The Melting Pot Play

Source: http://immigration.procon.org/view.timeline.php?timelineID=000023

The arts delved into public opinion on immigration, especially in the early 1900s. Jake’s exploration of the arts with his post regarding Middlesex generated a curiosity within me to see if any plays reflected similar ideas. I was successful. In 1909, a play called The Melting Pot debuted on Broadway. It was produced by Israel Zangwill and was received well by the public. The play touched base on one of the most important concepts that I have repeatedly noticed in respect to immigration: American exceptionalism. The metaphor of a melting pot connects to this concept. The melting pot suggests that Americans are accepting of immigrants “if they would but suffer to be melted in the pot.” Public opinion in the early 1900s largely leaned toward the side of forcing the immigrants to give up their previous lifestyles in order to adopt the lifestyle of a typical American. This often rings true today, but I was struck by how typical this was in the early 1900s. In the early 1900s, people were largely supportive of the melting pot, which is reflective of the popular opinion that immigration was accepted as long as the immigrants were willing to give up their pasts in order to adopt the American way. Is this right? Should we “force” immigrants to dissolve into the American way in exchange for acceptance? Is there a happy medium that we can reach? As Americans, can we find a way to make sacrifices ourselves?

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