The American Dream: Discovering the Essence of the American Dream

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The American Dream: Discovering the Essence of the American Dream

The concept of the American Dream has evolved throughout history, shaping the hopes and aspirations of individuals from all walks of life. From the traditional belief in upward mobility and financial success, to the pursuit of freedom and individual happiness, the American Dream has been a critical motivation for many throughout the years. However, as the world changes, so does the American Dream, and its meaning in today’s society is subject to different perspectives and interpretations.

James Truslow Adams, in his influential work “The Epic of America,” defined the American Dream as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement”. This thesis has been widely cited in papers, books, and discussions on the topic. Moreover, the American Dream is often associated with the character Jay Gatsby in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, “The Great Gatsby,” who embodies the pursuit of the American Dream with his decadent lifestyle and desire for wealth.



Over the decades, the American Dream has taken on a more inclusive and accessible quality, with a focus on equality and social progress. This evolution of the American Dream can be seen in the rise of the civil rights movement, the fight for gender equality, and the push for immigration reform. Today, the American Dream is a representation of the wide range of aspirations and dreams of individuals, including dreamers, immigrants, and those seeking a better life in the United States.

However, the American Dream is not without its critics. Some argue that the American Dream is a broken promise, with the gap between the rich and the poor widening and economic outcomes becoming increasingly questionable. Others question the value and essential nature of the American Dream, arguing that it has become a materialistic and superficial pursuit that disregards the true essence of freedom and happiness.

Unveiling the Aspirations and Ideals that Define the American Dream

One aspect of the American Dream is the pursuit of financial success. Many dreamers cite wealth and material possessions as essential to achieving their version of the American Dream. For example, individuals may dream of a successful career as a doctor, lawyer, or engineer, while others may aspire to become a successful entrepreneur or start their own business. However, it is worth noting that the American Dream goes beyond mere wealth accumulation, as it is also about the potential for upward social mobility and providing a better life for oneself and future generations.

Moreover, the American Dream goes beyond economics and encompasses personal fulfillment and happiness. It is about finding purpose and meaning in one’s vocation, whether it be as a nurse caring for others, a teacher shaping young minds, or an artist expressing their creativity. The American Dream is about the freedom to pursue one’s passions and live a life aligned with one’s values.



Thomas Jefferson, one of the nation’s founding fathers, believed in an ideal version of the American Dream where every citizen had the opportunity to achieve their full potential. He emphasized the importance of education in realizing this dream, stating that an educated population is essential for the success of a democratic society. Education provides individuals with the necessary tools to overcome the limits imposed by their background and pursue their goals.

Langston Hughes, a prominent writer during the Harlem Renaissance, argued that the American Dream was not always attainable for everyone, especially those from marginalized backgrounds. In his poem “Harlem,” Hughes questioned the outcomes of deferred dreams, asking whether they dry up “like a raisin in the sun” or “explode,” highlighting the impact of social and economic barriers on individuals’ ability to achieve their dreams.

The representation of the American Dream in popular culture and the media also plays a critical role in shaping the collective understanding of this concept. From the idealized portrayal of the American Dream in movies like “The Great Gatsby” and “Death of a Salesman,” where success and wealth are often equated with happiness, to the reality portrayed in documentaries and news articles that shed light on the challenges faced by individuals in pursuing their dreams, the media influences our perception of this ideal.

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Although the American Dream is often associated with the belief that anyone, regardless of their background, can achieve anything through hard work and determination, this notion has its limits. Socioeconomic disparities and systemic inequalities can create barriers that prevent individuals from living up to their full potential. The American Dream must address not only the pursuit of wealth but also the broader needs and well-being of all citizens, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

The Pursuit of Happiness: The Key Element of the American Dream

Langston Hughes, in his poem “Harlem,” raises the question of what happens to a dream deferred. This poem captures the notion that the pursuit of happiness is an inherent part of the American Dream. The characters in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, “The Great Gatsby,” also seek happiness in their extravagant lifestyles, hoping that wealth and status will bring them the happiness they desire. However, the novel ultimately explores the emptiness and broken dreams that can result from a singular focus on material prosperity.

The idea of happiness as a crucial element of the American Dream is further explored in Mark Twain’s novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Huck Finn embarks on a journey down the Mississippi River in search of freedom and happiness, rejecting societal norms and the pursuit of wealth. This novel demonstrates that true happiness can be found in personal freedom and honesty rather than in the pursuit of financial gain.

In addition to literature, the pursuit of happiness is also a critical theme in American society. The value placed on this pursuit is evident in the Declaration of Independence, which states that all individuals have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This recognition of happiness as an essential aspect of the American Dream has shaped the country’s social and cultural fabric.

Today, the definition of happiness may vary widely among Americans, reflecting the diverse backgrounds and experiences of individuals. It is not a one-size-fits-all concept, but rather a personal and subjective experience. Furthermore, the pursuit of happiness is not limited to financial success; it can encompass various aspects of life, such as personal relationships, self-fulfillment, and societal justice.

The American Dream has evolved over time, reflecting the changing times and situations in the country. While financial success was once seen as the ultimate goal, the pursuit of happiness has become a more encompassing ideal. Americans have come to realize that happiness cannot be solely derived from money and possessions, but rather from a balanced and fulfilling life.

A Land of Opportunities: Exploring the Promises and Perceptions of the American Dream

In today’s society, the American Dream is more than just a belief that anyone can become wealthy or successful. It represents the idea of a land of opportunities, where each person can make sure their dreams come true, regardless of their background or social class. It is the nurse who wants to provide quality care to patients, the immigrant who seeks a better life for their family, or the student who aspires to obtain a higher education.

However, the American Dream can also be seen as an illusion or a false promise. As Langston Hughes famously asked, “What happens to a dream deferred?”, it shows that the American Dream is not equally achievable for everyone. The wealthy have more opportunities and resources to pursue their dreams, while others struggle to overcome obstacles and disadvantages.

Furthermore, the media plays a significant role in shaping people’s perceptions of the American Dream. It often portrays success and wealth as the ultimate goal, creating a culture that equates happiness with material possessions. This representation can lead to dissatisfaction and disillusionment when individuals fail to achieve the idealized version of the American Dream.

Finding the Essence of the American Dream

Despite the challenges and criticisms, the American Dream is something that is still alive and relevant today. It represents the endless possibilities and the belief that hard work and effort can lead to a better life. It is the story of individuals who have overcome adversity and achieved their dreams, whether it be through immigrating to America, starting a successful business, or overcoming addiction.

Therefore, it is important to recognize that the American Dream is not defined by a specific amount of wealth or material possessions. It is about the pursuit of happiness, the freedom to choose one’s own path, and the opportunity to make a difference in the world.

The Broken American Dream

However, it is crucial to acknowledge that the American Dream is often broken for many individuals. Systemic inequalities, such as racial and economic disparities, can prevent certain groups of people from fully realizing their dreams. This can be seen in the limited access to quality education, healthcare, and job opportunities that exist in many communities.

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In order to overcome these challenges and make the American Dream more inclusive and achievable, it is essential to address the underlying issues that perpetuate inequality. Efforts should be made to provide equal opportunities for all individuals, regardless of their background or identity. This can be done through policy changes, educational reforms, and community engagement.

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From Reality to Illusion: Understanding the Fading Reality of the American Dream

Writers and filmmakers, such as Martin Scorsese and James Baldwin, have explored the effects of the fading American Dream in their works. They cite the generational gap, the fear of financial insecurity, and the personal impacts of immigrating to the country as factors contributing to the death of the American Dream.

Immigrants, who were once driven by the belief that the American Dream would bring prosperity and a better life, now face a different reality. The amount of money needed to make it in this country has increased, while the possibility of achieving the so-called “American Dream” has become deferred.

Atlanta, known as the city of opportunities, has also witnessed the fading reality of the American Dream. Over the past few decades, the gap between the rich and the poor has grown, leaving many without a fair chance to succeed or achieve the happiness they once dreamed of.

The illusion of the American Dream is not only reflected in the financial situation of the country, but also in the general culture. The idea of the frontier, a symbol of unlimited potential and exploration, has become broken. The deep-rooted fear of death and the inevitable experiences of life have moved the American Dream further away from a reality that can be achieved by anyone.

Broken Ambition: Why is The American Dream not Attainable for Everyone?

Socio-economic Inequality

One of the key reasons why the American Dream remains unattainable for many is the existence of persistent socio-economic inequality. The division between the rich and the poor in America is wider than ever before, making it increasingly difficult for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds to rise above their circumstances and achieve their aspirations. The limited access to quality education, healthcare, and job opportunities further perpetuates this inequality and hinders the ability of individuals to improve their lives.

The Role of Personal Circumstances

Hughes’s Novel and Langston’s Film on Immigrating to America

In Langston Hughes’s novel, “Not Without Laughter”, and his film “Making It in America”, he examines the broken nature of the American Dream, focusing on the experiences of African Americans and immigrants. Hughes portrays the harsh reality of the American Dream as it relates to these marginalized groups, highlighting the loss of hope and the inherent limitations they face in achieving socio-economic success.

The Myth of Individualism

Another reason why the American Dream is not attainable for everyone is the perpetuation of the myth of individualism. The American society often praises self-reliance and the idea that individuals are solely responsible for their own success or failure. This perspective overlooks systemic factors that contribute to disadvantages, such as generational poverty or lack of access to resources. The prevailing belief in individualism ignores the power of collective action in overcoming societal challenges and creates unrealistic expectations for those who are unable to achieve their dreams due to external circumstances beyond their control.

FAQ

What is the American Dream?

The American Dream is a concept that refers to the belief in the freedom and opportunity for success and prosperity for anyone in the United States, regardless of their background or circumstances.

What are some examples of the American Dream?

Some examples of the American Dream include achieving financial stability, owning a home, starting a successful business, obtaining a quality education, and having a fulfilling career.

How does the American Dream affect people’s lives?

The American Dream can have a profound impact on people’s lives as it serves as a driving force for many to work hard, overcome obstacles, and strive for a better future. It can provide individuals with hope and motivation to achieve their goals and improve their socioeconomic status.

Has the American Dream changed over time?

Yes, the American Dream has evolved over time. Initially, it was primarily associated with opportunities for economic success and social mobility. However, over the years, it has expanded to encompass a wider range of aspirations, such as personal fulfillment, equality, and the pursuit of happiness.

Is the American Dream still attainable?

The attainability of the American Dream is a subject of debate. While some argue that it is still possible to achieve success and improve one’s life through hard work and determination, others believe that systemic inequalities and socioeconomic barriers make it increasingly difficult for everyone to attain the same level of success.

What is the meaning of the American Dream?

The American Dream is the belief that anyone, regardless of their background or circumstances, can achieve success, prosperity, and upward mobility through hard work and determination in the United States.

Is the American Dream still alive?

The perception of the American Dream varies among individuals, and opinions on its vitality differ. Some argue that it is still achievable, while others believe that economic inequalities and systemic barriers make it more challenging to attain.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California, and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.