The 20th Century State of the American Dream
The American dream has always been a popular and typical subject matter in literature and arts in the United States. Though not a lot of people may be able to define the term in technical detail, Americans certainly know it by heart. The American dream has grown to a multitude of meanings over the years.
A 15-year old girl may see the American dream as winning Ms. USA and being able to represent her country in front of the whole world. A young college student on the hand may see it as finding the most promising job and succeeding in his dream profession someday.
While a newly wed man may see the American dream as acquiring his own house and property in a typical sub-urban area where he can start his life with his family calmly and peacefully. These are just some possible faces of American dream based on the perspectives of Americans from different walks of life. However, the real and concrete definition of ideal may not be that certain. The American dream have also been observed to evolve through the years since it has to base itself on the necessity of the American society.
And considering the current state of the American society in this modern age of the 20th century, the American dream can be easily seen as the vision of America as an economically stable, politically peaceful and societally harmonious nation. In this light, one may easily see how the different sectors of the country contributes to the achievement of this dream. However, although it can be observed that all of the American’s visions are directed to this goal, there may still be things that hinder the achievement of this ultimate dream.
In Loren Hickock’s letter to Harry Hopkins in 1934 reveals the state of America, and this was reflected in this statement: “A Promised Land, bathed in golden sunlight, is rising out of the grey shadows of want and squalor and wrethchedness down here in the Tennessee Valley these days” (Hichock, 1934). The United States of America as the nation on which the roots of the state if Tennessee stands was evidently described as a gifted nation showered with golden sunlight. This entails a lot of positive things. This can entail how rich the soil of America is, and this can entail how great it natural resources are.
This could have made the American Dream reachable if only the showers of the golden sun was put to good use. In the same letter by Hickock, she describes the state of American farm lands in Tennessee and how these lands, despite their arability and richness do not even grow sufficient crops for people to consume. Hickock writes, “Crops grown on it are stunted. Corn, for instance, grows only about a third as tall there as it does in Iowa. They tell me it isn’t even good timber land. Just a thin coating of soil over rock. ” (Hickock, 1934). This was during the 1930s.
The situations at present may already be the same, but these confessions may reveal a pre-existing predicament which may have found its way to the roots of all Americans. A similar situation to this which can be seen to hinder America in achieving its ultimate dream is people’s waste of resources. Just like the failure of earlier Americans to maximize the capacity or arable lands in Tennessee, American nowadays are suffered with debts and unnecessary financial debts that eventually make them fail in balancing and maximizing their prime resource which is money.
Aside from the dilemma on resources, one of the most significant dilemmas of Americans that may have hindered them for so long in achieving the American dream is racism and discrimination on religion. The popular men’s magazine in the US, Playboy conducted an interview with Malcolm X regarding the state of racism in America. During the 1960s. In Malcom X’s answers, his view of the American dream was clear; however, the destruction of this dream was depicted even clearer. Malcom X says: “Freedom, justice and equality are our principal ambitions[… The white man has taught the black people in this country to hate themselves as inferior, to hate each other, to be divided against each other[… ] the brainwashed black man can never learn to stand on his own two feet until he is on his own. We must learn to become our own producers, manufacturers and traders; we must have industry of our own,to employ our own” (“Playboy Interview Malcolm X, Alex Haley”, 1963). In these lines, the division between black and whites Americans was very apparent.
It seemed like these people were living in two separate nations, when in fact, there were sharing one ground. Hence, there was practically no concrete sense of unity during that time. And although most Americans would claim that racism has finally found its end in the country, it can never be denied that it has created a serious scar in America’s history. That although the current American society may be doing everything to heal the issue, the scar will always be there and it will never be erased in America’s face.
This can also be one of the most significant and considerable hindrances of achieving the American dream. Today, almost everything is being commercialized already. Everything seems to have a price tag. Because of this, people are becoming more and more competitive against each other to the extent that human rights violations are committed against their own countrymen. Evidently, in this kind of situation, achieving the ultimate American dream would be impossible. America has always been deemed as the land of the free.
But considering how pressured, restrained and oppressed people are now due to financial debts, poltical predicaments and economic instability, America may not be totally free after all. At least not yet. This picture can be easily seen in this statement of Hickock in the same letter she sent to Hopkins: “And all over the state, in rural areas, the story is the same– an illiterate, wretched people, undernourished, with standards of living so low that, once on relief, they are quite willing to stay living so low that, once on relief, they are quite willing to stay there for the rest of their lives. It’s a mess” (Hickock, 1934)