'WESTWARD THE STAR OF EMPIRE TAKES ITS WAY'- 1867
The first thing that draws my attention in this painting and this title is the use of a star. The train headlight draws your eye to it's light immediately showing it's grand importance and also distracts your eye from the desolate landscape surrounding the light. This immediately made me think of religious terms, where a star guided the wise men to their destiny and to their faith. This symbolises the mystical and religious aspects of Manifest Destiny, men are being lead to their destiny through the Christian faith and it would be obvious that this would be depicted through a star. The fact the star is in fact a train symbolises the technology and the travel of this time is the destiny guiding those to their path. The next thing I notice within this painting is the cracked train track which would derail the train if it were to pass this point, this interested me and made me wonder if this was a metaphor for Americans taking Manifest Destiny too far and if it passes a certain point it may derail and be destroyed. This then makes me wonder whether this painting is more of a warning than a presentation of Manifest destiny, the light creates a positive connotation but also draws you away from the immanent dangers in the surroundings, this could be a warning, 'do not be blinded by the light, open your eyes and see.'
Further from the train rail we see Deer flocking from the train with a look of fear and confusion, this could be a message that Manifest Destiny is destroying the nature and the surroundings, nature is running away from the people. This is also represented through the desolate and bare surroundings in the left hand of the picture, most of the trees are stumps and what you are left with is a single house, this could show how much a single person or family could affect nature, with so many trees being cut down is this a representation of greed, taking too much from nature. In turn we get a dark and almost fearful sense within this side of the picture. This was apparently supposed to represent San Francisco, which would later become a beautiful and nature friendly area of America, however this depiction shows a lack of nature, a lack of light and a lonely place. This to me seems ironic that a place that has a depiction of being against nature later became one of the places helping to preserve it. I believe this painting is all in all a mere warning that Manifest Destiny may go too far, it is against nature and is a dark place to follow.
Although the star/ train has a positive connotation of Manifest Destiny it is almost a sign that the light and the mystery and the magic of Manifest Destiny is blinding your sight to the darkness which surrounds the rest of the picture, I believe that Andrew Melrose the artist has intended this painting to show the negatives of Manifest Destiny that no body saw, he wanted to get past the ideology and show that destroying nature was dark and stripped all of the beauty out of America like it has done in the painting.