American Dream Theme Essay, Research Paper
Introduction: What is the American dream?
1. Rags to Riches theme
2. Social side.
3.Discrepancy between the illusion and reality
4.The influence of recent history events on American Literature
+Glass Menagerie example
Conclusion: William Faulkner encouraging speech
The American Dream is an alliance/combination of spiritual desire; the material enterprise/adventure and the quest for freedom and equality that led to the founding of this nation. (= a mixture of what early settlers dreamed of when they founded America). Earliest settlers saw this territory as an embodiment (representation) of their hope as a land of infinite(limitless/immeasurable) resources (money supplies wealth) and opportunities (chance/occasions). Their goal was to construct the ideal society; everybody would be free and equal; although the early colonies were far from Utopia(were very different from their idealistic vision).
From the earliest American writings, prosperity has been regarded as God s reward for hard work. POOR RICHARD S ALMANACH (1832-58). BY BENJAMIN FRANKLIN became the guide book for generations of ambitious Americans. This theme was called RAGS TO RICHES. HORATIO ALGER wrote more than 134 novels enormously successful on this theme. (stereotyped story: boys who rose to fame & fortune through hard work, clean living and bravery). The message of this books was that no matter who they were poor, orphaned or powerless if they would do their best; if they would always try to do the right thing; they would succeed. Through honesty and work, the American dream was available to everybody willing to make the journey.
With the reformers of the mid 19th century; the American dream took a distinctly social direction. In the works of Harriet Beacher Strowe and Frederick Douglas address themselves to the question (theme/subject) of freedom. HARRIET BEACHER STROWE: Her book Uncle Tom s Cabin (1852) became a controversial (debated) best-seller in U.S.A and had a major impact on Northerner s attitudes toward slavery. By the beginning of the Civil War more than one million copies had been sold. FREDERICK DOUGLAS: He rose (rebelled) from slavery to become the leading African-American voice of the 19th century. At an early age he realised that his ability to read was the key to freedom. All his efforts from then focused on achieving freedom. He refined his reading writing and speaking skills. At 20 years old he escaped North for freedom and joined the Abolitionist movement. He published an anti-slavery paper called the NORTH STAR (1847). During the Civil War he became an adviser to President Abraham Lincoln. QUOTE: TO THOSE WHO HAVE SUFFERED IN SLAVERY; I CAN SAY, I TOO HAVE SUFFERED TO THOSE WHO HAVE BATTLED FOR LIBERTY, BROTHERHOOD, AND CITIZENSHIP, I CAN SAY, I TOO HAVE BATTLED
From the end of 19th century; a change appeared in American Literature. American Dream started to loose it s glitter (sparkle/splendour).The fate of Richard Cory (1897) by Edwin Arlington Robinson, illustrates the discrepancy/difference between appearance and reality = appearances are deceiving & depression/despair are not confined/restrained to the people in the street.
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
And he glittered when ha walked.
And he was rich, yes richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace;
In fine, we fought that he was everything
To make us wish we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meal, and cursed on the bread;
And Richard Cory one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
WILLIAM EDWARD BURGHARDT DUBOIS wrote THE SOULS OF BLACKS FOLKS (1903) which was a call to action after decades of social injustice following the end of the Civil War. This book was one of the most prophetic and influential of the 20th century. SCOTT FITZGERALD deflates the WINTER DREAMS of her romantic protagonists. John Steinbeck s Leader of the People delivers an eulogy/applause/praise to those whose dreams died with the end of the Frontier expansion.
Events of recent history, like the 2 World Wars, the Great Depression following the Stock Market Crash ,or the fear of the nuclear bomb (Cold War) caused writers to re-examine the traditional values and dreams that seemed inapt/insufficient/inadequate to the modern life. Many writers of modern fiction produced futuristic works set in a technological world that explore the American Nightmare theme. Kurt Vonnegut Jr s Harrison Bergeron portrays a society that forbids talent, art, beauty and creativity; a society that enforces/constrains mediocrity through a handicapped general.(same kind of books as the 2 English writers Aldous Huxley->Brave New World and George Orwell ->1984)
Another example of the themes of the American Dream and Nightmare, is The Glass Menagerie . The Dream is represented by the romantic lighting, by the nostalgic music and all the background. The Nightmare is suggested by the claustrophobic tenements and the suffocating atmosphere. The young narrator s dreams, the mother s attempts to recover her past, the daughter s fragile fantasies cannot remain intact in this shabby/mean/ragged urban setting.
To those who fear that faith and optimism (American Dream) have disappeared in the 20th century; WILLIAM FAULKNER in his Nobel Prize speech points towards the aspirations of modern humanity and compassion. He reminds the writers of their special duty to lift the Heart of Humanity by chronicling it s nobility and encouraging his dream.(see the speech)