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Comparison of Life in 19th Century and the Modern World

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Survival has been a concern since the start of mankind. Sustaining a desirable lifestyle takes more than just a place to sleep. Although life in the 1800’s was substantially different than today, the basic principles of existence still apply today yet diverge in details concerning transportation, money and oneself.

As far as transportation is concerned, sustaining in the wilderness during the 19th century was dreadfully arduous, yet surviving in this status quo shares nearly the same characteristic. The 19th century marked the age when humanity began to rely on railroad systems. Through the economy-controlling monopolies, railways propagated throughout the states, especially in the east coast. In spite of the development of new modes of transportation, actual public utilization was low due to skyrocketing prices and unavailability in the west. As such, the scarce trails and roads were heavily relied on, but even then “small trails could not accommodate the heavy traffic” of western migrants, “nor did the existing modes of transportation facilitate quick and easy access to the nation’s interior” (Connor Prairie). Despite the 19th century marking the revitalization of the transportation industry, new modes were still undeveloped and thus primitive methods still remained prominent. In contrast, the 21st century offers more advantageous forms of transportation, however, the same onerous characteristic of transit can also be found now. Owing to the over-availability of various types of transportation — buses, trains, airplanes, just getting from one place to another has grown to be unnecessarily complex. Particularly in larger cities such as New York and Los Angeles, there are a myriad of railways and routes people can take and due to that, getting lost is quite easy, not to mention everything that can go wrong on the way. Likewise to public transportation, motor vehicle and motorcycle transportation is especially unfavorable particularly in accidents. In fact, there were 32,719 fatalities in highway related incidents during 2015 alone as well as 706 railroad and 266 transit deaths (US Department of Transportation). Although availability may not be an issue now, transportation during both the 19th and 21st century still pose significant problems.

Money has always been a vital aspect to sustain oneself. During the 19th century, people used pieces and bartering as a source of currency. Fast forward 193 years and humanity now uses a rectangular piece of plastic for money. Money does not have a physical commodity but it is used frequently to pay for expenses. These expenses can vary from food, clothing, housing, and transportation. In 2013, on average, an American spent $9,004 on transportation, $6,602 on food, $1,604 on attire and $17,148 on housing (Average US Consumer). This adds up to $34,358 spent in a year. The entire world relies heavily on money for necessities. Although the 21st century is advanced, society still use money to trade just like the 19th century. For example, in order to buy a steak, the consumer trades fiat money in return for the steak. In 1823, the fur companies traded guns, blankets, knives in exchange for a commodity. When Glass was given a blanket, knife and food to continue his travels, he wrote his name on a paper to pay his debt with money in the future. Money will always have a strong impact on society and people will cheat, steal, and kill if it means that they can have a little more of its poison. Like a cancer, money will continue to grow and the quantity being used grows 95% every year (Average Us Consumer).

Cogito ergo sum.“I think therefore I am” (René Descartes). Our society is so cultivated on the matter of acceptance people are willing to sacrifice their own persona if it means the false conformate of a society that is dictated and manipulated by a faceless media. Today one just needs look around, it is now who is paying attention to the latest trends, who has the best clothes, and who can get the most attention that has infected our society. We do not encourage change or creativity. We fear it. We fear it because to put it simply we are scared. And what exactly is it that terrifies us? The very instinct that has been encoded within humanity from the very day we stepped out of that big blue sea. Loneliness. Each human has the impulse to resist change as they fear it will take away everything they have. Humans are afraid that they will be left behind when times change as they believe they cannot adapt or that it will leave them a fragment of what they stand for. And there are times they in which they stand for nothing and fall for anything. In their minds, the ignorance of an opinion is a bliss as it ensures no risk. But there are those that have courage. They have the courage to resist. They stand firmly in the face of adversity. It is these individuals who make the change in their societies and their lives. They are not the extras in the film of life, instead they are the protagonists. They write their own stories and leave behind their own legends. And to whose legend do we witness? The man who rose from the dead to live out his revenge. Hugh Glass is exactly the kind of individual that we see survive not out of instinct but out of pride. His persona died in the forests when he let himself be abandoned by the man who saw him as little more than a few gold coins. Glass did what some men only fantasize. He planted himself and took back what was his. His identity. Although the path to Fitzgerald was one of danger and destruction, Glass need not worry as in his words “the wind cannot defeat a tree with strong roots” (Iñárritu).

In 1823, the only source of survival was a simple knife, a man’s best friend. Today, his best friend is the cell phone, which can be used to order a knife that will be shipped to a person in three to five business days. There at times when the naked and vulnerable eye does not necessarily comprehend what it truly means to survive, especially when it has seen evolution right in front of him. Sometimes, it can not even see it within oneself for the simple fact that one loses sight on what it means to walk out through the door whether it’s the 1800’s or this new millennium. Even though we are in a new generation with advanced technology that allows us to go from one place to another, with the desire to make beyond ends meet, and to seek for a connection within one’s own person, the same essential concepts apply to those in the ages of exploration just in a different manner.

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Comparison Of Life In 19th Century and the Modern World. (2019, September 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 24, 2020, from
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