Truslow, James In his book The Epic of America, published in 1931, Adams introduced the idea of the American Dream. America and other parts of the world were facing economic difficulties at the time. The word “American dream” was coined by Adams to describe a diverse set of values, religious promises, political and economic aspirations, and social expectations (Berkhofer 206). The concept is also used to describe the way of life in the United States. Individual definitions of the American dream exist, which is why no widely accepted concept of the American Dream has ever been created. According to Adams, people from all over the world have moved to the United States with petite in the form of possessions and a dream to have a better life. The promise of freedom and the slogan that America is a world of opportunity has lured many foreigners into the country. The majority of the historians in America link the American dream to the Declaration of the Independence as well as the first European Settlers since the idea was for all people have to achieve what they want regardless of their place of birth (Berkhofer 207). Everybody was to be treated equally and recognized by others for what they have become as far as their position in the society is concerned. The idea was for the American people to work together so as to realize the American dream which is for all social groups.
Different Definitions of The American Dream
Many people perceive the American dream as the ability to become wealthy after working hard. Immigrants come to the United States with that in mind. They leave their families and careers to chase the American dream. Immigrants believe that the US is a land of opportunities and by coming to the country would change their lives economically. They will get a better job or establish a business that will thrive such that he or she will be in a position to support their families back in their motherland (Johnson 6). To them, the United States is a country of hope, a new and a better start. They view the American dream as one of their ultimate goal they ought to achieve. It is a dream that one day, they will get lucky enough to gain wealth and keep it forever.
On the other hand, some people see the American dream beyond the material things. For them, American dream is all about living a simple and a happy life that is fulfilling (Trujillo 3). What they focus on are the faith and equality. Such people consider America being a country of liberty and a country of unlimited opportunities. Even the homelessness feel they are living up to the American dream. For instance, after the global financial crisis in 2008, a lady lost her job, and her boyfriend proposed moving into his Sprinter van after losing her job like many other employees. They traveled across the country in which her boyfriend would operate his online business remotely. The Sprinter van had a fridge and a bed, and as they were tired of traveling, they were contented in with the life they had in the Sprinter van. They no longer cared about the hot shower or address. All they needed was in the Sprinter Van (Trujillo 7). They were happy being homeless and they even got married and had a child. Life in the Sprinter van was the couple’s American dream. It was simply happy and fulfilling.
For slaves in the United States, their American dream was to be freed and to receive justice. Being treated equally and having a life of their own was the ultimate goal of the slaves in America. Besides, during the time at which the concept of the American dream was introduced, people fled to the United States to exercise their freedom of worship (Johnson 13). Many countries had a religion that was imposed by the government on his people, and no one would dare defy the rules that had been set. However, those who felt that the teachings were misleading, they fled to the United States to exercise what they feel is the right way to worship their God. That way, their American dream was to worship their God without anyone interfering with them.
The working class also has a perspective about the American dream as well. during the election periods, both the Democrats and Republican’s use certain terms in their conventional speeches. Such terms include jobs, opportunities, success, families and work (Wyatt-Nichol, 2016). All these terms are associated in one way or another to the American dream. Besides, the terms have a significant impact to the working class whose lives have been disrupted by the unfavorable economic conditions that hit the country from time to time. Considering that the fact that American dream has been the most dominant aspiration and cultural narrative in the country, such words are expected especially from those aspiring to be leaders in the country. The American dream is also associated with education and hard work. However, the working class who constitute people without a college degree have a version that contradicts the cultural narrative of the American dream. Many people especially the Hispanics and whites identify themselves as lower class.
The working class do not believe that hard work guarantees success and do not hope for a better future. They are content with the life the life they have. They argue that the politicians should go beyond embracing the American dream and strategize on ways that can be used to revive its viability. Both political camps (Republicans and Democrats) talk only about the increasing the education and provide very few plans on how they are willing to help many people attain it (Wyatt-Nichol, 2016). To the working class, improving the standards of living and promoting the trade and commerce are aspirational political rhetoric that they are not willing to buy anymore. Their American dream is the life they have in which they earn enough to sustain them.
Today, people in the United States view the American dream as a reminder of what brought them to the country or what they are supposed to do. Despite the fact that many people in America live a luxurious life, meaning that they are living their American dream, there are many whose lives are far from what they dreamed of (Johnson 18). Many people who come to America with the aim of economic excellence have no idea that it is full of ups and downs and for some, the downs persist and end up living in an American nightmare rather than the American dream. Altogether, they are those who would seem to be living in misery, like the homelessness but they are contented with such life. They find the life fulfilling. Conclusively, there is no acceptable universal definition of American dream since it has something individual.
Berkhofer, Robert F. “Adams, James Truslow. The Epic of America. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1938. Alford, Steven E.“Spaced-Out: Signification and Space in Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy.” Contemporary Literature 36.4 (1995): 613-32.—.“Mirrors of Madness: Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy.” Critique 31.1 (1995): 17-33.” THE FRONTIER MYTH AND THE FRONTIER THESIS IN CONTEMPORARY GENRE FICTION 39 (2015): 206.
Johnson, Heather Beth. The American dream and the power of wealth: Choosing schools and inheriting inequality in the land of opportunity. Routledge, 2014.
Trujillo, Stevie. “Happy to Be Homeless: 3 Things We Learned From Living in a Van.” The Good Men Project, 23 Nov. 201, goodmenproject.com/featured-content/happy-to-be-homeless-3-things-we-learned-from-living-in-a-van-dg/. Accessed 2 Apr. 2017.
Wyatt-Nichol, H. (2016). The Enduring Myth of the American Dream: Mobility, Marginalization, and Hope.