20 5-Paragraph Essay Topics on American Culture

Topics and ideas
Posted on December 4, 2015

If you need to write about American Culture for your 5-paragraph essay, consider the 20 essay topics below:

  1. What Are the Reasons of Culture Changes?
  2. Why Didn’t the “Great American Melting Pot” Boil Culture Down into a Single Homogenous Entity?
  3. The Changes That Were Reflected in American Art, Music, Literature
  4. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” as a Reflection of Slavery
  5. How Influential Literary Works Massively Impact Society and Culture
  6. What Forces or Tensions Exert Pressure on American Culture to Change?
  7. What Particular Features of the Past Precedents Show the Changes in American Culture?
  8. American Culture: Shaped by Many “Tensions” of “Foreign” Ideals, Massive Amounts of Immigration and “Native” Originality
  9. How Is Counterculture Distinguished by Its Emphasis on Social Change and Experimentation and by Its General Rejection of the Ideals Upheld by Post-World War II Generation?
  10. How the Beat Generation Played a Part in Other Social and Cultural Movements
  11. Multiple History Effects on Art, Music, and Literature and Vice Versa
  12. “Kinder and Gentler” America Reflection in the Music of Tin Pan Alley
  13. Rock and Roll as a Result of Changes in Society
  14. How Many Cultural Events Are Directly Related to Historical Happenings?
  15. Is It Impossible for a Cultural Event to Transpire without the Shift in Social Norms and Ideals?
  16. Rock and Roll Music: the Combination of Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Gospel, Country and Western
  17. Jazz Music: a Harmony of “Socially Elite” Piano and “Poor” Brass Instruments
  18. Who Do Some Works of Art Can Easily Fall Under Several Genres?
  19. The Evolution of Film Genres in the U.S.A
  20. The Reflection of the Beat Generation in Literature, Art and Music

Sample Essay: “Kinder and Gentler” America Reflection in the Music of Tin Pan Alley

Tin Pan Alley is an actual neighborhood in New York City (generally seen as 28th Street between 5th Avenue and Broadway) that served as the first home of the music publishing industry beginning in the 1880s and remaining well established into the 1920s and 30s. Tin Pan Alley was the direct result of the Reconstruction period following the end of the American Civil War. It is estimated that between the end of the war in 1865 and the year 1887, more than half a million new pianos were installed in parlors and homes across America. With the huge number of burgeoning musicians came the need for sheet music, and this instigated the development of an all new publishing industry, and a new musical form.

With this opportunity for massive profits in sheet music sales came a strange combination of gifted composers and corporate investment. Musicians were hired by publishing houses, and gave up all rights to their works. Market research dictated the “themes” for the compositions they were to write, and soon the music of Tin Pan Alley was more industry than art. The vaudeville era was just beginning at the dawn of Tin Pan Alley as well, and this only helped to spread the tunes and songs being written in the city. Within twenty years publishers could easily sell the sheet music for a single song in the millions of copies!

The lyrics to the most popular of the songs imply that the United States was happy and prosperous…but was it? With all the market research and clinical work done during the composition process is it accurate to say that the 1890s were as carefree as the songs indicate? We know that this was the period of time when the American “frontier” was officially declared as “closed”; when it was understood that there was no longer any unexplored areas of the country. We know too that child labor laws, particularly in the cities, had yet to put an end to abuse and poverty. The “gay 90s”, it seems, appear to exist only in the songs.

Today, we understand that the widespread need for sheet music triggered a booming industry that aimed to sell people what they wanted – a happier view of the United States. We know that this was partially inspired by the need to escape the devastation and conflict that remained from the Civil War era, and we know that this helped to shift the country into a new mindset. It also created a huge impact on business and the law because it initiated several copyright bills and created the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) to protect those writing the music.

Clearly this indicates that there were positive and negative effects from the cultural phenomenon of Tin Pan Alley and the musical form that it created. It also laid the groundwork for a smoother transition into a newly emerging musical form – Ragtime – and this would quickly transition into one of America’s most distinctive musical genres – Jazz.

Feldman, Gene, and Max Gartenberg. The beat generation and the angry young men. Books for Libraries, 1971.
Furia, Philip. The poets of Tin Pan Alley: a history of America’s great lyricists. Oxford University Press, 1990.
Gair, Christopher. The American Counterculture. Edinburgh University Press, 2007.
Holmes, John Clellon. “This is the beat generation.” New York Times Magazine16 (1952): 109-15.
Huggins, Nathan Irvin. Harlem renaissance. Oxford University Press, 2007.
Wintz, Cary D. Black culture and the Harlem Renaissance. Texas A & M University Press, 1988.
Wise, T. E. “Tin pan alley.” (2011).

Upgrade your essays with these FREE writing tools!
Get started now