If you are an American and if you have a family, a house and a car, a sufficient job with a good salary, you can be said to have reached the American Dream. The idea of the American Dream became popular when millions of people immigrated to America in search of a better life because America was the ideal image of success. At that time, a better life could mean a decent place to live, maybe some livestock and a piece of land to cultivate. The meaning of the American Dream means even now somewhat the same; have valuable possessions, a social life with high standards and respectful image of ones self. This came about through honesty, hard work, and determination, that anyone who was willing to make the journey could achieve the American Dream.
However, in time and after events in American history, the American Dream slowly drifted from the idea of spiritual and personal success, to personal success being something to strive for to show a hierarchy in social class. The more material possessions one has, the happier one would be is the corruption of the American Dream, and that is the problem with the American Dream today. People have a roof over their heads, a car, food, and a family, but to some that just isn’t enough, and the pursuit for more possessions in turn makes them feel more fulfilled. These people searching for superficial things in the American Dream do not truly achieve it.
This paper will discuss the ownership of the American Dream and the aspect of how the search for something better leads to the intangible and the never ending “pursuit of happiness.” The readings of Thomas Jefferson’s “Declaration of Independence,” and excerpts from “The Live of Working Men and Women,” as well as the films, The Grapes of Wrath, and Citizen Kane, Death of a Salesman will be used to evaluate problems with the American Dream.
Critical Essay - Drama The idea that any person can rise from humble beginnings to greatness is the basis of the American Dream. Arthur Miller paints a harsh picture of this ideal in the drama Death of a Salesman. The main character, Willy Loman, is a complex and tragic figure. He is a man striving to hold onto what dignity he has left in a world that no longer values the beliefs he grew up with. ...
The American Dream originated in the early days of the American settlement, with the mostly poor immigrants searching for opportunities of freedom. America represented a new life of freedom, holding a promise of spiritual and material happiness. It was filled with much opportunity for those coming from oppression and communism over seas.
This idea of freedom for all and equality was first manifested in the Declaration of Independence, which describes an attitude of hope. The Declaration of Independence states that “all man are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and pursuit of Happiness.” (Jefferson, 131) However, Jefferson’s statement here is just merely an expression of a dream. It assumes fulfillment of wishes that can probably never be fully realized in actuality. The American Dream describes an approach of faith and hope of fulfilling human wishes and desires. The ideals are intangible and for one to achieve such, one must not look at the outcome, but the journey on how one gets there is what’s important.
Through the course of change in the world, either through success, capitalism or greed, people have lost focus with the real meaning of the ‘American Dream.’ It is no longer just an aspiration to live life to the fullest and provide a better life for your family and yourself, but instead it’s a never-ending pursuit for those materialistic aspects in life. These hopes for more material possessions pertain to, not only things that one can hold, but also for the intangible, social status and respect from others in higher places.
An example of this is in the except of “The Lives of Working Men and Women” called “Memoirs of a Sweatshop Girl.” This piece discusses the life of a young girl that works as a seamstress and has a boyfriend who works with her that she really cares about. The girl here has the corrupted American Dream. She believes that she must have nice clothes to impress the high society at Ulmer Park or Coney Island or the theatre because a girl that does not dress well is just stuck in a corner, not noticed, and will never succeed. (The Lives of Working Men and Women, 12) She also discusses how she is going to get an education cause it makes her feel like she is in a higher class. ‘Ignorant people are low,’ she says. (12)
Today, there are many dreams and traditions that Americas hold. Some of them can be reached, some cannot. Some Americans dream of riches, some dream of curing diseases. Most of their dreams are from the heart. People dream of having a family, with healthy kids. The American dream is really simple to me. It's having a family, house, job, and one or more cars. Today in society, people have different ...
At the end of the passage the girl talks about her boyfriend and how she wants to wait to marry him. It is hinted that maybe she does not want to marry him because ‘he’s not good enough’ for her anymore. She has been diluted of artificial aristocracy. Even though people are discriminating against her, she turns right around and does it to someone else.
The girl that works in a sweatshop is a prime example of how the American Dream went bad. Here, the American Dream has become the pursuit of material prosperity, that people work more hours to get fancier cars, and larger homes. However, after spending all this time to attain these goods, there is less time to enjoy the prosperity with family and friends.
As stated before, the American Dream wasn’t always corrupted. Americans did in the beginning merely aspire to have a nice home, a decent job to support a family, and maybe a piece of land. These people most of the time probably were trying to come up from the bottom, so anything of the sorts would have been greatly appreciated. It wasn’t until after these people achieved ‘those’ things, that they extended the dream to wanting MORE.
The first film discussed is one that supports the American Dream in the way that the people involved really did just struggle for a home and to keep the family healthy. Set in the Great Depression of the 1930s, the film Grapes of Wrath, is a story about the Joad family forced from their home in the Dust Bowl land in Oklahoma, to out West in search of job opportunities in the state of California. To them, California was ‘the land of milk and honey,’ plentiful in terms of food and work.
The upper end companies such as banks and larger farms, pushed thousands of families like the Joads off of their homeland where they had settled and cultivated for many decades. However, with the times of the Dust Bowl, such harsh conditions did not allow them to produce anything because it just ate away at the crops. They had no other choice but to leave.
Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman American Dream Corrupted In tially into the play, I was captivated by the theme, a man driven to suicide due to work. This occurs almost on a daily basis because our culture is so consumed on being consumed, I cannot understand why. Why would someone commit themselves to such unhealthy lifestyles and for what reason? Did Willy want his family to have everything ...
To the Joads, California was the mere image of perfection. They imagined that they could easily go out there, find jobs, get a piece of land, start all over and prosper. However, the Joads were just a microcosm of what many many other people during that time did as well. Families from all over Colorado, the Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma, and Western Kansas, had to travel West to search for greater work opportunities and plentiful land. They instead found more suffering and hungry families turned down and away by all these big businesses that wanted to treat them inhumanly because there were so many in need of work. The labor there far exceeded the demand for it, in turn creating incredibly low wages that could not even feed the single person doing all the work, not including the other members in the family.
The Declaration of Independence states that, ‘All men are created equal,’ and we can look at this through issues of class and the equal opportunity to define our own individuality. The Joads did not even have the opportunity to achieve the Dream or even get close enough to touch it. The Grandma died right before the truck reached California. The family kept her in the truck and told the man at the truck stop that she was sick, just so that she could have the chance to at least reach the utopia of which she dreamed. Ma is just happy that even though they are faced with tough situations that they do have each other. She says, “Well at least we’re all together, most of us.”
The Joad’s American Dream was shattered by the realities they faced on their way to California and when they arrived. The amount of work and the living did not measure up to they way it was all hyped up to be like, they lost family members on the way, and were inevitably left with nothing except each other.
The next film is almost the opposite in the fact that this man achieves the American Dream and has every item he could imagine. But what he does not have is the intangible; love and self-worth.
The film Citizen Kane is a story that is a clear example of the American Dream gone wrong. Here is the story of a millionaire newspaper tycoon, Charles Foster Kane, who dies alone in his overly extravagant mansion Xanadu, speaking only a single word, “Rosebud.” “Rosebud” is referring to the only important thing in his life, his lost childhood.
The American Dream is a personal thing. Every person's belief or thought on what the American Dream is different than anybody else's. There is one noticeable common thread between every conceivable Dream though: the dream is to live a better life socially, monetarily, or contentedly than your parents did. The conflicts at the time helps determine what aspect of life you wish to improve upon, but ...
Kane was born in a not-so-fortunate family, who gave him up to go live with Thatcher, a wealthy financier, for a ‘better’ life. His own mother said “All it takes is money, and he’ll be GREAT.” She was giving her son up. Her idea of the American Dream was a shattered one. Kane’s family had the essentials, but his mother believed that the more money and possession Kane had, the happier he would be.
Kane quickly was taken away to Chicago where he grew up. Once he became of age, Kane was thrown into the newspaper business where he would ‘tell it like it is.’ He stood up for, and kept close to the lower underprivileged people. However his actions suggested that he was doing it in spite of himself. The pursuit of power and success drew him to do what he did because it made him happy or filled the void in his meaningless life.
Kane had the inability to experience any real emotion in human relationships, or to love; instead he filled the void with materialism. Kane’s second wife, Susan Alexander complained that he did not give her anything of himself, but it was Kane that never gave anything away. He was a pack rat and collected many things, too many things that he could not appreciate any of them. He was one-dimensional. The noticeable superficiality of him can be taken back to the shallow quality of Kane himself and through his actions.
After living a meaningless life filled with cold, heartless, material things, Kane eventually realized that he did have all the possession in the world. His wife left him, he knew his life was over, and finally recognized what was important in his life. All Kane wanted was love, emotional loyalty, and the uncorrupted world of his childhood, symbolized by ‘Rosebud,’ his boyhood sled.
In one scene of the movie, Kane gets out of control and tears apart his bedroom filled with artifacts and brick-a-brack that had been collected over the years; ripping things off walls, throwing things across the room, pushing things off table tops. Even a rich man’s life is empty with thousands of items. Kane was just a waste of a man who lost everything and realized it. He was handed wealth and took it in just as easily. The wealth corrupted his sense of what was important in life. Kane could not see how incredibly valuable his emotional ties with his childhood and human relations actually were until they were all gone.
death of a salesman By: mr. lemons Biff the Hero? In Arthur Miller's, dramatic play, Death of a Salesman the Loman family presents its self as being the perfect nuclear family as opposed to their dysfunctional nature. Even though Miller portrays Willy Loman as the main character of the story, his lack of praise worthy traits make it necessary for another to be the hero. This other character comes ...
Kane’s last word ‘Rosebud’ that was a mystery at the time, was a symbol of him resenting his life. He died with the memories of what was important to him, the pure uncorrupted world before all the money.
The last film, Death of a Salesman, screams out numerous flaws in the American Dream and shows that you must define success for yourself before it defines it for you.
Willy Loman is a traveling salesman reaching his retirement years, who wants nothing more than to achieve the American Dream, but in actuality he failed in every aspect of it. He no longer has nothing going for him. He is not a good salesman anymore, he cannot earn enough money, he cannot communicate with his own family, he feels that his own sons’ lives are a disappointment and he disrespects his own family by having an affair with a lower class woman.
The satire of the whole situation is the difference between what Willy’s wishes are and what his actual accomplishments are. He chose to follow the American Dream, the belief that with just working hard, any man can succeed in life and acquire the status of someone who has succeeded. However, Willy became the flaw in this dream that produces selfish, greedy individuals who will go to any means to attain personal satisfaction, i.e. money, social status, material possession, etc.
Willy has two sons, Biff and Happy. Happy is the one that is just like his father, he takes the American Dream even further than his father does though. Happy just wants it all for himself and would not go out of his way to help anyone else out if it has to do with money. On the other hand, Biff could not care if he made much money at all, as long as he was doing what he enjoys. Biff makes up his own dream and takes control of his life. He stands up to the American Dream, just as he does not agree with his father and brother’s ways of thinking.
Although Dexter’s dream parallels to that of the American Dream, Fitzgerald presents this idea of idealism in a negative sense, saying that in reality achieving this dream is impossible. The American Dream can be defined simply as the American ideal of living a happy and successful life. However each person has their own idealistic perception of this dream. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ...
In one scene, Biff goes to Boston to see his father and found out about Willy’s affair. Seeing his father like that totally destroyed all that he thought was real, and saw his father as a phony. He says, ‘You fake! You phony little fake! You fake!’ Before Biff found out about his father’s affair, he was full of potential and believed in the American Dream, in working hard to succeed. But when that all failed him, the idea of the American Dream and success was just like his father, and he did not want to be like him.
Some people will work hard their whole life and die with nothing to their name. This is what happened to Willy. His attempt for the American Dream took over his life and made Willy believe that if he quit his job he would become a failure, and being a failure was just ‘not acceptable’ in his book.
Willy honestly believed that wealth equaled happiness, and wealth is measured by how many material brand name items you have. He got to a point in his life where everything seemed to fall apart around him. Willy does not have many friends and many people do not like him. He spent all his life trying to be another person, one that was liked and successful. All he wanted was people to go to his funeral when died, for it would show how successful and well liked by everyone he was. It was ironic how in the end, not a single person, even his family, showed up at his funeral. He failed his sons, and his own self.
His life dream was happiness, but he never got that. The American Dream killed this man who once had the qualities to suceed. However, as time went by, he lost his ability to see the world as he should, and just saw hopelessness and lack of self-confidence. It was through this that Willy decided that he could not deal with being a failure, and he ended his unhappiness by ending his life.
The problem with Willy was that he made the American Dream his life and his life revolved around what the American Dream would provide for him. Those ideals were unrealistic for this man who was not at his peak of performance as a salesman, and in turn totally turned himself over and lost his identity. Willy never came into his own shell because he was always trying to become someone he was not.
The American Dream has become a flaw of American’s culture. Not so much in the first film, Grapes of Wrath, since the Joads were just struggling to make it to the utopia of plentiful land and prosperity because they had lost it all. In this case, the were shattered by the American Dream, they tried and tried to make it and put forth much effort to achieve it. But too many people were after the same thing and it was impossible for them to fully achieve the tangible part of the Dream. However, they did have each other in the end, and that is what the other two films did not have.
Both Citizen Kane and Willy Loman die lonely and corrupted by the American Dream. It was them that searched for the extravagant superficial items, and it was them that were unable to touch the Dream. ‘Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness’ (Jefferson, 131) is what the American Dream truly was, according to Thomas Jefferson. Kane and Willy gave up their lives for the artificial happiness that material possessions had, and could not concentrate and put forth any effort to love, and be loved.
Lets hope that we as American veer away from becoming the Kane’s and Willy’s of the world, and really look at what is truly important in our lives. Achieve happiness through love, family, and your own self worth; that is what the American Dream is all about.