.
(A): Opposite. The author states in the same lines that ―those who encouraged migration to Oregon did not deny the agricultural potential of the Plains.‖ For the purpose of settling, agricultural potential in the Plains was presumably equivalent to economic potential.
(B): Distortion. Though the author argues that settlers generally didn‘t have an overly pessimistic view of the Plains as a desert, there‘s no indication that their view skewed too far in the opposite direction.
(C): The correct answer
(D): Opposite. Newspapers are cited in ¶2 as a data source for investigating the myth of the Great American Desert; the author argues that those who did accept the desert images were mainly the elite, who presumably weren‘t the main migratory population.
(E): Bandits are not within the scope of the passage

2)

An unusual question in an ―All...EXCEPT‖ format that asks you to evaluate the author‘s argument. A quick scan of the answer choices show that they focus on structure rather than particular details. Look for something that the author doesn‘tdo: (B) fits the bill. The author never mentions oral accounts, and so there can be no comparison of them with something else.
(A): Opposite. This is the subject of ¶2.
(B): The correct answer
(C): Opposite. The author describes the type of person most likely to believe the desert myth at the end of ¶2.
(D): Opposite. The author mentions in ¶4 that the year 1845 marked the beginning of broad migration.
(E): Opposite. This is mentioned in the ¶3.

3)

What is the author‘s opinion of the traditional view? Review ¶3: the author doesn‘t say that the traditional view is completely wrong, and in fact takes pains to say that it‘s not ―completely invalid nor necessarily incorrect.‖ The author believes that it‘s ―too simplistic‖ and ignores ―a considerable array of data to the contrary.‖ (A) summarizes this neatly.
(A): The correct answer
(B): Opposite. This choice is far too negative in tone, and since the author says that the traditional view is not completely invalid, it must have some historical relevance.
(C): Opposite. The author argues that it‘s too simplistic, which means that it can‘t be ―substantially correct.‖
(D): Opposite. The author argues that the traditional view has been overhyped if anything and that a more nuanced historical analysis should take its place.
(E): ‗Absurd‘ is extreme language
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