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The American Dream Analysis

In: English and Literature

Submitted By shreetisigdel
Words 1554
Pages 7
Shreeti Sigdel
AP English III/5th
20 September 2013
The American Dream For generations, the American dream has floated around society in different forms. In the 19th century, it was viewed as an independent and cowboy-worthy lifestyle, whereas in the early 20th century, it corresponded to nationalism and unity. In today’s society, young generations often fantasize the lavish lifestyle of Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake while declaring it their American dream. The origin of the term dates back to 1931, where it was first coined in James Truslow Adams’ The Epic of America. Adams claims that the egalitarian nature of this dream began to take shape when the early Puritan colonists settled in America with the hopes of living in freedom from governmental persecution. Like the Puritans, millions of immigrants leave their country every year with the hopes of building a better life. Because of different generations’ perspective and individual values, it is difficult to assign a certain definition to the American dream. For example, to some people, the dream is often associated with success, while to others, it corresponds to future family stability. Whatever the version may be, America’s countless prospects guarantee every American the opportunity to achieve their dream through hard work and dedication.
While every American has heard the phrase, “American Dream” at least once in their lifetime, every non-American has heard it at least a 100 times. The opportunity to live in America was, and still is, a privilege that most American-born people take for granted. After all, America introduced modern democracy and its education system provides a variety of opportunities that are unavailable in many other countries. Of the 1,062,040 people that applied for residency in the U.S in 2011, these two factors, among many, motivated the majority to leave their motherland and achieve these prospects. The song, “America,” from the classic film West Side Story, emphasizes the countless opportunities available in the US, as opposed to the limitations the characters faced in Puerto Rico. Anita, the protagonist, stresses that Puerto Rico is an “ugly island” full of “tropic diseases” and “bullets flying” (West Side Story). She continues, stating that the country lacks electricity and other basic necessities. In contrast, Anita praises America for its comfort, freedom and infrastructure. She even goes as far as stating that Puerto Rico is so unappealing, “everyone there will have moved [to America]” (West Side Story) sometime or another. In agreement with Anita, David Kamp, author of “Rethinking the American Dream,” adds to her case, defining America as a “place where one could live one’s life and pursue one’s goals unburdened by… ideas of class, caste and social hierarchy” (Kamp). Despite the negative remarks about the non-existence of the American Dream, Kamp argues, “the American dream is within reach for all those who aspire to it and are willing to put in the hours” (Kamp). Neil Diamond, an American-born singer, emphasizes this aspiration in his song, “Coming to America.” Diamond’s perspective constantly shifts as he sings from an immigrant’s point of view at the beginning of the song and an American’s point of view at the end. He begins with, “we’ve been travelling far, without a home, but not without a star” (Diamond). According to Diamond, the star, referring to America, is the immigrants’ main focus. Despite their sacrifices, they still “hang on to [their] dream” (Diamond) even in the face of adversity. Their hunger and enthusiasm for America’s liberty and opportunities are what motivate them to continue.
In an effort to understand the personal hardships of an immigrant, I conducted interviews with a variety of first generation immigrants. When asking my father what his definition of the American dream was, he assertively answered, “to start a business of my own in America, to escape the limitations of Nepal and to create a better future for my children” (Sigdel, Sarad). Although he loved growing up in Nepal, my father confessed that the government was corrupt and he was apprehensive with the idea of raising us there. At that time, only a few Nepalese ventured to America and they claimed, “America was the land of opportunity” (Sigdel, Sarad). My father took their word for it, and left for America in 1998 while my mother, sister and I stayed behind. “It was hard moving to an unknown land,” (Sigdel, Sarad) my father continued, “and even harder to understand the culture, system, and how to communicate” (Sigdel, Sarad). But soon, my father did achieve his dream; after he settled in America, my mother, sister and I joined him. He eventually started two businesses (one that he still runs now) and is pleased that he has secured a “strong, safe future” (Sigdel, Sarad) while living up to “[his] expectations” (Sigdel, Sarad). Like my father, Angel Guillen admitted he left Peru “for [his] kids to have a chance at a better future and a higher education” (Guillen). When asked why he chose this dream, Guillen selflessly answered, “because it gives my family security and a peace of mind” (Guillen). In Peru, Guillen also heard America was the “best chance for freedom and opportunity” (Guillen), and with his father’s guidance and his wife’s permission, they departed for America. “The hardest part,” (Guillen) Guillen states, “was having to sacrifice my career and everything I had back home; being an engineer and coming here just to be paid minimum wage” (Guillen). When asked if he was happy, he confidently answered, “Yes! My kids have the best education at the moment, they have opened door for themselves and have the ability to choose whatever they want to do and live how they want to” (Guillen). While my father and Angel Guillen’s American dream was mainly the security and education of their children, my sister’s dream differed. Born and raised in Kathmandu, Shreya left Nepal when she was 9 years old. From a young age, her American dream was “to be able to work at a place [she loves], doing what [she loves], and positively impacting the world” (Sigdel, Shreya). When asked why, Shreya answered, “I want to be a role model for not only my siblings, but for my country as well. Coming from a 3rd world country has given me the motivation to work hard for my American dream” (Sigdel, Shreya). Despite her determination, Shreya confessed the competition was hard. “I’m not the only person with dreams, and certainly not the last” (Sigdel, Shreya) she candidly stated, but with the encouragement of friends and family, she achieved her dream. “I’m working for one of the largest oil and gas companies,” (Sigdel, Shreya) she beamed, “in the hopes of finding a more efficient energy source for the world” (Sigdel).
From these past two weeks of being exposed to a variety of goals and dreams, I noticed a pattern among first generation immigrants. While many American-born citizens view the American dream as being rich and famous, many immigrants strive for a non-tangible dream—to secure their family’s future. I realized this when taking in my daily dose of a page called, H.O.N.Y (Humans of New York). The website includes a variety of short, yet significant interviews and photographs of strangers the photographer meets in the streets of New York. In one interview, a young man with immigrant parents mentioned that first generation immigrants often “have to work hard and struggle” (HONY) so their children could be successful. In all honesty, he is correct. I have seen family friends and members come to America with almost nothing but the determination to set a life full of opportunities for their children. Because of this, I learned the significance of education at a very young age. I constantly challenged myself and strived to do the best in academics so I could prove to my parents that their struggle meant something. When I visited Nepal for the first time in thirteen years, I began to prioritize my goals. The amount of poverty, civil conflict, and lack of organization I saw was tragic and sickening. I couldn’t understand how I was living a life of guaranteed prospects and free education while young toddlers were starving in the streets. The overall experience taught me to value my county and realize the importance of helping others. For my American dream, I hope to use my education to benefit people all around the world so that, they too, receive the chance to set goals and dream big. Although it would be nice to achieve the cliché dream of being rich and successful, I’ve learned that the real American dream has nothing to do with materialistic possessions. Instead, the real dream is to be genuinely and unquestionably happy with your lifestyle.

Works Cited
Diamond, Neil. "America" The Jazz Singer soundtrack album. 1980
Guillen, Angel. Personal Interview. 11 Sept 2013
Kamp, David. "Rethinking the American Dream." Vanity Fair Apr. 2009: n. pag. Print. Ofice of Immigration Statistics. "Legal Permanent Residents." 2011 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics. N.p.: n.p., 2011. 10. Print.
Sigdel, Sarad. Personal Interview. 11 Sept 2013
Sigdel, Shreya. Personal Interview. 11 Sept 2013
Stanton, Brandon. "Humans of New York." Humans of New York. N.p., 9 Sept. 2013. Web. 18 Sept. 2013. <>.
West Side Story. Dir. Robert Wise. United Artist, 1961

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