What the American Dream is

There are people who have traveled at great lengths to be able to arrive in the United States of America. These people may have gone through a lot of pain and suffering and have arrived in America for a chance to start over and to live a better life than the one they had in their home country. After all, America is known to be the land of opportunity. The American Dream is the belief that anyone can attain their own idea of success, but this is not attained so easily. People have the idea that just arriving in the United States of America is going to automatically change their lives towards success. Americans have all the resources and opportunities to accomplish big things, but people no longer know all the hard work and the great amount of time that it is going to take for them to obtain the greatly desired American Dream. Wealth, fantasizing over success, instant gratification, and the fact that the American government favors the wealthy above others are all factors causing the American Dream to slowly die.

In the novel The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald credits wealth as the destruction of the American Dream as it gets intertwined with hope and success and replaces their positions in the American Dream with materialism. This can be seen through Gatsby’s use of illegal practices and underground connections to make his fortune. His frequent luxurious parties, the huge mansion, and his collection of clothing all represent his corruption. His use of wealth and status is demonstrated when his traffic violation is ignored by the police officer. “I heard the familiar ‘jug-jug-spat!’ of a motorcycle, and a frantic policeman rode alongside. ‘All right, old sport,’ called Gatsby. We slowed down. Taking a white card from his wallet, he waved it before the man’s eyes” (Fitzgerald 68). This reveals how his status and money allow him to get what he wants and to get away with whatever he wants. The worst qualities of the American Dream today are shown through Tom and Daisy Buchanan because their characters are built upon wealth. “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy–they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast careless, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…” (Fitzgerald 179). This can be seen when Tom told Wilson whose car it was that had run over Myrtle without any sign of regret of what he had done. “What if I did tell him. That fellow had it coming to him. He threw dust into your eyes just like he did to Daisy’s, but he was a tough one. He ran over Myrtle like you’d run over a dog and never even stopped his car” (Fitzgerald 178). He tells Nick that he is responsible for both of Gatsby and Wilson’s deaths but still justifies himself as being innocent for what had happened because he has never had to experience any type of shame or guilt.

In Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller analyzes the American Dream by portraying the life of a salesman named Willy Loman. The American Dream is a goal of many people, although it may mean something different to everyone. Willy’s American Dream is based solely on the idea that being well-liked will get one very far in life. It has also been demonstrated that Willy has problems distinguishing from his illusions from reality and is always fantasizing over what he wants. “Bigger than Uncle Charley! Because Charley is not–liked. He’s liked but he’s not– well liked” (Miller 18). Willy fantasizes about the business he wants to own one day, but he never actually does anything that will lead him in the direction to accomplish his dream. Not only does he believe that being well-liked is important, but he also has such a strong affection toward outward appearances that he goes and tells his sons, “That’s why I thank Almighty God you’re both built like Adonises. Because the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want” (Miller 21). Willy romanticizes about himself too much to an extent that he makes his two sons believe he is something that he is not. He gets himself to believe that he is a crucial part to his job when he really isn’t; he tells his sons how much people like him and all the respect that he receives everywhere he goes. His idea of success is through one’s charisma and personality, not hard work and determination, is the key to finding success.

In the IQ video with Simon Sinek, he is able to eloquently explain why the American Dream is not what it was before, and why people expect to see results quickly. As technology advances, it takes a greater part of people’s lives today. This was not a problem back when the American Dream was first constructed. Today, people are not as focused or determined to accomplish their goals as before. They only see the end result, totally overlooking all the time it will take to get there. “It is as if they’re standing at the foot of a mountain and they have this abstract concept called impact that they want to have in the world which is the summit. What they don’t see is the mountain,” (Sinek). Young generations know what they want to accomplish in either their jobs, life, etc., but they want it all to be done quickly and perfectly. They don’t know the patience they are going to need in order to achieve this. Specifically, the generation of the millennials has never known the effort and sweat they need to put into their dreams or hopes for their lives, because they never had to. “They were told they were special, all the time. They were told that they can have anything they want in life just because they want it” (Sinek). This is not what the American Dream stands for, but is the reason why this becomes more of a fantasy than a reality. The American Dream is slowly deteriorating because of generations like these that are incapable of working and dependent and cannot survive out in the world by themselves.

In poem “Let America Be America Again” written by Langston Hughes it’s demonstrated that the American government is corrupt in favoring only a set group of people, the wealthy. This land was once a chance for people all over the world to have another chance for them to achieve their greatly desired successful life, but as time goes on immigrants are viewed as low class people with no futures. “Who said free? Not me? Surely not me? The millions on relief today? The millions shot down when we strike?” (Hughes 52-54) Dreamers of freedom are now the ones who don’t get to enjoy the “homeland of the free” that they have built. “Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream In the Old World while still a serf of kings, Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true, That even yet its mighty daring sings In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned That’s made America the land it has become,” (Hughes 39-44). The old American Dream has shaped this country, but these new dreamers are being forgotten in this new age. As the years go by, technology is evolving. It is becoming more common for people to be interested in finding more ways to earn even more money than what they are currently earning, causing people to become more materialistic than before.

The American Dream is what has shaped our country from the start, but it is now dying out in the Americans and other immigrants from around the world. Only believing that wealth and instant gratification won’t help them achieve the American Dream and neither will only dreaming about achieving it. Throughout the years this is what has been believed to be the American Dream, modified as time goes on getting further away from its initial purpose. These current and new generations are steadily decreasing the faith in the American Dream, since less people are actually able to attain this famous dream and are converting it more into a fantasy than a reality.

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What the American Dream is. (2021, Jun 13). Retrieved June 26, 2022 , from

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