The very phrase “American dream” first appeared precisely at the height of the economic crisis – in 1931, at about the same time that Moss Hart was dying of a sudden flood of patriotism in a morning taxi. It was used by the publicist James Traslow Adams in his mediocre book Epic of America, an essay on the country’s development from the time of Columbus to the beginning of the 20th century. Here it is – the American dream – everyone has equal opportunities, if you work hard, you can reach any heights.
Now this is the dream for every American, although common points – those inherited from the founding fathers still exist. It is they who make Americans who they are.
Example 1: Recipe for the American Dream
Writing 100 October 28, 2009 Essay 2 Recipe for the American Dream Since the establishment of this country, Americans have set their eyes on success. The way we define success has changed along with technology. The American Dream is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. ” When repeating this phrase out loud one draws up images of fancy cars, big houses, quality clothes, etc.
What Adams fails to mention is that success requires work, furthermore success in terms of fancy cars, big houses and other luxuries require over 40 hours a week of work. The more time one spends at work, the less time one has to spend doing other things. Ellen Goodman’s “The Company Man”, is a prime example of why spending an excessive amount of time working is harmful to a human being. In providing a comfortable life for his family, the main character neglects to have a presence in his home. The pursuit of the American Dream calls for an unbalanced lifestyle, which alienates individuals from their families.
Very early on, Americans are taught to believe that the more one does, the more one receives in return. It is undeniable that this ideology stems from biblical teachings; “for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. ” (Galatians 6:7) This ideology continues to get instilled in every aspect of the average American’s life. The more studying a student does, the better grade the student receives. The more an athlete practices, the better athlete he’ll become. It is not odd that adults keep this ingrained in their minds as they go into the workforce.
The more time and energy spent on the job, the more money and benefits an employee will receive. Money is an important ingredient in making the American Dream become a reality, and Americans experience constant reminders of the need to live the dream, through the media and peers. Living the Dream is not a crime in itself, but what gets sacrificed in the process may prove to be more valuable than most of the objects themselves.
Christopher Clausen helps readers to understand in “Against Work” that “the workaholic…neglects his family, withdraws from social life and loses interest in sex. (Clausen 673) Phil, the main character in Goodman’s, “The Company Man” works “himself to death, finally and precisely at 3:00 am Sunday morning. ” (Goodman 629) Before his death, Phil “worked six days a week, five of them until eight or nine at night, during a time when his own company had begun the four-day week for everyone but the executives. He had no outside extracurricular interests” (Goodman 329), not even his life at home.
It is heartbreaking for someone to die leaving their offspring to go around “asking the neighbors what [their father] was like” the “day and a half before the funeral. (Goodman 630) Phil is so consumed by his job that his children never have the opportunity to connect with him and get to know him as a person, rather than simply their biological father. His wife admits to “missing him all these years” (Goodman 629), which shows his absence as her companion. Phil never grasps the concept of balance, which is understandable considering the Dream he makes a reality never puts balance into the equation. “Working to earn one’s bread is something few people can escape. Working out of moral vanity is sheer self-deception. 
It is true that the majority of people work because they are conscious of the fact that they will receive compensation for their time spent working. While it is imperative to earn enough to put food on the table and clothing on the backs of our loved ones, it is also imperative keep life outside of work in mind. Although working to obtain a “comfortable” life, without having to live from paycheck to paycheck demands a lot of time from a weekly schedule, there are benefits to hard work besides earning more disposable income. Some would agree with Voltaire who states that “Work spares us from three great evils: boredom, vice and need. 
Work will absolutely remedy boredom, and vice, but people will always have a need for something else. Work satisfies the need of money to provide food, clothing and shelter, but it disregards the need for love, care and affection. Many Americans struggle with finding a balance of work and family. It is far too often the case that individuals choose to pursue riches, while leaving every other aspect of their lives to suffer. It is ironic that Phil and many others like him work to provide the family with a “better” life, according to American standards, while neglecting everything that makes a life meaningful.
A study of Workaholism states that “spouses and children of workaholics report feeling lonely, unloved, isolated, and emotionally and physically abandoned. ” This behavior is reflected in Phil’s wife and children. “His second child…lives near her mother and they are close, but whenever she was alone with her father, in a car driving somewhere, they had nothing to say to each other. ” (Goodman 630) Since Phil was absent so frequently, his own daughter feels no connection to him, even when he is present, it is as if she is riding along with a stranger.
Phil works his way near the top of his company, but has nothing to show for it. Yes, he earns a great deal of money, but look at what it costs him in the long run. “He works like the important people” only to have the company president, on the afternoon of the funeral to begin, “discreetly of course, with care and taste to make inquiries about his replacement. ” (Goodman 630) To the company, Phil, and others like him are disposable, like plastic spoons used to mix up the ingredients for turning the Dream into a reality.
His hard work at the job did not console his wife, nor did it establish a strong relationship with his children. Phil’s work ethic even steered the youngest of his children away from obtaining a “serious” job. “The youngest…has spent the last couple of years, like a lot his friends, doing enough odd jobs to stay in grass and food. He was the one who tried to grab at his father, and tried to mean enough to him to keep the man at home. ” (Goodman 630) The boy is traumatized by the way his father lived his life.
Work is what causes his father to withdraw from his family, and there is no doubt that the American Dream is what spearheads the separation. The need to ensure the family “happiness” pushes Phil to working toward the top of his career, eventually causing the detachment. It is very easy to get wrapped up in wanting to procure certain material things for one’s family, especially living in America. It is understandable that an individual may want to acquire the “finer” things in life, but doing so should not take precedence over any other aspects of life, such as one’s family.
Once family alliances become solidified in the workaholic father’s absence, spouses resent having their turfs violated when workaholics do try to become more actively involved in their families. Older children, too, often rebuff the workaholic’s attempts to reconnect with the family because they feel the reentry is too little, too late, or both. “ Too much of one thing is never a good thing, there needs to be a balance in order achieve more in life. In attempting to take the ingredients for cooking up the American Dream, one needs to consider adding the spice of balance into the recipe, without it, the Dream is bittersweet.
Works Cited Sheet
- (Adams-Truslow, John). “What is the American Dream? ” The Epic America. 2002. 28 Oct. 2009 http://memory. loc. gov/learn/lessons/97/dream/thedream. html
- (Clausen, Christopher) “Against Work” Occasions for Writing, Di Yanni & Hoy. Eds. New York: Thompson, 2008 672-676. Print
- (Goodman, Ellen) “The Company Man” Occasions for Writing, Di Yanni & Hoy. Eds. New York: Thompson, 2008 629-630. Print
- Healthcare Training Institute. Study of Workaholism Part II: Spouses and Children of Workaholics http://www. homestudycredit. com/courses/contentWK/secWK16. html
- Voltaire http://www. uotesdaddy. com/quote/302901/voltaire/work-spares-us-from-three-evils-boredom-vice-and-need ———————–  Adams-Truslow, John. “What is the American Dream? ” The Epic America. 2002. 28 Oct. 2009 http://memory. loc. gov/learn/lessons/97/dream/thedream. html 
- Clausen, Christopher. Against Work  Voltaire http://www. quotesdaddy. com/quote/302901/voltaire/work-spares-us-from-three-evils-boredom-vice-and-need 
- Healthcare Training Institute. Study of Workaholism Part II: Spouses and Children of Workaholics http://www. homestudycredit. com/courses/contentWK/secWK16. html  Ibid
Although the roots of the American Dream are founded on opportunity for all, it has become an inaccessible illusion for most. John Steinbeck’s novella “Of mice and men” explores the fragility of this concept in a more modern context. Whereas Sam Mendez’s film “American Beauty” uses black comedy to highlight the allusive nature of the American dream that has become perverted by an affiant society. Both of these texts expose a reality that reveals the isolation and loneliness experienced from pursuing American dream. George and Lenny both shared “The American Dream” of owning their own small farm house.
However they too were unable to grasp the reality when their dream became crushed by society’s expectations. ‘Some day – we’re gonna get the jack together and we’re gonna have a little house and a couple of acres an’ a cow and some pigs and –‘, George and Lenny constantly repeats this phrase continuously throughout the novella, as their personal ambition and aim. It was this specific phrase that allowed our two protagonists to differentiate from others, it gave our protagonists hope as they were unique from all other farm workers ‘Guys like us, that work on ranches are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family.
They don’t belong no place. They come to a ranch an’ work up a stake and then they go inta town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they’re poundin’ their tail on some other ranch’. Knowing that they were different from all other farm workers they motivated themselves to believe that they were able to obtain what others could not, as they were different from everyone else ‘They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to’ … ‘But not us! ’ An’ why? Because … Because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why’. Our two protagonists can closely compared with the mouse in Robert Burns Poem “To a Mouse”.
The mouse within Burns poems lived on a farm very similar to Lennie and George. Through hard work the mouse creates a home, which was ultimately destroyed by the farmer. The rodents that Lennie often carried around symbolises how fragile they really were, being crushed by Lennie’s petting. The American Dream was supposedly founded on the belief that it was a dream for all and that everyone had an equal chance. However Steinbeck’s choice of emphasizing both the fragility and the selective nature of the American Dream crushes Lenny and George indefinitely.
Steinbeck highlights the allusive nature of the American dream by using alienated and lonely characters who are shown to be unable to fulfil their dream. Crooks is a black man who was shunned from society merely because of his colour and race. Unable to belong with the rest of the other characters, he is often shown alone. When Lennie first confronts Crooks, Crook turned his vulnerability against Lennie and lied about George never returning, suggesting that George will never return. He plays a cruel game with Lennie, suggesting to him that George is gone for good.
Only when Lennie threatens him with physical violence does he relent. Crooks exhibits the corrosive effects that loneliness can have on a person; his character evokes sympathy as the origins of his cruel behavior are made evident. Perhaps what Crooks wants more than anything else is a sense of belonging—to enjoy simple pleasures such as the right to enter the bunkhouse or to play cards with the other men. This desire would explain why, even though he has reason to doubt George and Lennie’s talk about the farm that they want to own, Crooks cannot help but ask if there might be room for him to come along and hoe in the garden.
Similarly, Curly’s wife also had an ambition to be a movie star and famous. Near the start of the novella, Curly’s wife was shown to be a “tramp” or “tart”, however as the novella progresses, her lust for attention grows. This desire is shown by her confrontation with other men, even though Curly had told her not to. The lack of attention that the other characters and the story gave her is further emphasised by Steinbeck’s decision of disallowing her a name. Curly wife’s is also another character that demonstrated loneliness, however, unlike other characters, she had little significance.
Similarly Sam Mendez also produces unique individuals within “American Beauty”, each having their own dreams and ambitions, to demonstrate the allusion that the American dream is for everyone. The Burnham’s in particular were bitter and confined even though they were shown to have “Everything”: a house, a car, a family. Even though the Burnhams had the depicted everything, they did not appear to be content with their life. Lester Burnham, the protagonist, has been slowly deteriorating from the typical patriarchal household. Lester is often showed to be confined within himself shut of from other characters.
During the first office scene, Lester’s reflection upon the computer is shown behind green bars of text. Even Lester himself admits that he loser living the same boring life every day. At the beginning of the movie Lester starts of narrating, “In a way I’m dead already”. During the first dinner scene after Lester walks into the kitchen, Lester tells Jane “Sometimes Jane you don’t have to wait for me to come to you. You can come to me” however Jane’s response was different from the typical families creating a sunse of unrealistic expectation of what a family should be.
When Lester is in the shower, he is also confined within the small shower cubicle. It wasn’t until Lester reverted back to the consumption of pot that he starts challenging everyone, breaking away from the accumulating confinement. At this point Lester breaks away from the facade that he was unworthy, gaining independence. Caroline on the other hand is taken in by the desire for success. Even though Caroline had everything that the American dream states, she continues to long for more.
This shows how the American Dream is continuously filled with wants and desires. When Lester and Caroline were alone in the living room Caroline gets distracted by Lester nearly spilling beer on the coach. Lester tells her “This isn’t life. This is just stuff. And this stuff has become more important to you than living. ” Both Mendez and Steinbeck imply through their texts that The American Dream is merely a facade and an allusion that anyone can obtain. However, the selective nature of the dream restricts various people from pursuing this happiness.
Example 3: The American Dream
“American Dream” is a term used too often to describe a certain destination that Americans, both those born and bred in America and migrants who arrived in these shores from other lands, dream of reach.
It was coined by James Truslow Adams in 1931, in his book The Epic of America, to describe the common dream of “a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability of achievement… It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth of position” (Adams, 2001).
It is a dream of equality, of being able to live a life of one’s choice, and live it with freedom and dignity. The American dream that traces its roots centuries earlier, when the founding fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence, that “all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. ” It has been a long battle since, an arduous and often precarious one. Blood has been shed and lives offered and taken in desperate effort to realize this dream.
The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, adopted and proclaimed in 1865, to officially abolish and prohibit slavery, was one big step. In the eyes of those who never needed to dream the American dream, it had been accomplished with that one step. But more than a hundred years later, it appears that the Emancipation Proclamation has not succeeded in its goal of granting equality, liberty and happiness to all Americans, or Truslow wouldn’t even have coined the term “the American dream” which today is still very much alive in the hearts of American people.
Little has changed and has been done to realize that dream so that, more than ever, it has become an object of obsession, a must-have, and must-achieve. Today, it glows brighter than ever in the hearts of every American, more particularly, those who were the target of the Emancipation Proclamation, those who were subject to slavery and inequality: the African-American, the women, the unprotected children, the laborers, the migrants, and the poor. But only those who learned to stand up and fight have found a piece of it.
Artists and activists have been trying to show that glow, expressed in rage, and make America pay attention to this reality. In her autobiography, Coming of Age in Mississippi, Anne Moody relates her life as a young black woman born to a poor family in Mississippi, one of the southern states notorious for advocating white supremacy. Abandoned by her father when she was nine, Moody was forced to work a porch sweeper for an abusive white lady to help her mother bring in food at the table. At that young age, Moody already sensed the prejudice Negroes like her received.
In high school, she began hating it. “I hated all the whites who were responsible for the countless murders… But I also hated Negroes. I hated them for not standing up and doing something about the murders” (Coming of Age, 129). Fired up with rage, Moody began to step forward to claim her rights. The Civil Rights movement was at its peak and she jumped in. It was while working in the movement that she had one of her first experiences of prejudice. “The white students… started chanting all kinds of anti-Negro slogans…
The rest of the seats except the three we were occupying had been roped off to prevent others from sitting down. A couple of the boys took one end of the rope and made it into a hangman’s noose. Several attempts were made to put it around our necks” (265). It is common knowledge that the the Klu Klux Klan used a noose for hanging their black enemies on a tree before lynching them. Moody’s stories of horror include finding her name on the “wanted” list of the Klan and the death of people who fought for racism as passionately as she did.
She even came to a point where she questioned Martin Luther King, whose stance of non-violence resulted in his own violent death. And even as she rallied alongside the male sex and put her life in line as they did, she faced inequality in their company. As a woman, she was expected to cook and clean for them and do secretarial work for the group. Despite the threats and heartaches, she continued to fight for racism and fight for her right: her American dream. In the end, Moody emerged as a hero, inspiring people to share her passion and help people who are in the same situation as she.
Through this, Moody believes she has achieved her American dream, attesting that wealth and happiness comes from what you do with your life, in her case, fight passionately for her convictions. In a similar way, John Steinbeck tried to call the attention of Americans through a book he wrote in 1939 that told the story of Oklahoman farmers migrating to California during the Great Depression to find a better life. Aiming to capture the real essence of his theme, he lived with a family of farmers in Oklahama and trailed them throughout their journey to California.
The result was The Grapes of Wrath, the story of the Joads, a poor family of sharecropper, who were driven away from their own home by economic hardship, drought and changing policies in agriculture. Along with thousands of other Oklahomans who shared the same predicament, they set out for California to seek other lands to till and call home, jobs to sustain their health, and dignity to keep their souls alive. What they find instead is the opposite. There is not enough space where they could build a home, not enough jobs that offered decent wages, and there is lack of rights among the workers.
Steinbeck’s realistic depiction of the plight of migrant workers has served as a chronicle of the Depression Era and a review and analysis on the economic and social system from which it resulted, posing essential question about justice, land ownership, and the role of the government, stating that the migrants’ sufferings were caused by their own fellow Americans more than bad luck, bad weather and bad timing. Steinbeck had his own share of wrath from readers during the time the book was published for the first time.
In protest of the book, the citizens burned and banned, and debated on, it. Steinbeck was called propagandist and socialist by both the leftists and the rightists. However, historical accounts prove that Steinbeck actually underplayed the situations and that in fact they were worse than the he described them in the book. In the same way that Moody was hailed heroine for fighting bravely for her rights, Steinbeck won a Pulitzer for his book that exposed one of the discrepancies of the government in congruency with the contents of the United States Declaration of Independence.
While Moody’s advocacy to eradicate racism and sexism is on its way to seeing the light, especially with the recent election of the first African-American president, the end of the plight of the migrant workers may still be a long way coming. In some ways, their conditions have greatly improved since the Depression. Today, migration, especially country-to-country migration, is being closely monitored by Immigration in order not to fall into an over-spillage of workers and under-supply of jobs. The government is not taking chances on these problems. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there are “over 1.
3 million immigrants entering the U. S. yearly, and women comprising over 50% of that population” (“Feminine Face of Migrants,” 2). Thus, it states, “it is crucial that we pay attention to their special needs. These women may be at risk because of a combination of their immigration status and their gender” (2). However, there is still so much to be done about migrants before they could be called safe. The same IOM paper cites a 2001 Human Rights Watch report that “among the female migrant domestic workers interviewed, the average hourly wage was $2.
13, only 42% of the legal federal minimum wage of $5. 15” (3). Furthermore, recent welfare reforms have narrowed the criteria that these migrants may qualify for public assistance” (3). This greatly puts the migrant worker at risk and lessens their claims to equal rights. The “all Men (who) are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence do not only include men, women, whites, blacks, the migrant, and the poor. The children, with or without known parentage, have an equal share to these rights. As early as the 1860s, Horatio Alger has been advocating this.
In his novel, Ragged Dick (1867), tells the story of a fourteen-year-old foundling who, through his generosity and industriousness, rises above his situation. An inspiring story which was considered by most as childish fantasy at the time, its success nevertheless inspired Alger to support charitable institutions that focused on foundlings and runaway boys. Today, there are thousands of such institutions all over the U. S. monitored by the Child Welfare League (CWL), yet there seems to be lack of them as 1.
3 million youths are still reportedly homeless and living in the streets (“Youth Runaway Speech”), most of whom ran away from home. A 1992 study by the National Association of Social Workers indicates that of these, “465 have been physically abused, 38% were emotionally abused, and 17% were being sexually exploited” (“Youth Runaway Speech”). Right now, the CWL, in cooperation with other such organizations as well as several churches and communities, are working together on the prevention and early intervention with families of these troubled children with troubled parents.
It may well still be a long and arduous battle for the full realization of the American Dream of every American. And often, the enemies who try to block the way are ourselves, our own fellow Americans, and there is no worse enemy than that. But then again, only those who have learned to stand up and fight have found a piece of the American Dream, and there is no reason not to. Works Cited Adams, James Truslow. The Epic of America. New York: Simon Publications; 2001. Alger, Horatio. Ragged Dick. Charleston, SC: Bibliobazaar; 2007.
“Feminine Face of Migrants: Exploitation of Domestic Workers in the US. ” International Organization for Migration. 2004. Accessed 10 December 2008. Iom. int/unitedstates. Gregory, James N. American Exodus: The Dust Bowl Migration and Okie Culture in California. New Yor: Oxford University Press, 1991. Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi. Austin, TX: Delta; 2004. “Operation Runaway Conference, Youth Runaway Speech. ” Child Welfare League of America. 6 July 2001. 10 December 2008. https://www. cwla. org/execdir/edremarks010606. htm Steinbeck, John. Grapes of Wrath. New York: Penguin, 2006.
Example 4: The American Dream Is Sublime Motivation
“You can have anything you want, if you want it badly enough. You can be anything you want to be, do anything you set out to accomplish if you hold to that desire with singleness of purpose” said one of America’s founding father’s, Abraham Lincoln. America, the land of the free, the home of the brave. A country where it doesn’t matter what color of skin a person has, how tall or short they are, or what family they came from; but what does matter is values, and the amount of courage people have. The opportunities in America are endless, and for that reason, people in other countries would do anything to live the American Dream .
People will journey far and wide, traverse the entire continent, suffer all manner of pain and suffering, if they believe that, in the end, they will be rewarded, and there is nothing quite like survival to motivate people. The ancient tale of “The American Dream” has been pursued by many, but only few make it all the way. The novel The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the two poems, “Dream Deferred”, by Langston Hughes, and “American Dream of Reality”, by Ivy S. , Loganville, all portray the American dream. Today, many oversee life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness instead they all think of fame, fortune, and respect.
But even though not everyone can achieve these, without dreams or goals what would America be? The American dream is sublime motivation for accomplishing ones goals and producing achievements, however when tainted with wealth the dream becomes devoid and hollow. The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald embodies many themes, however the most evident one relates to the corruption of the American Dream in the 1920’s where the “Dream” had been corrupted by the pursuit of wealth. When the American Dream was pure, motivation and ambition were key aspects to achieving life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
In Gatsby’s earlier days he upheld towards the pure American Dream. “No wasting time at Shafters, No more smoking or chewing, Read one improving book or magazine per week, Save $3. 00 per week, Be better to parents” (Fitzgerald, 182). This is where Gatsby describes his newly revised schedule and how he prepares to become a better person. Though, in the story Gatsby destroys the true American Dream through his materialism.
He no longer strives for the more precious things in life, but chases after Daisy’s love. Gatsby became corrupted because his main goal was to have Daisy, and from here money was everything to him and all he wanted to do was impress Daisy. Daisy symbolizes wealth and takes on the characteristics of money, “Her voice is full of money”(Fitzgerald, 127). His mansion and parties were all part of the plan to try and win Daisy over, the tainted dream was so empty that having accouterments of wealth could provoke feelings of love. “He’s the man who fixed the World Series back in 1919” (Fitzgerald, 78). The dream became so focused on money that any means of a obtaining it were overlooked, even if it was unprincipled. Ignorance and the ideal of looking out for oneself is prevalent.
Where as, in the pure American Dream striving to accomplish ones own personal goal is ones main focus. One should use the American Dream for motivation and hope that one can achieve ones personal goal. The American Dream should not be centered on money and other materialistic things like Gatsby, but on a real goal that has true value. Imagine a bleak and empty future with nothing to look forward to, and in which not even a single good intention manifests into something any more tangible than a wish. Langston Hughes asks the profound question: What happens to a dream deferred?
The truth is that if a person if forced to delay his or her dreams, only negativity can be found. The poem depicts certain human emotions when one cannot reach their goals or dreams. In other words the poem asks: If your dreams remain out of reach, do you shrivel, drawing inward as hope becomes less and less? Or does the inaccessibility of your dreams create tension? Does the distance of the dream create frustration and anger, corrupting the soul and eventually creating an explosion of action or emotion? Langston Hughes uses a unique style, language, and diction to portray his point about dreams.
Does it dry up, like a raisin in the sun? ”(2-3) This symbolizes a hardening, from a grape to a raisin. If a dream is destroyed it hardens the heart. It becomes useless just the like the dried up raisin. Hughes also suggests that maybe unrealized dreams are a “heavy load” which symbolizes a burden, something to heavy to bear, something that weighs a person down always. This poem is like the American Dream, if you do not pursue your dream right away it may slip away from you and eventually it will be gone. The American Dream can be fulfilled through hard word work and passion, it will not come easy.
Everyone has the opportunity to grasp the chance to become successful through dreams and goals. Langston Hughes realized the importance of dreams and having those dreams torn apart. His poem, “Dream Deferred”, uses strong images to create a picture of a negative and destructive outcome for a dreamer left unable to dream. “Nothing can stop a man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude”, Thomas Jefferson. “So this is where all the dreaming takes me, to a cold, empty reality”, this is the opening line of the poem “The Dream of Reality”, by Ivy S. , Loganville.
Most dreams are meant to be dreams for a reason, but no matter how unreal it may seem, anything is possible with hard work and determination. Many Americans under estimate their power they hold within themselves to accomplish goals, and assume they can never amount to what they “dreamt” to be. Reality strikes millions of people like a ton of bricks every day. “I’m barefoot and the streets are rough, paved with broken glass, but that’s okay, cause the land is flowing with milk and honey, bread and butter, and justice. ” Life is not a promising thing, even though you may have a dream, that doesn’t mean you will fulfill them.
Those who find this out quickly enough face the real, cold, harsh world. At those times, the simpler things in life have to be realized. America lets its people roam free, it gives its people food to live, and it gives it’s people protection. A lot of countries have none of these things, concluding why America has so many immigrants, because they want to experience the “American Dream”. The American Dream is a great experience, but like “The Dream of Reality”, it doesn’t always workout as people “dream” it to be. “With sleep still in my eyes, shivering, confused, I must’ve overslept, now it’s time to wake up”.
Dreaming is one of the best things a person can do and everyone has to have dreams, but sometimes when you open your eyes too the real world things seem to change, either for the better or the worse. Without dreams, what can someone’s future look like? If there is no goal to shoot for, what keeps people motivated to try and achieve something each and every day? Everyone needs a dream; it’s what keeps the viscous circle of life moving. The ancient tale of “The American Dream” has been pursued by many, but only few make it all the way. Though, with hard work and etermination the possibilities are endless.
America is one of the very few places that give people an opportunity for success, and when people take advantage of it, good things can happen. The novel The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the two poems, “Dream Deferred”, by Langston Hughes, and “American Dream of Reality”, by Ivy S. , Loganville, all portray the American dream. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are often times overlooked for fame and fortune, but when it comes down to it money doesn’t make you happy, it’s the simpler things that can bring happiness into someone’s life.
Over the years, many heroes and heroines especially from the West fought so hard in order to give people unlimited opportunities, freedom, material prosperity and individual happiness. The concept “American dream” as a national ideal is associated with independence and freedom as one individual fulfill his dream through fulfilling his innate passion and desires. This concept gives American citizens the expectations that their government should create a society that will reward drive and innovation or a society that will generate growth.
But at the same time, one should be responsible for himself to develop as a full man and woman without the barriers of the older civilizations since this had already been slowly erected by the political leaders in the past. Initially the concept of American Dream considering its historical basis is described as a; “dream in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.
It is a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth and position” (Garfinkle 206). In past years, American Dream is perceive as a promise that each human being has the freedom to make his own life according to his will or choices. This promise made the Americans dreamers, hopeful and independent wanting to take advantage of a freedom of self expression that not every culture has.
But this established social structure has a profound influence over individual inner experiences. Contrary to the common impression of upward social mobility due to the “American Dream,” this mobility can lead to an inner struggle between socially and personally held values of the individuals. It is also inevitable to anticipate that upward social mobility will increase the likelihood of the experience of depression and frustration due to the resultant feelings of ambivalence.
Due to the promises of American Dream, it is inevitable that American citizens will create mental expectations that if it fails they will have a feeling of depression and hopelessness. These feelings of hopelessness and depression due to unfulfilled passion and expectations are illustrated in the main characters of the film Revolutionary Road. The movie is an indictment of American life that focuses on how the unfulfilled hopes and aspirations of April and Frank Wheeler, main protagonists and married couple, affected them emotionally and psychologically.
The seemingly unrealistic and romantic expectations of April Wheeler illustrate tattered remains of American Dream that not achieving it will cause inner death. Though the couple experienced financial security in the middle class suburban America, does that guarantee a meaningful life? Even though they are living comfortably, both believe that they are not truly free. They want a satisfying life free from suburban paralysis whose kind of lifestyle seems routinary. Fulfillment of passion, dreams and hopes with total freedom and independence is what American Dream is for April Wheeler.
But financial security and practical opportunities paralyses and hinders her husband to leave America, and so the conflict begins. April wants to escape financial practicalities, routines and her simple role only confined in domesticity and motherhood. Determine to escape the mediocrity and suburbanites that surround them, the couple decides to move in Europe to develop and practice their artistic sensibilities, free from the consumerist demands of capitalist America.
But their relationship is thrown into jeopardy because of their frequent squabbling, misunderstanding and unnecessary anxieties from their American Dream. The film is set in the 1950’s in the ordinary suburbs of Connecticut where every family and employee seems to have the same routines everyday. Frank and April Wheeler, the main characters, are afraid to be like anyone else in their community who seems content and who are afraid to explore outside their comfort zone of financial security.
So they believe that they are untypical middle class family living in the suburbs as they still attach in their youthful passion and still believes in life’s adventure. They have promised never to be dragged into the monotonous world of the people around them. But despite their wits, talents and good looks, the couple suddenly find themselves slowly becoming the individuals they swore never to be; a plain, unhappy housewife who longs for fulfillment; a man with a boring job and an existence as dreary as the rest of the neighborhood.
April, a failed aspiring theatrical actress starts the novel in a local theatrical group. This experience of April in the initial part of the novel is embarrassing and is a disaster that sows the seeds of her discontent. She soon realizes how dull her life is, a life that is far from what she imagines her life will be with Frank Wheeler. Frank, a naturally dreamer, lost his direction and works at Knox Business Machines as an ordinary office employee, while April becomes a typical housewife looking after her two kids.
The novel depicts April as a housewife frustrated and emotionally conflicted after being trapped in the suburban life. This given reality is such a discouragement for both especially for April and so she devises a plan to reverse their fortunes and present fate. April discusses plans to escape and leave everything behind in their suburban life to live in Paris where she will fulfill her artistic talents in performance and Frank will find out what he really wants to do with his life. Paris for her will give them opportunities to fulfill what they really wanted in life; total freedom, adventure and happiness.
At first though hesitant, Frank agreed as he also wants to achieve the promises of venturing the unpredictability of life in Paris. When Frank gets promoted though, their much awaited departure is being stalled, and they find their marriage crumbling. Frank knows that his promotion is only a lifetime opportunity and somehow he doesn’t want to take it as a risk in a life (Paris) that is no guarantee yet. The perpetual squabbling of the couple is due to April’s strong desire to break out from the prison of bourgeois family life.
Apparently Wheelers miss the culture and intellectual quiver of their youth. So when not arguing passionately, they drink a lot and often hang out with their friends and neighbors, the Campbells. But April strongly believes that as a bright, beautiful and gifted couple, their future has strong possibility of greatness if only they will take the risk. April’s depression and apparent desperation to escape her present life eventually made them betray each other and their very true self. April is being corrupted by her strong desire to depart herself to her monotonous life in Connecticut.
As noted, April and Frank are not the usual suburban types, but people who consider themselves better than the people in their neighborhood; they mock people as they feel like their living their life half sleep. One of their frequent outside activities is to visit with another couple, spending few hours complaining about how unproductive everyone else is. Frank hates his white collar job and April just stays home with the kids but since they believe that they have potentials and resources, they know they can change their lives for the better.
But what do individuals do when they are intelligent and high willed enough not to be satisfied with the conformity and blandness of their surroundings, but lack the drive to ever escape mediocrity, because they are, fundamentally, much more a part of their environment than they imagine? Frank, after hesitating whether going to Paris is a reasonable and practical thing to do especially after he was being promoted made him somehow like everybody else who is afraid to let go of financial security and assurance. Perhaps Frank and April are not extraordinary and different as they would want to think.
But nonetheless their character reflects American Dream—a life far from mediocrity and a life where one creates his own individuality and sense of identity. Moreover, their characters reminds the viewers to come face to face to their own mediocrity, challenges them to be honest with themselves and tries sincerely to know whether their aspirations fit their potentials and capabilities. Sometimes one’s ambitions and hopes are unrealistic. The promises of American Dream inspire the character to hope so much in the future and so that when those hopes are being unfulfilled, the character experiences great depression.
“The problem with the society isn’t necessarily that it’s hypocritical or conformist or mediocre, but that it produces people with such a horrible gap between aspiration and capacity – it gives them the leisure and intelligence to want a fuller life while robbing them of the backbone to get it” (Yates xxi).
But one can approach April’s character in this novel positively as she seems to know herself. She is taking concrete steps in order to accomplish her desires. She is a woman who wants to explore and find herself through her given talents and skills.
She is confident that given a chance, she can prove herself in the world of arts. April definitely knows that this is the only way to find her self again and to eventually feel that her existence has a purpose after all—not just confined to being a mother and being a wife. While Frank though he realizes his vague ambition to be someone other than an office worker did not seek any alternative self. Instead after being identified and flattered in his mundane job, their plans to go Paris became unnecessary for him. When April conceives their third child, their plan to leave America crumbles.
When April discovers that she is pregnant, she is demotivated while Frank feels thrilled, not just for having the baby itself in the future but this will be his scapegoat to refuse Paris. April decided to abort the baby because she knows that this will greatly interfere her plans to go in Paris but Frank dissuade her and so they embark on a marital duel. April’s desperation becomes self destructive which is apparent when the latter has bled to death after attempting to induce a miscarriage. Frank on the other hand lacks will and boldness for change.
His dream for financial security and the affirmation he acquired from his company because of his sudden promotion made him set aside his wife’s dream to escape the monotonous and boring lifestyle in America. Basically American Dream in this novel specifically in April’s character means fulfilling one’s passion and desires through skills and talents. But for Frank American Dream is somehow based on practicalities, that is financial security and opportunities “all I want is to get enough dough coming in to keep us solvent for the next year or so, till I can figure things out; meanwhile, I want to retain my own identity”.
But apparently he sometimes excites himself to try something new as he is a man who naturally loves adventure and in trying something not routinary, he might find his true self and his true identity. Frank’s acquisition of a higher position that assure his family’s financial security and his acquisition of affirmation from his company hindered April to fulfill her American dream for freedom of artistic self expression. At the end, it can be said that it is Frank who wins.
But when April dies in her effort to fight the forces keeping her in her suburban housewife lifestyle, Frank due to pain becomes absorbed by the work he had once despised, and “dies” an inward death. At the end both of them is being failed by their American Dream.
Work Cited: Garfinkle, Norton. The American Dream Vs. the Gospel of Wealth: The Fight for a Productive Middle-Class Economy. Connecticut USA Yale University Press, 2007 Yates, Richard. Revolutionary Road. New York USA Vintage Contemporaries, 2000