A2. Melting Pot vs. Salad Bowl

  Summary of contents in textbook

Ⅰ. Melting pot

Definition:A place or situation in which large numbers of people, ideas, etc. are mixed together.
Further explanations: In the 18th and 19th centuries, the metaphor of a “crucible” or “smelting pot” was used to describe the fusion of different nationalities, ethnicities and cultures. The first use in American literature of the concept of immigrants “melting” into the receiving culture are found in the writings of J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur.

  • The origin of “Melting pot”: Israel Zangwill’s play, The Melting Pot, 1908.
  • It is a metaphor for a heterogeneous society becoming more homogeneous.
  • Racial ‘inferiors’ were to be burned away; highest qualities of intellect and strength fused into a new race of man.
  • It has been equated with cultural assimilation or acculturation.

Click here to watch an interesting video about the Melting Pot


Ⅱ. Salad bowl
Definition:The salad bowl concept suggests that the integration of the many different cultures of United States residents combine like a salad.
Further explanations: The salad bowl means that all the different cultures are combined (like a salad) but they do not mix or combine. Each culture keeps its own distinct qualities, just as a tomato does not take on traits of a carrot merely by being placed adjacent to it.

  • Multiculturalism is its main characteristics. Various cultures co-exist, like salad ingredients, mixed but      not fused into a single homogeneous whole. (Heterogeneity)
  • The white’s racial or ethical supremacy is avoided.
  • Cultural differences within a society is preserved.
  • The desirability of assimilation is challenged – different cultures mix, but remain distinct.


Ⅲ. Comparison

Melting Pot Salad Bowl
Feature Homogeneity Heterogeneity
Time of coming into usage 1908 (title of a popular play) Later than melting pot
  • Vivid to describe a heterogeneous society becoming more homogeneous
  • Burning away Racial ‘inferiors’
  • Fusing highest qualities of intellect and strength into a new race of man
  • Conserving each culture’s own charisma and origins
  • A sense of belonging/security
  • Inaccurate to describe a complex situation or cover the whole society.
  • Calling the country a melting pot signals a Euro-White Colonial standard period
  • Cultures do not mix at all. For example, in multicultural cities, some people spend their entire lives living and working without ever learning the country’s language.
  • Culture clash


Ⅳ. Metaphor

Patchwork Quilt Metaphor
Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson described America:
“Our flag is red, white, and blue, but our nation is a rainbow – red, yellow, brown, black, and white…. America is not like a blanket – one piece of unbroken cloth, the same color, the same texture, the same size. America is more like a quilt – many patches, many pieces, many colors, many sizes, all woven and held together by a common thread.”

Sunflower Metaphor
This metaphor was first mentioned by Yu Zhisen, a professor from East China Normal University.
Main idea: The disk of the sunflower represents the core values of the American culture, and the petals represent the different races, nations, traditions, customs and features. They are combined but remain distinct.



Melting pot

Melting pot


Salad bowl

Salad bowl


Patchwork Quilt Metaphor


Sunflower Metaphor

  Supplementary readings

1 “熔炉”、“拼盘”还是“葵花”?——对美国多元文化的再思考,2013 

(Sunflower Metaphor)

2 Documentary:  America: The Story of US (12 episodes)

  Useful websites



2 Cglearn.it