“The American Dream never really existed. It was a marketing scam.” as once said by James Altucher. The American Dream is a dream of success and ownership which is hard to achieve, especially for the lower-class, the minimum wage, the people who work with honesty. Many times the American Dream causes for people to fall into the trap of greed and carry out immoral actions. Sometimes it is too late for them to realise what their actions have done and who they have affected. This was seen in both the book Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue and the movie 99 Homes, this was portrayed in the character, imagery and conflict that took place. The American Dream, as presented in the novel and the film shows that a meaningful life is not about acquiring things but rather is about knowing oneself better.
Firstly, the two characters that proved that the American Dream was not about acquiring materialistic things but was about one conscience and true happiness were Jende Jonga from Behold the Dreamers and Dennis Nash from 99 Homes. The book ended with Jende and his family moving back to Limbe, Cameroon the very country that they tried to run from. This was Jende’s decision, he believed that his four years of living in the United States of America had gone in vain, that although he could work as hard as possible he still wouldn’t end up having enough money or items to make him as happy as he would be back in Limbe with his family. In chapter 49 Jende states that “Everyone is losing jobs everywhere and looking for new jobs, anything to pay bills. So you tell me – if he, an American, a white man with papers, cannot get a new chauffeur job then what about me? They say the country will get better, but you know what? I don’t know if I can stay here until that happens. I don’t know if I can continue suffering like this just because I want to live in America.” He talks about how at the moment America has nothing to offer for him, that he has no point to suffer if it has nothing to offer him. That he could continue to suffer and attempt to achieve the “American Dream” but at the end, all it is, is suffering. That he could live in the biggest house and have all the money in the world but living in Limbe with his family is what would make him truly happy rather than follow in others footsteps just to live in America. Secondly this is prevalent in the movie 99 Homes, Dennis Nash had worked for Rick Carver, the man who kicked him out of his house, Dennis had made enough money to buy back his house but he believed that he wanted to go the extra step and sell that home to buy a bigger, better, newer house but in reality this isn’t what him or his family wanted. When he bought the house and showed it to his mother, she had said, “LYNN, I’m gonna call Jimmy. We’re moving to Tampa. Come on Connor.” this caused for Dennis to “Dennis turns on the swimming pool light while drinking a beer. He’s drunk. Turns on all the lights in the backyard.” This proves that although he had all the materialistic things that he could have ever asked for none of it was worth it without his family that, that was the truest form of happiness. Both Jende and Dennis tried to find happiness in different places but it was not where they were meant to be, that they could not just leave behind their lives in order to acquire better and bigger things.
Secondly, both the movie and book showed imagery, specifically related to conspicuous consumption over and over again. In the book they constantly talked about clothes and purses, specifically brand names such as Prada and Burberry. For example, Cindy Edwards the wife of Clark Edwards who worked for Lehman Brothers, could afford tons of designer items along with the fact that she was not affected by giving these items away for free to Neni Jonga-the wife of Jende Jonga-who acted as her child’s nanny and her maid. Although she could afford whatever she wanted, these items weren’t enough to keep her happy. Her slowly deteriorating marriage, her upsetting relationship with her son and her traumatized past were what caused her to overdose on vicodin and wine one unfortunate night and die due to asphyxiation. “Cindy Eliza Edwards died on a cold afternoon on March 2009, alone in her marital bed… Her husband was in London… Her firstborn son was in INdia… Her younger son was at the dalton school… Her father, whose identity neither she nor her mother even knew had been dead for two deades. Her mother who she believed loved her too little, had been gone for four years, Her half sister completely out of her life” Chapter 45. She had problems that she tried to cover with drugs and alcohol, that if she had tried to know herself better she would not have died. In the movie Rick Carver had proved that although he had a lot of items, none of them changed him in any way. Even though he was rich and was able to achieve the “American Dream”, this is because he had started off as a Realtor and then he began representing banks he was still unhappy, rude and thick skinned. Rick Carver was rude as can be seen as he constantly used profanity and continued to partake in illegal activity, he made, or convinced Dennis to do illegal things in his thirst for greed. Along with that even though he had a huge house and a great car, he tried to find happiness in other places such as prostitutes rather than his own family which is where he had messed up. If he paid more attention to his family rather than ruining other people’s lives he would be much more of a happier person and a liked character rather than one that people feared. He could have continued to work as a realtor but greed had consumed him. “You used to dream about 1 home, now its 100” Although Rick Carvers ending is unknown, both him and Cindy shared some similar qualities when it came to material possessions.
Finally, the setting in both media works are fairly similar, although they take place in different States they still take place in America during the same time period. Behold the Dreamers takes place in Manhattan, New York while 99 Homes takes place in Florida. Both take place during the recession where people, such as Dennis and Jende are the ones who suffer the most. In New York, “They are sleeping on the street, going to bed hungry, losing their jobs and houses every day in this…this economic crisis.” while in Florida, people were also losing their jobs and houses. For example, Dennis had lost his job along with his house “CREW LEADER It means we’ve been working for free. All this from roof to cement is for nothing. Hey, no more dinero! Stop! Let’s go home.” while in New York Jende had also lost his job “He then runs his fingers through his hair, exhales, and rubs his eyes before saying that he has to let Jende go.” This proves that no matter where you are living in the States during the recession, people are losing their jobs and houses non stop. That no one is safe, no matter where you live unless you have enough money, or are rich. Both families go through the same thing and they both believe that happiness is only existent when you’re making money but that does not seem to be the case as they find joy and belonging with their families.
Overall it may be said that The American Dream, as presented in the novel and the film, shows that a meaningful life is not about acquiring things but rather is about knowing oneself better. This was seen in the characters, imagery and setting throughout both the book, Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue and the movie 99 Homes. Both families were willing to give up everything just to achieve the American Dream even if it meant that they would lose their true happiness, their family.