Essay on American Dream

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During the 1920s, America welcomed an economic boom that established huge economic growth within American industries as well as aided the birth of a new consumer culture. With this, America saw the growth of ideals that aided the lives of the individual and bolstered a new optimism that strengthened the idea of the American Dream as a beacon of hope within society. However, the definition of the American Dream was often refabricated in order to become compatible with the individual's devotion to the idea of his own prosperity and pleasure. The American Dream become a veil under which society used to hide its own corrupt idealism of wealth. The American Dream stood for the idea that the US would contain an equal opportunity for the individual but never gave hope to the idea of equal success; the American Dream could not guarantee economic sustainability or social equality within the US.

The concept of the American Dream slowly became the illusion of immediate affluence within American society. Certainly, the idea of the individual's pursuit of prosperity, the success stories of the self-made man, and the concept of going from rags to riches formed the popularity of the American Dream in the 1920s and drove those who were impoverished to gain this aspiration to rise from their current social status. According to Kevin M. Kruse, writer for the Nation, “The American Dream was about how to stop bad millionaires, not how to become one.”(Source D). The idea was derived from the idea that the utilization of the phrase ‘the American Dream’ was only employed to describe political ideas, such as protecting individuals from corrupt entities of power, and not a slogan to fuel economic aspirations. Although the American Dream seems to manifest a prosperous lifestyle for some individuals, we can assume the Dream has nothing to do with these presumptions. In addition, in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Gatsby’s mansion symbolizes the concept of the American Dream as it is related to the inability of an individual to obtain it. The text states, “Turning a corner, I saw that it was Gatsby’s house, lit from tower to cellar…. Only wind in the trees, which blew the wires and made the lights go off and on again as if the house had winked into the darkness.”(81, The Great Gatsby). The main idea that Fitzgerald entertains within this quote is that the flickering of the lights as the mansion fades from view might be seen as the falsity of the mansion. As real as it might seem, the way it is described as winking into the darkness may entail the absence of its existence from the American dream as if to show that it is only a dream to obtain it. The presumptions of the economic aspects of the American Dream only delude the individual into chasing the idea of materialistic success.

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As the American Dream became a beacon of hope in society, the idea of America being a land of opportunities became a common belief in many countries. With these presumed ideas, America became a magnet for mass immigration. As more immigrants came in search of the economic freedom promised to them, many faced restrictions put in place in order to limit, “the number of immigrants admitted from any country.”(Source C). This event was an effect of the new nativist ideology in the 1920s that seeked to prevent culture change. With restrictions on who was and wasn’t allowed to live the American Dream, we see the prominence of segregation and lack of equality of opportunity within the US. As the US restricted opportunity for immigrants seeking success, it also limited the ability of ordinary American citizens from being able to achieve their goals. This is prominent as a symbol of the state of the American Dream in Langston Hughes’ poem “I Too” as the narrator expresses the discrimination that is imposed onto him through the text, “They send me to the kitchen When company comes.”(Source A). The idea presented in this verse shows the way the author is secluded from reaching his goals because he is ‘sent to the kitchen’. This further confirms that the American dream had no benefit to those seeking to better their economic status and only deceived people into trying to obtain it.

The idea that the American dream was directly responsible for individual prosperity in the 1920s is a falsity derived from the belief in equal opportunity and the belief in the self-made man. Those who believe in the positive aspects of the American Dream may source the higher morale and optimism that was prominent at this time, but that idea was misleading. The overall higher morale in people only existed in the early years of the American Dream as many people still believed that they could change their lives around. In “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, the narrator is established as a middle-class man who desperately tries to live the American Dream, but he slowly suffers from low self-confidence. The narrator remarks that he is “pinned and wriggling on the wall”(Source B) which shows us how he tries to live the values of the American Dream and how because of this, he is stuck in his place in society and cannot move. The narrator’s struggle and low self-confidence depict the negative effects the American Dream had on people. Even with the idea that high morale and optimism were associated with the American Dream, the overall effect it had on the lives of people trying to live up to it was detrimental as it attempted to convince others of a false image.

The American Dream was thought to be the idea of equal opportunity where anyone could gain economic success, but many failed to realize the falsity of the ideas the American Dream expressed. As more and more people attempted the structure their lives to the American Dream, more and more people were faced with the negative living style and poor morale associated with it. Any attempt for people to pursue the American Dream with wealth as their inspiration would be useless as it would only amount to their own demise.

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Essay on American Dream. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 30, 2024, from
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