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Looking Backward Essay - Historical Context

In: English and Literature

Submitted By brentkg
Words 1289
Pages 6
08 March 2010

The American Dream, like any idea that has stood the test of time, appeals to so many people because it is largely left open to personal interpretation. One person’s idea of the American Dream can be vastly different from another’s, and for some it may even change temporally. In, “Looking Backward: 2000-1887,” the protagonist, Julian West, finds himself torn between two different American Dreams: the American Dream of the capitalists of the nineteenth century, and the American Dream of an enlightened twenty first century metropolis. The only surviving heir to a great family inheritance, West is comfortably adjusted to life in America in the 1880s despite the unsavory politics, rabid economics, growing gap between rich an poor, and frequent labor strikes, all of which threaten to arrest industry and devastate the young nation. After a bizarre experience with “animal hypnotism,” West sleeps for over 113 years and awakes in the year 2000 in the home of Dr. Leete. West finds that the new society has no greed, no corruption, no poverty, no crime, and no war. A society in which everyone’s laundry is professionally laundered, meals are professionally prepared in public kitchens, everyone gets a quality education, working hours are short, and retirement comes at the age of forty-five. Everything is as in a utopia. This utopia, no doubt, represented the aspirations of the book’s nineteenth century author, Edward Bellamy. Channeled through the voice of Dr. Leete, Bellamy saturates the book with his ideas of the ideal society. Bellamy’s vision of the future was quite in sync with that of the basic American Dream: equality, justice, and responsibility, for all. Troubled in real life by the same problems that plagued his fictional society of the 1880s, Bellamy wrote his book as a wake-up call and road map to lead his contemporaries…...

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