Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 April 2004
Considered by many to be the most American part of America, the Midwest occupies a unique place in the national psyche, and its residents have been called the archetypal or quintessential Americans. The region is – and was – anything but homogenous, and any adequate treatment of it needs to take into account its many variations, complexities, and paradoxes. Any search for the essential character of the region soon founders on recognition of its cultural diversity. Yet, acknowledgment of the hazards of advancing broad generalizations about a region extending from Ohio to the Dakotas and ranging as far south as Missouri should not bar us from inquiring into the qualities and characteristics of its people. Despite the contradictions and complexities attaching to the region, the Midwest possesses a distinctive cultural identity, joining its constituent elements in an unstable and constantly changing, but nevertheless recognizable, pattern.