By Alexia Gonzales and Camille Grandguillotte, University of Angers
The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of the United States. But if one is asked why the
Statue is an American icon, the answer can be hard to find instantly. In France, most
people see the Statue of Liberty as an emblematic representation of the US and of
New York; but what do they really know about it? That it was built by Gustave Eiffel?
That it was a present from France to the US?
The Statue of Liberty was indeed a Franco-American project, but it is more than just
that. The iconicity of the Statue of Liberty resides in its first symbolism: the welcoming
of immigrants to the US, to a land of hope and freedom. Nowadays, this symbolism is
a little lost because immigrants don’t necessarily arrive to the New York harbor, but
one of the first “roles” of the Statue was that of a reassuring “Mother of Exiles”: “A
mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles […] Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to
Many years after the Statue’s construction in 1886, the United States have changed
dramatically: it is no longer a country needing immigrants to survive. With each
immigration act and with the way the country treats its minorities, it feels like the US
have forgotten their roots. No need to know history to say that the country was built
from the ground by immigration, especially since the first “American” settlers were
The US has always been a destination of choice for immigrants, a way of achieving
their “American dream” and the Statue of Liberty embodied everything they needed:
hope and freedom. Is it still true nowadays?
Seeing the numerous cartoons on the blog, we were made to ask ourselves if this
symbolic emblem still had the same resonance it once had. However, the answer is
not quite so simple. Though to us, the Statue seems to have become reduced to
these two main aspects: business and politics. There is no need to deny the Statue’s
marketing power and its touristic attraction. Moreover, we can see that the Statue is a
recurring symbol used to denounce the actions of the government, especially
concerning immigration, but also the lack of individual liberty or the consumerism
society, as we can see through all the different articles posted on this blog.
Can the Statue of Liberty still be a symbol of hope and freedom, as it was at the
beginning, when it is repeatedly used to denounce the elements previously cited ?
We’d like to think so. Although the image of the Statue of Liberty has changed a lot,
often linked to negative aspects of the American society or government, it remains a
symbol of the American dream, and an American Icon.