Freedom: A Contextual Analysis
When reflecting upon the first decade of American history in the new millennium, one term that comes to mind is the word freedom. America was founded on the ideals of freedom, more specifically liberty, and during the early 2000s this ideal was at the forefront of the American people’s consciousness for an array of different reasons. The national conversation was especially concerned with this notion of independence due to the repercussions that resulted from the terrorist attacks that occurred on American soil in September of 2001.
A heinous act of terror and destruction, the attacks on September 11th, 2001, had implications not only for the international community, but for the American people as well. The attacks resulted in America becoming engaged in two wars abroad in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also resulted in the creation of new laws and measures that would restrict the American people’s freedoms due to the need to adapt to the new threat posed by terrorist regimes, such as Al Qaeda.
During the time following 2001, to present day, many civil liberties were compromised in America in the name of waging the war on terror. This includes, the Patriot Act, which greatly increased the ability of federal and state law enforcement agencies to search the telephone calls, emails, health and financial records of citizens with the intent of reducing and preventing terrorist activities in the United States, and increased security and travel restrictions in airports and many other places. An erosion of civil liberties resulted from the executive powers implied and assumed with the war on terrorism (“Protecting America's Values and Freedoms after 9/11”).
While examining the thesis of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, it is evident that these historical events are what shaped his work. Franzen’s novel is not only a portrait of the Berglund’s dysfunctional family and the events that shape the individuals of the family, but it also qualifies as historical fiction because it explores pivotal events that occurred throughout the documentation of this family’s life. These events include, most notably, the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the second Iraq war, the Great Recession of 2008, and an environmental crisis.
During this time in history, our nation’s safety, prosperity, and hegemonic status were in jeopardy, and a feeling of fear and uncertainty swept across the globe. Americans had to adjust to the idea that their seemingly limitless freedom had been restricted, and for many it was a tough pill to swallow. Throughout the novel Freedom, Jonathan Franzen succeeds in exploring on a personal level, the consequences that resulted from Americans having some of their freedoms threatened, and how they navigated this unique situation that American’s of the past had never dealt with.
All the characters in this novel are not only faced with the dilemma posed by restrictions resulting from events such as 9/11, but they were also beginning to question their personal liberties. Walter Berglund, the main character, states that “people came to this country for either money or freedom”, also stating, ““you may be poor, but the one thing nobody can take away from you is the freedom to fuck up your life whatever way you want to” (Franzen, 361). The national dialogue about "freedom" during the Bush administration is reflected in the characters' struggles with personal freedom.
Throughout the course of his presidency from 2000-2008, the Bush administration faced strong criticism from civil liberties advocates on both the left and the right for its legal tactics in the war on terrorism (Jost, "Civil Liberties Debates"). Jonathan Frazen’s novel explores the ways in which freedoms are abused, and during this time in history, Americans were realizing how much they took for granted before this chaotic time in history. Freedom perfectly captures the temptations and burdens of liberty while exploring the ways in...
Cited: 1. "Protecting America 's Values and Freedoms after 9/11." The Seattle Times. Ed. Kate Riley. Frank A. Blethen, 09 Sept. 2011. Web. 01 Apr. 2013. .
2. Franzen, Jonathan. Freedom. 1st ed. N.p.: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010. Print.
3. Jost, Kenneth. "Civil Liberties Debates." CQ Researcher 24 Oct. 2003: 893-916. Web. 1 Apr. 2013.
4. Cooper, Mary H. "Bush and the Environment." CQ Researcher 25 Oct. 2002: 865-96. Web. 1 Apr. 2013.
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