I was asked an interesting question about how the characters in Guardians of the Gate convey the message of the American Dream and the strength of the human spirit.
The easy answer lies in the immigrants going through Ellis Island, leaving behind poverty, repression, and limited life choices to pursue freedom and a better life in America. For example, Sam is a Polish teenager traveling alone to a country he knows only by hearsay and where he knows no one, but one that beckons to him with the promise of great opportunities.
In different ways, the island employees also personify that dream and spirit. Here are just a few examples:
Ellis Island interpreter Frank Martiniello—surrounded by Germans, Irish, and non-ethnic Americans in his workplace—rises above his social isolation through his initiative and determination to prove himself and gain acceptance.
Nurse Nicole Devereaux, in one of the few careers open to women, is nonetheless an independent spirit, refusing to marry early, cook, or sew, seeking instead her own version of fulfillment. One can easily imagine her in another 10 or 15 years as a suffragette.
Gateman Guenter Langer is the typical second-generation American breaking free of the limitations of his closed ethnic network, not in rejection, but in search of the wider world of possibilities that America offers the children of immigrants.
Commissioner Joseph Senner exemplifies the successful immigrant assimilating into American society. He becomes a citizen, gets active in politics, secures an important leadership position, and designs procedures for immigrant processing used thereafter at Ellis Island.
Commissioner William Williams personifies American altruism in giving up a lucrative income as a highly respected Wall Street lawyer to rid Ellis Island of all corruption. His orders to all employees to treat immigrants with kindness and respect are not only proper, but also a tacit acknowledgment that the strength of this country lies in its people, including those who come from other lands to join us and help build an even greater nation.