The Evolution of the American Dream
By: Ayushi Chintakayala
What is the American Dream?
Think about that time when you were a little child. How did you perceive the world and your life back then?
We were optimistic, accepted failure, and sincerely believed in ourselves. We believed in the American Dream because it was instilled in our minds by our parents that we could be anything we wanted to be. We dreamed without limits.
- prompted a spirit of progress, hope, and possibility of achieving the American Dream
- 1931: Term was coined by James Truslow Adams in his book The Epic of America
"That dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement."
Declaration of Independence: "all man are created equal and are endowed with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness."
Thomas Paine: "We have it in our power to begin the world over again."
Ben Franklin: "The way to wealth... depends chiefly on two words, industry and frugality: waster neither time nor money, but make the best use of both. without industry and frugality nothing will do, and with them everything."
Life in the 20th Century:
- World War I, Russian Rev., Beginning of Prohibition, Sinking of Titanic, Spanish Flu
The American Dream: safety, freedom, happiness, political stability, health care
- Women's Suffrage, Dance and Jazz Music, Speakeasies, Fashion
- Great Depression, World War II, Cold War, Civil Rights Movement, Immigration
The American Dream: equality, wealth, luxury, job stability, time management, personal independence/stability
How It Relates to Great Gatsby:
- Fitzgerald shows that the American Dream can never be achieved and that it takes different forms for different people.
1. People aren't treated equally; social discrimination still exists (Tom, Mr. Wilson)
- Tom sees himself as superior to Wilson and totally ignores him when he is trying to resell Tom's old car. Instead, Tom is more concerned for his affair with Mrs. Wilson.
2. The Prominence of Hope (Gatsby)
- Gatsby is hoping win Daisy back. He has an "extraordinary gift of hope" (p.6).
- He sacrifices himself to fulfill his dream: to get into the upper class.
- In the end, his dream completely fails and his life abruptly ends.
3. Pursuit for Honesty (Nick Carraway)
- He doesn't share the common American dream. He strives to be himself, as he sees himself, tolerant, objective and reliable.
- His dream consists of mental values, of a pursuit of honesty. He says of himself “ I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known” (p.49).
4. The Lack of An American Dream (Daisy, Tom)
- Daisy lives with Tom, who has a lot of money.
- She doesn't have any long term aims in her life. Having luxury around her, she lives for the moment, and does not think about the next one.
- Tom never had to work in his life, and got all his money from his parents.
- Since everything is perfect for them, they don't want change.
5. The Strife for Wealth (Myrtle)
- She wants to become a girl of the upper class and by having an affair with Tom, she acts as if she already belonged among those rich people.
- Tom is her key to the upper class and she would do everything for him.
- She hates Daisy, because Daisy is standing in her way, for her marriage with Tom.
21st Century: The End of the American Dream?
During the Great Depression of the 1930s people believed they could succeed from "rags to riches". Nowadays that idea has somewhat faded.
The American Dream was more achievable when the economy was growing. Now it's much more difficult to achieve since our economy is at a downfall.
This is why people have become pessimistic about the American Dream.
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