The American Dream Essay Sample
The American dream is a term that was coined to illustrate a dream that should be within the reach of the American people. This is because it was perceived as a dream of a nation in which life ought to be richer, better and fuller for each individual. However, it seems as if it is not the case currently, because numerous people have lost their jobs, especially after the Wall Street Crash, thus contradicting the true essence of the American dream that the American citizens had an equal right to liberty, life, and happiness (Hargreaves, 2013.) The American dream is gradually changing, and many people believe that it is turning out to be the American nightmare.
According to Herbert’s view, the government’s spending is a key to determining the resurrection of the American dream. This could probably mean putting the entire weight on the government on recovering the withering American dream. However, the government could contribute towards the American dream through the social policies. Through the social policies, the government can redistribute wealth, for instance through imposing higher taxes on rich people and spending more on the destitute. This strategy would facilitate a significant social mobility in America. It is evident in education spending, where school funding is mostly based on property taxes.
Commonly, the funds acquired from taxation are then redistributed to the neediest districts, that is, the people and the schools. Clearly, this would mean that some of the Americans would have to solely depend on the government’s programs. This would be termed as a wise spending as Herbert puts it, because the money is directed into helping upgrade living standards of the American citizens. Based on the purpose of the American dream, that is, making the life of each individual in America better, richer, and fuller, this form of government spending would aid in resurrecting the American dream.
However, Thomas’ view contradicts this strategy of resurrecting the American dream, because it tends to destroy people’s potential of independence, since they would wholly be depending on the government’s assistance programs. Based on his viewpoint, the American dream is supposed to illustrate the essence that through perseverance and hard work even people in the lower class can rise to the middle class or even above. Evidently, there is significant inequality in America, which means that the gap between the rich and the poor is quite huge.
According to Thomas, people from the lower class in America should be allowed to utilize their potential and work harder to rise above their class. In other developed countries such as Japan, Germany, and Australia, people easily rise above their social classes, and this has boosted their social mobility (Hargreaves, 2013) Therefore, it is clear that even people can contribute to the social mobility of their country. I believe that the American people also have a great role in realizing the American dream. Based on different social classes in America, people, especially those in the lower classes, should at least work towards upward mobility. Although it seems impossible in America to rise from the lower class to a higher one, other advanced nations have proved it wrong. The American citizens cannot depend on the government and expect any different results in their pursuit for the American dream. They ought to strive in rising above their living standards in order to realize the American dream.
In America, it is evident that there is a wide gap in income inequality. There are some citizens that earn huge amounts of cash and can afford all sorts of luxuries that money can buy. On the other hand, there are other citizens that can partially afford to live a good life and others that can barely afford a meal. Commonly, this is evident in buying malls, such as the Wal-Mart. Employees in Wal-Mart can be considered as individuals that can be categorized in the middle class level. They can afford to maintain their living standards, since they can afford the basic necessities. Wal-Mart can be obligated to offering lower prices on their products in order to cater for the individuals in the lower class. It is important to realize that people in the lower position cannot rise above their class within a very short period. Therefore, while they are at the lower status, their needs should be considered, since they are also American citizens. Majority of these individuals in the lower class can only afford few commodities. Actually, some of these citizens rarely afford a meal leave alone other basic needs, such as education. Moreover, there are citizens in America that are single parents and have the responsibility of raising more than one child. They also experience financial strain, especially if they are finically weak. They need funds to purchase food for children and take into account other necessities, too. Therefore, I believe that Wal-Mart is obligated to offer goods at a lower cost in order to consider individuals who cannot afford more expensive goods.
According to a philosopher Jacob Needleman, human beings believe that they are socially independent, while in the real sense they are pulled by forces within our cultures. Basically, it is of great importance to realize the role of money in the society. In America, people are more worried about how to make huge amounts of money and still maintain their souls. Basically, human beings have an inherent behavior of wanting more than they need. Consequently, this has caused numerous challenges for the human race. People invest much energy in acquiring money. Money is inevitably essential in resurrecting the American dream. Many Americans have no time for themselves, because they are so buried in techniques of making more money.
Human beings are impoverished with time because of their search for more money. Sometimes people feel that the world of making money is sucking their souls dry, and they actually go out of their way just to search meaning in their lives. The American dream is a vision that I believe the Americans are pursuing. It is in the American dream that people acquire a better, richer, and fuller life. Social change also highly depends on personal change, because people’s success has a great impact on the social mobility of a country. When people pursue their goals to acquire more money and rise above their classes, then the country tends to develop further. America as an advanced country in the money-making world should also portray the value of maintaining honor, respect, and the beauty of life. Human beings find it difficult to be time-conscious as they pursue the increment of wealth and money. America is one of the developed countries that are in pursuit of their dream as country. It should illustrate to the other countries the importance of the contribution of citizens in the realization of social mobility. It is an obligation of each citizen to strive towards rising above their social class, especially those in the lower class. It is fascinating to think about acquiring a similar goal for the world. However, considering the numerous countries globally and their different social status in terms of development, it would be challenging to realize the dream. There are countries that are far more developed than other countries (Needleman, 1990).
Disappearing American Dream
The idea of the American dream grounds on freedom, equality, and limitless opportunities for everybody, regardless of his or her background and origin. While it has been inherent to the U.S. mentality since the country’s foundation, nowadays, it is farther from reality than it has ever been. Instead of enjoying numerous opportunities of the career and personal growth, people are struggling for survival being hopelessly stuck in their initial social status. Rising social inequality, downward social mobility, and lack of initiative are the main problems that are plaguing the American society today. The gap between the rich and the poor is ever increasing and threatening to destroy the notion of a middle class, along with the cherished idea of the American dream.
Until recently, the US has been associated with the highest household income and social security levels, but today, millions of common Americans are not able to find a decently-paid job. The US is one of the world’s most prosperous countries in terms of GDP, but the current federal minimum wage is so low that people working full-time usually live below the poverty line. Though minimum wage laws are now being revisited, the policymakers take actions too slowly in order to change the situation for the ordinary Americans. It is difficult to imagine how the wages at seven or eight dollars per hour can be enough to cover the basic needs of the U.S. citizens. A large portion of the American population cannot even afford health insurance while other rich world democracies provide their citizens with the universal health care coverage. Housing has also become less affordable for citizens, especially after the mortgage crisis of 2008. Neither the government nor private companies seem to be interested in raising the wages, which inevitably leads people to the question of business ethics. Today, underpayment and understaffing are not only common for the small retail companies but also for the international corporations with huge profits. Wal-Mart is the most notable example of an expanding corporation that pays meager salaries to its workers and does not even provide a system of incentives for the most loyal of them. However, it is especially disappointing that ‘Wal-Mart increasingly sets the standards for wages and benefits throughout the US economy’ (Olsson n.p.). It means that, in the nearest future, other large companies are likely to follow the suit and squeeze the most out of their workers without increasing the payment. I cannot but agree with this assertion, because the Americans can already witness that the retail corporations prefer saving on their workforce to reducing other expenses. The author of the article ‘Inequality and the American Dream’ also notes that while the profits of the private companies have soared in the recent years, wages for common citizens are staying flat. In such a manner, the business owners and managers earn large profits while the life conditions of the workers only get worse. I totally agree that this injustice contributes to the widening gap between the rich and the poor in the American society, gradually destroying the middle class as such.
The US has always been considered a country with significant upward mobility; every person, whether American or not, can achieve success due to his or her talents and hard work. The American version of social mobility is thus founded on the meritocracy; people should get what they deserve, according to their abilities, not their background. The heart of the American system has always been education; however, today, even an Ivy League diploma does not automatically provide a gateway to the brilliant career opportunities. Unless graduates have good connections, they are not likely to get a high-paying job. Moreover, tuition fees are so high that a person has no chance to receive solid education if he or she comes from a poor background. Therefore, the nature of the American meritocracy is doubtful. Today, skills and abilities can only promote the career chances if they are underpinned with money; however, if taken separately, they have no value. The educational system of the European countries is more inclusive and affordable than that of the US. It is rather a disgraceful contrast for the American society. It is indeed very difficult for children from poor families to achieve professional success today. I agree with the author that, due to the imperfect educational system, social mobility is seriously affected. Sklar notes that from the upwardly mobile country, the US is turning into the downwardly mobile country. It means that the citizens now not only lack opportunities for improving their social status but also lose their income and degrade to the lower strata. Though I agree with this observation, I still think that a lot depends on the efforts that people apply for achieving their success.
While societal and economical factors are of undoubted importance, lack of action also contributes to the vanishing of the American dream. Success in the US requires large entrepreneurship skills and initiative, which most people do not have now. They are ready to work overtime at underpaid jobs to have at least some illusion of stability, but they do not dare to ask for more and try their talents in other fields. It is particularly true for immigrants who cling onto their menial jobs, but rarely try working in their specialty. Poor knowledge in English can also be an obstacle on their way to success. However, it can be surpassed with ease when people do not lose hope in their American dream and apply more effort to attain it. Furthermore, the Americans should be more active in defending their social rights with the help of unions and lawsuits. Commenting on the bold initiative of the degraded Wal-Mart employees, Olsson states that, in case of success, ‘They could effectively set a new benchmark for service-sector jobs.’ I agree with the author that this is not a matter of personal but societal importance; people should set an example for others to follow in advocating their rights. The government should also take more action, to overcome the gap between the rich and the poor. The Economist claims that, as the rich can hardly be compelled to share, it is necessary to help the poor climb the social ladder, primarily by means of education. I agree with the author that making affordable and accessible education is crucial to reaching or, at least, approaching social equality.
For decades, the US has been attracting millions of immigrants with the prospect of high wages and upward mobility, but today the household income of the Americans is decreasing. The upward social mobility is no longer inherent to the US, mostly due to the lack of educational opportunities for poor people. Nevertheless, the idea of the American dream is attainable for people with the entrepreneurship skills who are ready to overcome any obstacles. In order to improve the current situation, the citizens should be more socially engaged and willing to defend their rights and develop themselves.
The Search for the American Dream in the 20th Century Theater
The American Dream manifests itself as a chance for people to believe in a better world. The matter is that people have to use their own abilities and knowledge to improve their well-being, thus creating appropriate conditions for living in order to enjoy the everyday routine by means of personal skills. People are equal, still separated due to their interests, beliefs, and principles. Seemingly, this is why they have to think about any possible ways to overcome the challenges and achieve the required peace. Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and Miller’s Death of a Salesman are two literary works that depict the idea of the American Dream as something to struggle for by a variety of methods.
The search for the American Dream in the 20th century is a complicated process that may be passed through in a number of different ways. For instance, a person may be burning with a desire to catch the luck and neglect all the rules but ends his life committing suicide and sees it as the only possible way out like the main character in Death of a Salesman did. Another example is the situation when a person may want to live a better life, but before it is necessary for them to understand that many internal changes should be made like the characters of Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun did.
The edge of the American Dream made people sale their personalities but not their goods (Miller, 1994). Many people hoped to find a better life but they were politically and economically bounded to do what they want and when they want. The theatrical representation of the search for the American Dream is crucial in understanding this particular point for the cultures that are not aware of the consequences that result from the underlying search. The 20th century theatre, the plays Death of a Salesman and A Raisin in the Sun in particular, put forth the peculiarities of the American Dream as a way to live better life. In both plays, the concept of the American Dream is portrayed on the contextual level. However, the authors argue about its relevance. In order to evaluate the problem of the search of the American Dream in the 20th century, it is paramount to view these realistic plays to determine the peculiarities and consequences of this search.
Death of a Salesman is an American play written by Arthur Miller in the middle of the 20th century. This particular play reflects the search for the American Dream that manifests itself in character’s desire to live a better life. It tells a story of a salesman who did not want to work days and nights but wished to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle inherent for the American Dream period (Miller, 1994). However, he was not lucky at all, and his sons got the same destiny. Instead of fighting for his place in the sun, he chose the easiest way and killed himself to provide his sons with some money for living.
The underlying play reveals the notion of the American Dream that failed. It can be explained by the suicide that objects to the true nature of the American Dream. Undoubtedly, this play represents the search for this idea in the form of Willy’s character. He is a young man that believes in the American Dream that is characterized by the assumption that only hard work is the key to success and prosperity. The 20th century theatre tends to reflect realistic interpretations of this concept and reveal the essence of cherishing such a dream. The potential consequences of cherishing the American Dream are directly shown in the play. It becomes clear that men suffer from this dream due to the reason that they cannot put up with the life that is quite ordinary.
Eric Sterling created a work dedicated to Death of a Salesman, where he admitted that Willy could not get a chance to succeed in his life because he was incompetent (Sterling, 2008). The author was not afraid to write about the educational aspect of the play and its ability to influence future and evaluate the past. The plotline seems to prove the idea that the American Dream was something unattainable in the 20th century due to the problems that existed within personalities and the issues of economic and social state of the United States of America. It is undoubtedly true that the American Dream in this text is shown from the pessimistic perspective. Subsequently, one may cherish this dream, but it is very difficult to fulfill it in everyday life. Due to this reason, the contemplation of the American Dream is vain. Thus, the given concept in the text of Death of a Salesman manifests itself as something that is actually hard to reach for an ordinary person that lacks ambitions.
A Raisin in the Sun is a play written by Hansberry (1994) that relates to a controversy regarding the concept of the American Dream as it can be viewed in an individualized context. Such a context provides the potential reader with the idea that every human being has his/herown interpretation of the underlying notion. Still, it can be assumed that every person dreams differently. At the contextual level, the family of the Youngers is a vivid example of people who cherish their own dreams and try to attain them. The dream is even seen as a means of living. The creation of the story sheds light upon the possible origin of the American Dream. Lorraine Hansberry created her Raisin in the Sun in 1959 as a call for action for the African American people to recognize themselves as a nation and believe in personal powers and skills. Interestingly, the American Dream always presupposes the call for actions, as it manifests itself in a person’s way of perceiving the importance of certain goals.
The story is based on the case of Brown and the Board of Education in 1954. All students truly believed that they had the same rights and possibilities; still, they had to study at different schools that considered their social status and race (Hansberry, 1994). The distinction of social classes and races already becomes a trigger for the American Dream. It was hard to neglect the fact that people were divided into the White with a number of possibilities and the Black, who had to prove their rights. Seemingly, the American Dream concept in A Raisin in the Sun is marked with the importance of equality of human rights and possibilities, as the notion of any kind of discrimination is always groundless and unsound. According to Hansberry (1994), ‘White black in this you are all the same.’
The concept of the American Dream in A Raisin in the Sun exists along with the need to fight racial discrimination. The African Americans are actually called ‘the world’s most backward race of people.’ This status does not allow people of colour to realize their dreams, that in turn proves the elusive nature of the American Dream as such. Interestingly, racial discrimination makes it impossible for the black people to live normal life and accomplish their goals. However, the family of the Youngers has the dignity to withstand the soundless preconceptions in the play.
The play ‘has been described as realistic for its portrayal of complex rather than stereotyped African Americans and for its look into how African American lived as a result of prejudice’ (Loos, 2007, p. 39). Loos’ evaluation of the play helps to identify the main points and show the reader how A Raisin in the Sun may be understood and accepted by the reader. However, it is reasonable to argue that the major theme in this particular play concerns the value of the dreams. Dreams are portrayed as the things that make people alive and ambitious. Their accomplishment is not always possible if the dreams have deviations from reality. The plays argue that people should have a realistic vision of the world so that their desires could come true.
It is worth stating that both plays reflect the importance of a dream in the life of everyone. However, the particular concept of the American Dream can be marked with elusiveness in the 20th century due to the reason that it was not possible for everyone to reach the goals required for the accomplishment of the underlying dream. Not surprisingly, in A Raisin in the Sun, the author dwells upon the problems of discrimination that support the idea that the American Dream was something unattainable for the African Americans as they were prejudiced. The elusiveness can be also seen in Death of a Salesman, as this play argues about the truthfulness of the American Dream. In the 20th century, this notion seemed to be decisive in nature as not everyone could take advantage of fulfilling his/her dreams. Bearing in mind the previous points, there is no doubt in the assumption that, in this context, the potential reader of these two plays may conclude that the United States of America was not the best place to live when it came to realizing one’s dreams. The plays are the vivid examples of such an evaluation of the United States as they bring into focus the main problems that existed at that time.
The American Dream implemented in the above-mentioned plays is a chance for people to see what conditions and possibilities were available for the society in the 20th century. People were eager to reach their American Dream and become happier, more successful, and satisfied with the life they had. Unfortunately, the plays A Raisin in the Sun and The Death of a Salesman show that it was hard to enjoy the popular concept. Moreover, it is important to put an emphasis on the fact that at the contextual level of these plays, the reader may notice that the American Dream of the 20th century completely fails. Each person has his/her own past and skills; this is why it was hard to declare that the same dream was available for everyone who had desire and belief.
In conclusion, the American dream is the dream of a land that is interested in improving lives of its citizens and making them happier and secure. Considering different financial status of the American citizens, there is much that requires to be accomplished in order to resurrect the American dream. The government has its role to play in order to improve lives of the American citizens. However, the American citizens should avoid relying entirely on the government’s assistance programs. As stated earlier, the effort of each citizen to rise above their social class has a significant impact on the social mobility of the country, thus acquiring the American dream. Moreover, buying malls should also consider the disparities of their consumers and offer reasonable prices for their products so that all consumers can at least access basic necessities such as food. Therefore, resurrecting the American dream is highly vital for the advancement of America as a country.