Since the emerge of Homo sapiens as a species in East Africa thousands of years ago, people have been on the move. Humankind has emigrated from one place to another for many reasons such as escaping natural disasters or looking for food and water to survive. This human behavior doesn’t stop throughout the history but the motivations behind the moves have changed as people have developed their needs.
The American dream can be considered a chapter in a long human history where people tend to leave the places where they live in a search for food, water and protection of wild animals and natural disasters. The need of food and water developed into a need of better life opportunities, while the need of protection developed into seeking asylum as many are escaping from wars, political, ethnical and religious persecution.
The meaning of the “American dream” has been changed over the course of the history and include both personal components (such as home ownership and upward mobility) and also included global vision. In his book The epic of America James Truslow Adams stated that the “ The American dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better, richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement”.
People were looking at America as a land of opportunities for prosperity and success. Also it was resembling the freedom which they were lacking in their own countries. Such needs and hopes motivated many to do their best in order to get there and make their “American dream” come true!
But do the American dream really represent a real life opportunities where people can improve their own lives and make it much better for themselves and for their children? Were Christie and Joseph from the Hollywood movie Far and Away right when they believed that their life would change if they moved from Ireland to the USA back in the end of 19th century? And does such story resembling the reality of American life or is it just part of an American propaganda?
In one of his stand-up comedy shows where he was criticizing the idea of The American Dream, George Carlin said: “ It’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it”, was he right?
Many of those who manage to flee their countries to America have their lives changed for the better way; become rich, become successful and achieve a big part of their dreams. But such success and achievement were not given to them on a golden plates, but they had to work/fight hard to get what they want in a country where people have to run in a race not that different from “Oklahoma Land Rush” which Joseph (from Far and Away) had to take part in it to get his “Dream Land”, and not everyone is fit, strong or smart enough to win such daily life races. What about the weak, disabled or people with less IQ? Can the American Dream also be generous enough to include them? Or is it just exclusive for the Hollywood movie’s superheroes?
In his novel Of mice and Men, John Steinbeck is telling a story of two random migrant workers who have kind of an “American Dream”. George Melton, a quick witted man, shares a dream with his best friend Lennie Small who is mentally retarded. They are working hard and dreaming that one day they will be able to buy a piece of land and a house and that Lennie will manage to practice his habit of tending the rabbits. Their dream is abolish by the end assuring that “The American Dream” is not illegible for everyone.
Sometimes the dream of having a better life in America motivates people to commit crimes in order to get there, taking into consideration the story of Chen, the 14 years old Chinese boy who was smuggled with false documents on a flight to New York. The parents of Chen thought that it would be better for his life and future to send him there to work and earn money, they borrowed a huge amount of money they can’t afford paying back from their little salaries to achieve their own “American Dream” for him! Such dream costs him his childhood which he spent working in restaurants instead of going to school and playing as the children of his age should do.
The American Dream is a controversial idea, some think it’s real, others have many doubts about it. Many of those who stand strongly to defend the idea of the American Dream they do it because they were lucky enough to end up in America, became successful and achieved what they were dreaming of, or they are believing in it because of the influence of the Hollywood movies and American media. While others who doubt or criticize it they do because either they got some points or they just disagree with American way of life or because they stand there on the left side, however, people will never stop dreaming of improving their life and getting a better opportunities and many will continue having similar dreams which might drive them in the future somewhere out of this planet!
Adams James T. Little, Brown et al. 1931. The Epic of America :p.214-215
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Steinbeck, John. 2000. Of Mice and Men. Great Britain: Perason Education Limited
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