Is American Dream Dead: Essay

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We Can’t Run Faster

Is the American Dream Dead? Or has it just changed since its introduction in the 1800s? - I hate my subheading, cannot decide what to do about it.

-Chelsea McLeary

‘Sadly, the American Dream is dead’ ~Donald Trump

The ideology of the American Dream has been alluded to in various forms throughout American history. A plethora of perceptions of its exact meaning exists, however, they all attempt to provide our America with motivation for a better, brighter, and more successful tomorrow. So, it is undoubtedly a grave concern when even our own president loses faith in the belief that has carried our country since its foundation. This supposed dream has been flipped and reversed between each decade as our society and economy grow, change, and are torn apart, therefore it is unclear at what point its demise occurred. But as this national ethos is investigated to identify its true death, it becomes increasingly more difficult to believe that it was alive in the first place.

The term ‘American Dream was first ‘invented’ in 1931 by famous author James Truslow Adams. He defined it as:

“a dream of a 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 or position.”

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However, the reality of this dream differed significantly from his opinions.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, as we all know, is the author of the beloved American classic The Great Gatsby. His views on the American Dream at the close of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ clashed greatly with those described in Adam's definition. Fitzgerald used his novel as a tool of education and a display of his criticisms of the Dream. He described wealth, greed, and materialistic values as being favored over hard work and shows hierarchical segregation as still present despite Adam's definition. The characters are a vessel to prove the corruption apparent in upper society. Jay Gatsby is merely an illusion of success. His twisted morals and the way he gained his wealth are not the fulfilling American Dream described by Adams and even cheating through life, his goals were still unattainable. His dream crumbled due to this corruption. This is how Fitzgerald perceived the American Dream.

This theme of corruption within the American Dream is extended by other sources such as the 2007 documentary “Park Avenue: Money, Power and The American Dream”. Director, Alex Gibney, discusses how the rich use their vast wealth to continue to control the system and hence have ‘rigged the game in their favor. The film uses the popular board game Monopoly as a metaphor for the current ‘rig’ in the American economy. Although monopoly could prove the American Dream philosophy because of the equal chance for each player to win, Gibney’s version had two players with one receiving twice the money and properties as the other. As expected, the ‘rich’ players become increasingly greedy as the game continues, without regard for the less fortunate player. This metaphor of corruption is a realistic portrayal of today's America as ‘all the properties have been bought up and ‘all the zx has been distributed. Add In Tim Noah (Impossible To Be Removed From Poverty) Maybe A Graph? Therefore, corruption is the main theme in both texts, proving how the original American Dream is not possible as there is not an equal chance for each person to rise to success and achieve wealth, or even be removed from poverty.

Symbolism plays a significant role in The Great Gatsby. Colors, locations, and objects allow the reader to interpret the novel in varying ways and create opinions on its intended meaning. The Valley of Ashes was a key symbol in the novel and directly relates to the corruption of the American Dream in the 1920s. It shows the consequences of rich indulgence and contrasts the vibrant emptiness of the given wealth in East Egg with the bleak, bustling poor. Although these people work hard, they don’t receive recognition let alone success as the American Dream suggests. Characters such as George Wilson display this lack of hope and depressing mentality. Within this symbolism, the ash also represents its own idea. Grey signifies depression. Emotionless. Dull. Because the valley is described as having a ‘thick coating grey dust’, this also shows the substantial contrast between the glamorous East Egg.

Similarly, the documentary utilizes symbolism and devices to isolate Park Avenue from the Bronx. Sound, such as police sirens which relate to illegal behavior is used when showing the Bronx to position the audience to gain a negative view of this area. Although when showing images of Park Avenue, classical music is played to trigger the audience to associate it with richer more advanced people There are many examples of these symbolisms within the documentary such as taxis vs limousines, bird-eye view vs worms- eye view, etc. This ultimately shows the dissociation of classes which is not mentioned in the American Dream but is a harsh reality in today's America.

[image: ]Even before Adam's idea of the American Dream, the spirit was still apparent in American history. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about the American Dream in his 1831 novel Democracy in America, referring to it as ‘The charm of anticipated success”. This proves the American dream was alive and prospered as America was becoming a nation. However, Fitzgerald showed how this idea crumbled after the war as greed prevailed against morals. Park Avenue: money, wealth, and the American Dream gives insight into the failing American dream and how our current economy doesn't allow the original American dream to exist, as it is virtually impossible to increase your status from poverty and the current rich will forever continue to hold the power. However, there is still a large debate on the existence of a version of the American Dream. Many believe that the American Dream has simply changed since its original definition. In the 1950s-1960s, the Dream was believed to be owning a house with a white-picket fence, two kids, and a dog- the 1950 suburbia dream. However, in 2019, the dream is less about materialistic values and adding comfort and reducing worries.

Therefore, the American dream is dead. The idea that anyone can rise to achieve great success and wealth is impossible in our current economy. Although it may have been alive in the past, if The Great Gatsby tells us anything, the past cannot be relived and so we beat on, boats against the current. Despite this depressing fact, America continues to alter its Dream depending on our current state and proves the adaptability of our mindset to evolve as the times prove harder.

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Is American Dream Dead: Essay. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
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