Free Essay

The American Dream Essay

In: Social Issues

Submitted By JessiSteel
Words 1120
Pages 5
The American Dream will never truly have a solid definition; it is ever evolving, molding into a new meaning as society develops and changes. It is like a fire; ever turning in one way or another; impossible to grasp, but yet never changing its basic identity. Throughout its history, the United States has endured many trials and obstacles. These trials have changed the way American citizens view the Dream’s preliminary ideals. Regardless of its history and the people involved in its development, America’s dream will always be—at the very least— loosely based on the principles upon which it was founded—those of life, liberty, and the endless pursuit of happiness.
When the United States was initially founded in the late 1700’s, it was viewed as a pioneering wilderness; an escape where a person was free to believe what he or she wanted without opposition. Indeed, a home where people could start a new life, free from the pressures of religion and the government they bore in the lands they came from. Over time, others began to hear of this great new land and they too sought after this dream of freedom. These people saw America as a beacon which gave them hope of a new life.
The interpretation of the American Dream has evolved over time. Conflicts have arisen, injustice has spread, and many have been martyrs as a result of the Dream that they believed in. For instance, in the 1800s, it was the white Southern man’s Dream to own slaves and property. The black man, however, had a very different Dream, which was to be free from the control of their masters. Ultimately, the Civil War was fought and Southern, white men had their Dream shattered while the black slaves realized theirs. After a long and brutal war fighting over President Lincoln’s proclamation that “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free….” (Lincoln), Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address gave inspiration and hope to the black slaves in Southern America. In spite of their differing views on what the Dream was to them, both the white man and the black man desired to ‘live the good life’, be free of obligations or burdens, and ultimately achieve happiness. The only difference was the context of each side’s backgrounds, ethnicities, and status in society.
Ultimately, though, for most American citizens, their goal in life is to be happy. Though there are many different individual dreams, most revolve in one way or another around this idea of happiness; the idea that, in order to truly have lived life successfully, a person must have achieved his or her interpretation of their happiness. For some, that might mean discovering peace through religion; others beg to differ, proclaiming that education is the key to happiness. Success is another thing that many believe is the key to finding their satisfaction in life. To yet another set of people, in order to truly fulfill the American Dream, it means a sense of accomplishment. As John Steinbeck presents in his book Grapes of Wrath, “This you may say of man—when theories change and crash, when schools, philosophies, when narrow dark alleys of thought, national, religious, economic, grow and disintegrate, man reaches, stumbles forward, painfully, mistakenly sometimes. Having stepped forward, he may slip back, but only half a step, never the full step back.” (Steinbeck 147) This is an ideal image of the emotion behind the American Dream. That no matter how far we stumble and fall, we never let ourselves fall back to our starting point. We push forward, never ceasing, always resolute in being the best we can be—the happiest we can be—the wealthiest—the most at peace.

The modern definition of the American Dream is much more diverse than it used to be. In the past, this Dream meant owning the most land, or having the most slaves, or winning the most wars. Now it means so much more. Many find the American Dream to be about achieving the most fame and glory in their lifetime. Thousands upon thousands of people post videos of themselves on the popular video-sharing website YouTube singing or doing insane stunts in hopes of becoming famous or that they might become the next Justin Bieber.
Many people are still in favor of the idea of money as a symbol of success, but in recent years, as exemplified by television shows, movies and music, society has begun to consider happiness as more about living a simple, easygoing life. Consider this quote by Zac Brown, lead singer of his self-titled country band: “It's funny how it’s the little things in life that mean the most. Not where you live or what you drive or the price tag on your clothes.…” (Brown) In Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr (more famously known as T.I.)’s song “Live Your Life”, he encourages people to “just live your life, instead of chasing… paper.”
A prevalent concept sweeping the nation is that in order to truly be happy and achieve the “American Dream”, a person has to stop living by societal norms, go out, and live his or her individual dream. An example of this idea of individualism is the now-famous concept of “YOLO”, which is an abbreviation for “you only live once”. The concept behind the phrase, which was originally in a song called “The Motto” by Aubrey Drake Graham (more famously known by his stage name “Drake”), is that if a person desires to be truly happy, he must get out of his comfort zone and do things in life that would not ordinarily be considered proper or normal. Or, more succinctly, the modern, popular definition today would be this: experience life or you won’t really live life as it ought to be lived out.
As stated originally, there really is no way to pinpoint the American Dream. Its flame shifts and evolves, more quickly than we ever have time to get used to it. Indeed, even now there is no one American Dream. True, this Dream still involves the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, however it is what the individual American dreams that becomes the corporate Dream. There will be times when many Americans will have the same dream, but it is not about what America dreams, it is about what the individual dreams.

Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863; Presidential Proclamations, 1791-1991; Record Group 11; General Records of the United States Government; National Archives.
Brown, Zac. Chicken Fried. BNA Records, 2003. MP3.

Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr. Live Your Life. Atlantic Records, 2008. MP3.

Steinbeck, John. Grapes of Wrath. New York: Viking Press, 1939. Print.

Similar Documents

Premium Essay

The American Dream Argumentative Essay

...multi-millionaire. No worries on paying the bills, no worries about what will be on the dinner table, and no worries about paying for the children’s college. Is the American Dream equally achievable for each of these individuals? The American Dream is possible for each of these individuals to achieve, just harder for some to get to that point. As it turns out the...

Words: 720 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

American Dream Argumentative Essay

...King, in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Americans have to work together to accomplish their American Dream. Even though many people go through a lot of hard times, it should not stop anyone from reaching their dream. The “American Dream” can be attainable. The term “American Dream” has been existed for almost a century. The “American Dream” came to existence in 1931. Many people interpret the “American Dream” differently; a well-known interpretation of the “American dream” is “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence 1). Many immigrants that move to the United States look for a new life a fresh start, independence, and look for their dreams here because they cannot achieve their dreams from where their land. The “American Dream” is an opportunity to search for...

Words: 702 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

Persuasive Essay On The American Dream

...An American Author once stated that “The American Dream has run out of gas. The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies.” this man was J.G Ballard. America has always been considered the greatest country, while most people would consider this to be true, it turns out for a small percentage of people this is not true. The U.S. National Debt has been doing nothing but increasing. The last time the debt had reached zero was Jan 8th 1835 when Andrew Jackson was president. As of now the us is $20,502,528,668,603 in debt. The U.S. is no longer the greatest country in the world, our education system is ranked 14th for worldwide education systems in reading, in math were 25th, and finally in science were 17th. Though many may consider the american dream to be dead in fact it's quite the opposite It's still alive and achievable despite these statistics. Drive and motivation have become a determining factor in achieving success. Fixed mindsets is where intelligence and talents are limited, this is why some believe the dream to...

Words: 927 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

Argumentative Essay: The American Dream

...The American Dream is achievable and obtainable in America because that is what shaped America. There is room for more people to seek their dreams and obtain a better life. Anyone can achieve this dream if they work hard enough, and make the right choices. It’s tough, and may be unbearable, but anyone can try again to make a better life. It may be difficult and hard to do, but America was shaped by people who were poor who rose up from the ashes of poverty. The United States is a big country, and surely, it can save people from poverty and horrors of the world. People can come in poor, and with enough education and hard work, they could end up rich. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s possible. People are losing faith in this concept. (Source 5: The New York Times Poll: “Many Feel the American Dream Is Out of Reach”, Poll Shows” by Sorkin and Thee-Brenan, 2014.) Perhaps it’s because of the pollution, over crowding, or how much harder life has become. No dream is easy to achieve, so the American Dream isn’t easy either. People will make room and move on, it’s a step by step process to become rich, or even middle class. It isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible....

Words: 564 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

Personal Narrative Essay: The Dominican American Dream

...My trailblazing family’s thrifty efforts were legendary in our neighborhood. We started reusing and repurposing way before it was trendy. We made do with what we had and made what we had do more in order to awkwardly swim toward the Dominican American dream. Frugality is a game, or at least we made it into one. A game of who can save the most money by turning off lights, keeping the heater off and going to the library when the apartment got too hot. A game of who could make a skirt out of a short dress or find a scholarship for swimming lessons at the Y.M.C.A. The act of conserving money, the audacity to solve problems no one has thought of before is what set my family apart. Together we share our victories in a little tribe of four Amazon warriors partaking in our own version of the show, Survivor: NYC edition. The phrase “making do” could evoke connotations of stagnation and despair for some; but for me it is about understanding my situation and being proactive. The values I gained...

Words: 649 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

Analytical Essay ”in Defense of Black Rage: Michael Brown, Police and the American Dream”

...Analytical Essay ”In defense of black rage: Michael Brown, police and the American dream” Not a long time ago, all the newspapers had a great cause to write about; a white police officer shot a young, black and even unarmed man, named Michael Brown. This triggered a great anger among the Afro-American people, and especially Brittney Cooper, “That story is only plausible to people who believe that black people are animals, that black men go looking for cops to pick fights with.” Her anger did the fact, that she wrote the contribution to debate: “In defense of black rage: Michael Brown, police and the American dream” on the website ““, August 12th 2014. But how does she manage to get her message out, and is she succeeded? Brittney Cooper is written about a problem, which has been affecting the United States for many years. And she is not the first one, who tries to make a difference. She complains the still on-going suppression of the Afro-Americans. “We are weak. We are tired. Of being punching bags and targets for the police.” The writer makes it clear, that this suppression has been going on for far too long, and the Afro-Americans are tried of being the target zone, without having the ability to resist. Therefore is the Afro-American woman Brittney Cooper mad. And she is writing mostly to white people. The white people, who cannot understand the Afro-Americans’ anger. The white people, who cannot understand the looting in Ferguson, which she did not......

Words: 1003 - Pages: 5

Free Essay

Final Exam

...Assessment Title: | The American Experience: SAT Style Argument Essay | Task: | Suggested Engagement Scenario: In order to be well-prepared for the SAT that you will take this year, it is important to practice the essay component of the exam. That is what you will do today.Part 1: Compose a 25- minute timed SAT style argument essay. Use the rubric to guide your response to this prompt: Is the American Dream possible for all people? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your position on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.Part 2: Review anchor papers with rubric, then determine your own score. (This does not replace teacher evaluation)Part 3: (optional follow-up) Compose a diary entry focused on the American Dream from the perspective of a Colonial Era immigrant. (W.# Narrative Task) | Standards: | RI.11.7: Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information in order to address a question or solve a problem.W.11.1: Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.L.11.3: Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening. | Materials: | Teacher Materials: * Teacher directions * Rubric | Student Materials: * SAT Style Essay prompt sheet ......

Words: 2298 - Pages: 10

Free Essay


... One of the main reasons why I choose this subject of how the world is not encouraging economic growth, was because of urban rap artist J Cole. He is a perfect example that I can not only relate to but understand how he lived. J Cole (Jermaine Cole) any many of his interviews he talks about the exact type of equality of chance of growth I am introducing. By telling his personal story though his music and the interviews, gives me a greater insight on how I have been taught as a kid my whole life. As he also introduces the manner that the people of different business are being used as a slavery image, I can transverse that to fit my essay. Everything aspect that J Cole went through was a exact match to what my father warned me about this world before I had to experience it. J Cole offers the same mind set as well as, compatible to my design for this essay, to show proof that my raised ideas and J Coles ideas are all happening today in this economy. Through this essay I will also incorporate some of Paul Krugman’s, the positives, the......

Words: 547 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

Rhetorical Analysis Of The Right To Fail By William Zinsser

...For over two hundred years the American Dream, or national ethos of the United Sates, revolved around a set of ideals put forward in the Declaration of Independence which declares that all Americans are equal and have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” For immigrants arriving on these shores, regardless of social class or circumstance of birth, it was a given of the time that prosperity, success, and upward social mobility for all (excluding slavers) was obtainable and could be achieved through honest, hard work. Today that dream is not dead, although recently there has been a death of soaring rhetoric and a paucity of hope. So while the American Dream may at the moment be on life support and in critical condition,...

Words: 666 - Pages: 3

Free Essay

The Great Gastby

...Running head: THE GREAT GATSBY ESSAY #2 1 The Great Gatsby Essay #2 Logan Daniel Laabs Madonna University English 3020: Major American Writers (Tuesdays) THE GREAT GATSBY ESSAY #2 2 The Great Gatsby Essay #2 The Great Gatsby takes place over the summer of 1922 and is set in the area around Long Island, New York. At first glance Fitzgerald makes a superficial statement about romanticism; Gatsby’s love for Daisy and how that love was destroyed in 1919 when Gatsby left for the war and instead married Tom Buchanan. The better part of the story shows Fitzgerald’s real theme, the decline of the American Dream in the 1920s during a time when prosperity and material excess was at an all high. Fitzgerald renders the 1920s as a time for low social and moral values which is demonstrated by the greed, pessimism, and need to ascend to power. An example of this is the large parties that Gatsby throws every Saturday night in order to impress others. The American dream seems to fade away with the need for wealth and pleasure dominating more moral objectives. This seemed to only intensify after World War I when young Americans came back home after witnessing brutal carnage. Another factor that lead Americans to desire wealth was the rise in stock market, which could have lead many people to easily acquire a small fortune themselves. Furthermore, crime was at an all-time high due to the flourishing underworld were bootleg liquor was in massive demand by the......

Words: 997 - Pages: 4

Free Essay

The American Dream

...English 1101 14 January 2016 The American Dream The “American dream” is what we all strive for.  Immigrants come to the States in hopes of trying to achieve their dreams and better themselves for their families. But in all honesty what is the American dream?  It was once said that you could come to America and go from rags to riches; you could come with nothing and achieve everything. So, is the so-called “American dream” dead, alive, on hold, or is the definition of the said dream changing? This has been a searing topic and a widely debated discussion since the recession started. Brandon King seems to think the American dream is in fact alive and is simply just changing it’s meaning due to our economic hardships. He “would redefine the American Dream today as the potential to work for an honest, secure way of life and save for the future” (611).  King believes now people are tolerable with a middle-class lifestyle and just want to have a stable employment. To him, the American dream is very much alive; it’s just morphing and changing the meaning due to prolonged economic circumstances. King uses logos to adapt a form of credibility and prove he is knowledgeable. He quotes study after study and provides statistics from the year 2005 to 2010 which all makes his argument very convincing. King starts both ethos and logos for the essay when he gives a background for the American dream. “The original term ‘American Dream’ was coined during the Great......

Words: 553 - Pages: 3

Free Essay

Essay over Compare

...Essay #4 Compare and Contrast Topic: According to the authors of Spark Notes, “The Great Gatsby is a highly symbolic meditation on 1920s America as a whole, in particular the disintegration of the American dream in an era of unprecedented prosperity and material excess.” Compare and Contrast the concept of the American dream in The Great Gatsby with that of Americans today in the 21st Century. Requirements: You may only use two sources: your novel and a database article. Follow these directions in finding the database article below. Researching 1. Use the databases from the Paris Junior College Library 2. Go to the Paris Junior College webpage ( From the Quick Links at the top of the page, choose, Library Services. On the left menu of the Library Services page, choose the Databases (Off-Campus) links. You will be prompted to enter your username (PJC student id) and password (birthdate), just like your Blackboard sign-in. Then go to the database titled Literary Reference Center. At the search bar, type in the last name of our author and the word AND in all caps and the title of the work AND a descriptor word like character and search (Fitzgerald AND The Great Gatsby AND American Dream). You should get a long list of works. 3. Scroll through and look for this source: Pidgeon, John. “The Great Gatsby.” 4. You can tell that it is an academic journal source from Modern Age and that there is a full PDF text version online. Click on the PDF Full......

Words: 585 - Pages: 3

Free Essay


...and the American Dream in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman Narcissism och den amerikanska drömmen i Arthur Millers en handelsresandes död. Fredrik Artan Faculty of Arts and Education Subject: English Points:15.0 Supervisor: Magnus Ullén Examiner: Anna Swärdh 2014-06-18 Serial number Abstract This essay focuses on the theme of the American Dream in relation to narcissism in Miller’s Death of a salesman. The purpose is to demonstrate that a close reading of the main protagonist, Willy Loman, suggests that his notion of success in relation to the American Dream can be regarded as narcissistic. This essay will examine this by first observing how Willy´s notion of success is represented in the play, then look at how his understanding of it can be viewed from a narcissistic standpoint. The results I have found in my analysis show that there is a connection between Willy’s understanding of success and his narcissistic behavior. He displays traits such as grandiosity, arrogance, need of specialness and denial of emotions. His relationship with other characters reveals his lack of empathy, manipulation and exploitation of others as well as his need of superiority and fear of inferiority. The conclusion is that Willy and his notion of success could be considered as narcissistic. Contents Introduction ................................................................................................................................................................1 The American......

Words: 6899 - Pages: 28

Free Essay

The Fading American Dream

...The Unachievable American Dream One of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, and one of the most iconic civil rights activists in our countries history, Martin Luther King Jr., both believed in equality for all. In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” ( 327). Since then, America has become the number one country for achieving life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Today, we know this better as the American Dream. The American Dream is something that every American strives for. Immigrants from other countries come here and become American citizens with the hope of someday achieving their ideal American Dream. We all design and carry this image in our heads of our own American Dream. The job we hope to have and the pleasant family we hope to build and raise in our perfect ideal homes, are all images that come to mind when thinking of the American Dream. Most of us, every day of our lives, are doing the best we can. We try to make this dream become a reality, but the reality of this dream is that it’s getting harder and harder to reach; due to unemployment, poverty, and our countries overall economic state. Over the past few years the country’s economy has been in a downward spiral and we’ve reached an economic recession. Poverty and unemployment rates amongst United States citizens......

Words: 1281 - Pages: 6

Premium Essay

American Dream

...symbol for my family and I would be the illusive concept of the American dream. I am fist generation American. My parents came from a small island along the Adriatic coast in Croatia. During the summer months, the island is home to about three hundred people due to tourism. The population of permanent year-long residents hovers just below one hundred. The population of this small island called Susak suffered a significant drop in the 1960’s, when many inhabitants left the island and immigrated to the United States in order to pursue the American dream. Once settled, many of the immigrants settled in New Jersey, particularly Hoboken and Jersey City, and found blue collar work to help support and start a family. Slowly the immigrants from Susak began to live the American dream and their acculturation into American ideals began. With little education, no money, and no way to communicate with their neighbors, these new Americans were forced to adapt to the new culture they were surrounded by. Forty years later, after hours of hard work and dedication, many of these immigrants and their children have been successful at living the America dream. My parents, in particular, have raised four children and put them through college. Through their dedication and hard, my brothers and sisters and I have learned the importance of hard work and determination. Though my parents have slowly become more attune with American ideals through the years, they have never strayed from their......

Words: 485 - Pages: 2