Monday, February 11, 2013

American Dream: Golden or Not?

Well, hello, here’s to my first entry in this Lit Journal!

This week, in class, our teachers gave the groups various context questions to delve into before we embark on deconstructing Death of a Salesman. I immediately snatched up the topic on “American Dream”.

To me, the American Dream is universal and transcendent, one that every global citizen and sentient human being (a phrase Mrs Westvik mentioned several times) recognizes and pursues. During research, my group chanced upon many pieces of literature that touch on the Dream, from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby to Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. 

Interestingly enough, this lesson ties in perfectly with what I’m learning in Advanced History right now. We are currently studying American history where articles like Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence and Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech underpin the ideals at the heart of the Dream— life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness.

However, it struck me that these ideals have grew outdated over time, with authors like Horatio Alger writing stories all containing the “rags-to-riches” plot trajectory, which highlights wealth as an affirmation of the Dream. I’ve read one of Alger’s novels, Luke Larkin's Luck, and reassuringly, it still does endorse the value of hard work and diligence in one's pursuit of the Dream.

I’m eager to explore more facets and interpretations of the Dream in future lessons! To end off this first entry, here’s a quote I chanced upon during my research from Grapes of Wrath,

“The last clear definite function of man—muscles aching to work, minds aching to create beyond the single need—this is man. To build a wall, to build a house, a dam, and in the wall and house and dam to put something of Manself, and to Manself take back something of the wall, the house the dam; to take hard muscles from the lifting, to take the clear lines and form from conceiving. For man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments.”

So hard work seems to be an enduring message in many books concerning the American Dream, or maybe not?  

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