There was a slightly divisive view of how many authors in the 19th century viewed the West, and how it pertained to the American Dream. Mark Twain looks at the West with an innocent eye; he saw it as a vast frontier that was filled with boredom, but punctuated with moments of adventure; that is clear from his retellings as a boy of the steamboatmen who came through in a flash through his hometown. –“When a circus came and went, it left us all burning to become clowns; the first negro minstrel show that came to our section left us all suffering to try that kind of life; now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates” (Twain, “A Boy’s Ambition”). According to him, the American Dream included the involvement of the white man, though it was not at the expense of any minorities – he sought to further a more romantic view of the frontier that involved discovery and adventure.
Bret Harte has a much more cynical view of the West; he was sick and tired of how civilization was taming the West, and wished for more equality and fair treatment of foreigners and Indians. The West was a terrible place once the white man came along, according to Harte, and he hated the ideal of the American Dream, seeing it to be false – “And pulseless and cold, with a Derringer by his side and a bullet in his heart, though still calm as in life, beneath the snow lay he who was at once the strongest and yet the weakest of the outcasts of Poker Flat” (Harte, “Outcasts of Poker Flat”). Red Cloud felt the same way, as he lamented the defeat of his people being torn down and oppressed by the white man.
Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, despite being Indian, had a much more moderate view of the Indian and white relationship, feeling that there was a great chance for reconciliation and cooperation between the two peoples. According to her, the American Dream was a world where whites and Indians could work together, despite her initial resistance – “When they went away, my grandfather called me to him, and said I must not be afraid of the white people, for they are very good. I told him that they looked so very bad I could not help it” (Hopkins, Life Among the Piutes).
These conflicting views were largely centered around the Indian/white relationship as it pertained to the West; some saw it as a fruitful one that could be advantageous, while others lamented the terrible acts whites inflicted upon Indians.
The American Tradition in Literature: 12th edition, volume 2. Ed. George Perkins and Barbara