The Washington Monument

Jeffrey F. Meyer

in Myths in Stone

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2001 | ISBN: 9780520214811
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520921344 | DOI:
The Washington Monument

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This chapter discusses the architectural monument of George Washington. Washington was the subject of countless popular images, book and magazine illustrations, almanacs, broadside cuts, and ornamented music. Horatio Greenough tried to create an idealized image of Washington that would transcend time. The enigma of Washington is rooted not in the absence of a perfect likeness, but in two other factors. Washington's character is opaque because he was by nature and intention reserved, stiff, and somewhat remote even to those who knew him. However, he is vital to Americans as their central figure of self-understanding, the mythic embodiment of the ideals Americans consider their highest and best. The power of Washington as a symbol is directly associated with overt and covert religious models that have lifted him above the human realm. The monument retains its value as a steady corrective, recalling qualities that require neither “text nor apology”.

Keywords: architectural monument; George Washington; Horatio Greenough; enigma; religious models

Chapter.  10798 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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