The American Dream is a symbol for people all around the globe. The American Dream is an idea that in America, everyone has an equal opportunity to have success, and can improve their status through hard work. Immigrants come from the other side of the world in search for it. However, the American Dream is often just that: a dream. Many immigrants, or even natural born Americans, never experience the complete freedom that is supposed to come with living in America. In Christiana Henriquez The Book of Unknown Americans, the American Dream is symbolized through Rafael’s car.
Firstly, the car symbolizes the ability to achieve your goals. When the Toro’s first immigrated to America, they didn’t have very much. Rafael Toro dreamed of being able to own a car, but could never afford one before coming to America, “It was no secret that since he was a boy, my dad had lusted after cars, and the pinnacle of his obsession would have been to own one. Once, he bought an issue of Autoweek at the Newark Newsstand, and for the past few years he’d consoled himself by flipping through it while he lay on the couch, licking his thumb before he turned each thin, glossy page, staring for what seemed like hours at a sleek black Maserati or a balloonish blue Bugatti”(Henríquez 181). Rafael always wanted a car and after coming to America he was able to get one. When they receive money from Celia’s sister, they are able to purchase a Volkswagen. This allows Rafael to achieve one of his lifelong goals. In this way, purchasing the car is a symbol for the American Dream.
Next, the car is a symbol for the freedom and equality in America, or lack thereof. Even though coming to America is supposed to promise the Toro’s equality, in reality it’s not truly equal. This is shown through Rafael’s car. While talking to Mayor, Rafael tells him what to do if he gets pulled over, “If you’re white, or maybe Oriental, they let you drive however you want. But if you’re not, they stop you… If you’re black or if you’re brown, they automatically think you’ve done something wrong”(Henriquez, 185). In this quote, Rafael explains to Celia that police in America have a bias against people of color, and they implement this bias by pulling people over for no reason. This shows how the car is symbolic of equality in America. Even though the Toro’s have equality legally, they are not truly treated equally. They have the right to buy the car, but they are not treated the same in it as a white person.
In conclusion, Rafael’s car is symbolic of the American Dream. It shows the optimistic views of being able to rise socially and achieve goals, as well as the reality that America isn’t completely equal. Christina Henríquez utilizes the Toro’s car as a symbol for the expectations and the realities when immigrating to America.