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Melting Pot and Salad Bowl

America is a nation built on immigration. Should these immigrants put aside all allegiances to their home country, or is there strength to be gained by having a mix of cultures and identities?
Åpne bilde i et nytt vindu

implement, incorporate, coined, assimilated, crippled, imply, alienation, estrangement, dichtomy, enrich, complementation, citizen

The Melting Pot

Immigrants in the USA. Photo.

One of the most persistent rhetorical questions in the course of American history has been: “What is an American?” And perhaps the most famous answer to that question was given by Crèvecoeur, a Frenchman, in 1783: "Here individuals of all races are melted into a new race of men”. More than a century later these same ideas were expressed in the myth of the melting pot. The term was coined by Israel Zangwill in his famous play The Melting Pot (1908). Zangwill illustrated how people from different nations were melted together and born again as Americans. The image of a melting pot comes from the production of metal, where different materials are melted together to create a stronger product. The melting pot became the image of an assimilated American society. The immigrants had been transformed into Americans.

The Immigrant Experience

The Melting Pot. Photo.

The melting pot is just one metaphor for the immigrant experience. Other common metaphors that focus on the negative sides of the immigrant experience are those describing the immigrants as uprooted and transplanted in a strange country. They are living between two worlds. Such metaphors imply that the immigrant experience is one of alienation and estrangement and focus on a dichotomy between the old and the new homeland.

However, these metaphors have been reconsidered. Today they are often replaced by terms suggesting that immigrants have the advantage of drawing upon two cultural traditions, two ways of thought, and being at home in “a double landscape.” In this way the immigrant experience has been transformed into an enriching ethnic experience.

Salad Bowl and Pizza

Positive terms used today to describe this blend of cultures are salad bowl and pizza. Both of these foods are made of several ingredients either mixed together in a bowl or held together by dough. People can retain their heritage while at the same time feel like they are American. You can identify as Iranian-American, Irish-American, Italian-American, Korean-American and so on. As these identities are connected by a hyphen, we talk about hyphenated Americans. Across generations people may pick up several different cultural identities. Many Americans feel their identity is a blend of several cultures. Immigrants are proud of their heritage and even prouder that the nation of America has welcomed them.

Tasks and Activities


  1. Why is the U.S. called a nation of nations?

  2. What is implied by the metaphor melting pot?

  1. What do you think is meant by saying that immigrants are at home in a "double landscape"?

  2. What is understood by the metaphors salad bowl and pizza?

  3. What is a hyphenated American?

Melting Pot and Salad Bowl

Watch this animation to get a better understanding of the metaphors.

To visualize your understanding you should make two different word clouds (See wordart.com) and compare them with your class mates'.

Relatert innhold

CC BY-SASkrevet av Åse Elin Langeland.
Sist faglig oppdatert 04.10.2021