Themes and message

The main themes of “The Frontier Heritage” by Edward N. Kearny are American values and the importance of frontier culture for the development of American society. Edward Kearny’s intention is to show how the concept of the frontier helped to build American national identity and shared values. 

American values

The theme of American values is explored in detail in the text starting from the idea that these values are, at least partially, a result of the American frontier culture. Step by step, the author builds a portrait of the typical American individual.

First of all, the American individual values “hard work” (p. 103, l. 21) and “competitive success” (p. 103, l. 22), both of which have been influenced by American settlers moving further West on the continent: “…the frontier provided many inspiring examples of hard work as forests were turned into towns, and towns into large cities. The race for competitive success was rarely more colorful or adventurous than on the western frontier.” (p. 103, ll. 20-23)


The importance of frontier culture

The importance of frontier culture is the underlying theme of the text. Kearny focuses on those American values that have been influenced, more or less, by the concept of the frontier: “The American frontier may not be ‘the key’ to American development, as Frederick Jackson Turner said, but it is certainly one major factor.” (pp. 105-106, ll. 20-1)

The author’s argument is that many of the traits that we typically associate with Americans are a result of the frontier culture, of American settlers moving further West into previously “unsettled regions of the United States” (p. 3, ll. 10-11).


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