Making An American Citizen

While this is usually described as an immigrant's lessons in American treatment of women, it should also be described as an immigrant's lessons in American treatment of immigrants, as he becomes a target for bullying on the streets, in his home, and on his farm, before finally being hauled away and shackled into slavery: "Completely Americanized!". Of even greater concern than the film and its authoritarian message is how rarely this disturbing aspect of the film is noted in modern reviews - which raises the question: over 100 years later, is assimilation by violent force, humiliation, and degradation still the accepted method of "Making An American Citizen"?

Ivan Orloff and his unhappy (unnamed) wife

Ivan meets emigrants
Ivan and his unhappy wife
The premise of the film, that Ivan needed to be Americanized in order to stop abusing his wife, is refuted by the very first scene: in his home country, the other men are not abusing the women, which suggests that Ivan's behavior may stem from traits that are personal rather than cultural.

In the land of freedom. His first lesson in Americanism.

Ivan bullied by stranger on street
In America, well-dressed strangers on the streets have the freedom to claim immigrant women as their own, while bullying their immigrant husbands.

In their new home, Ivan receives his second lesson in Americanism

Ivan bullied at home
In America, even poorly-dressed Americans have the freedom to barge into an immigrant's home and bully him.

In the country, his third lesson

Ivan whipped by a trespasser
In America, the freedom to force labor by whipping is well-established, so even rag-tag trespassers have the freedom to provide a foreigner with a motivational whipping.

Ivan's wife begins to live in the American way

Ivan hauled away by posse
In America, all are guaranteed the freedom to round up a posse happy to haul a fur'ner off to jail (or to a tree).

As a fourth lesson, Ivan is sentenced to six months of penal servitude

Ivan hauled away by law
"Durn'd fur'ner!!!"

Completely Americanized!

Ivan Americanized