Christopher Columbus: From Genoese to American
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The character of Christopher Columbus makes appearances in the literature and language in countries and cultures throughout the world. In recent years in the United States Columbus has become most closely associated with the atrocities committed against Native Americans in the earliest colonial period. However, Columbus was once a very popular figure in American literature, most famously popularized by the biography The Life of Christopher Columbus written by Washington Irving. Interestingly, Irving wrote the biography while visiting Madrid. Although away from his native country, Irving’s biography reflects his purpose of depicting Columbus as an American hero. While others have explored this topic, my discussion of Irving’s biography further discusses parallels between the character of Columbus and that of Benjamin Franklin, as depicted in Franklin’s autobiography. Irving’s biography, while it does contain inaccuracies and invented scenes, is still an important component of our understanding of American identity.