1991 Webster’s College Dictionary defines the American Dream as: The ideals of freedom , equality , and opportunity traditionally held to be available to every American. A life of personal success and material comfort as sought by individuals in the U.S. (1930-5)
Material success and upward mobility A lot of emphasis on individual accomplishment. Yet there is another facet –an idealism-- the aspiration for individual spiritual attainment.
By the turn of the century, however, our capitalist economy was producing economic surpluses; now, success is indicated by displays of excessive wealth
instigates the possibility of achieving wealth. Many early American prospectors headed west of the Rocky Mountains to buy acres of cheap land, hoping to find deposits of gold.
They wanted to embrace the promise of financial security and constitutional freedom they had heard existed so widely in the United States. A sizable number of Chinese and Japanese also arrived in the U.S. in the mid 19th century seeking the American Dream.
The american dream
I tried to stay ahead I tried to stay on topI tried to play the part But somehow I forgot Just what I did it forAnd why I wanted moreThis type of modern life Is it for me? —Madonna “ American Life”
The American DreamThe ideals of freedom, equality, and opportunity held tobe available to every American.A life of personal success and material comfort as soughtby individuals in the U.S.
Origins of the American DreamPuritan notion of “city on a hill”—a theocracy organized around the word of God (where material success was an indicator of God’s favor)
The Historical Origins of the American Dream From the Revolutionary War later half of the nineteenth centuryMuch of America wasundeveloped andrepresented to manypeople a promise ofland ownership(Far and Away)
The Industrial RevolutionWealth as Possible: Many early American prospectorsheaded west of the Rocky Mountains to buy acres ofcheap land, hoping to find deposits of gold.
Western Europeans escaping the Irish potato famines, the Highland clearances and the aftermath of Napoleon in the rest of Europe came to America to escape a poor quality of life at home. Irish family evicted during Land War, c.1879.
They wanted to embrace the promise offinancial security and constitutionalfreedom they had heard existed so widely inthe United States.
By the turn of the century, however, our capitalisteconomy was producing economic surpluses; now,success is indicated by displays of excessive wealth ”The pace was faster, the buildings were higher, the morals were looser and liquor was cheaper…” F Scott Fitzgerald
Late nineteenthcentury writerWrote over 103stories aimed atjuvenile boys
His novels about down- and-out young boys who were able to achieve wealth and success through honesty, hard work, frugality, and luck helped entrench the dream within popular culture.
Though not considered talented, hisinfluence is considered second only toMark Twain.
Andrew Carnegie and John D.RockefellerClose to the 20th Century, major industrialist personalities became the new model of the American Dream.
Many of these begin life in thehumblest of conditions but latercontrol enormous corporations andfortunes.
This acquisition of great wealth appeared to demonstrate that if you had talent, intelligence, and a willingness to work extremely hard, you were likely to be a success in life as a result.
“Beverly Hills” by WeezerWhat reasons does the speaker give for wanting to live in Beverly Hills? Whatdoes he find wrong with where he is currently living? How does the goal ofliving in Beverly Hills relate to the American Dream?
Where I come from isnt all that greatMy automobile is a piece of crapMy fashion sense is a little whackAnd my friends are just as screwy as meI didnt go to boarding schoolsPreppy girls never looked at meWhy should they I aint nobodyGot nothing in my pocket VS Look at all those movie stars Theyre all so beautiful and clean When the housemaids scrub the floors They get the spaces in between I wanna live a life like that I wanna be just like a king Take my picture by the pool Cause Im the next big thing!
Now compare that to Switchfoot’s song, “American Dream”As you listen to this song, ask yourselfwhat the speaker of the song iscriticizing about the American Dream
When success is equated withexcessThe ambition for excess wrecks usAs top of the mind becomes the bottom lineWhen success is equated with excessIf your time aint been nothing for When were fighting for the Beamer, the Lexusmoney As the heart and soul breath in the company goalsI start to feel really bad for you, Where success is equated with excesshoneyMaybe honey, put your money where your Cause babys always talkin bout amouths been runningIf your time aint been nothing but money ring And talk has always been the cheapest thing Is it true would you do what I want you to If I show up with the right amount of bling? Like a puppet on a monetary string Maybe weve been caught singing Red, white, blue, and green But that aint my America,
Fitzgerald believed that the trueAmerican Dream, the quest forhappiness and fulfillment by re-inventing yourself with imagination,tenacity and hard work had beencorrupted. In the Roaring 20’s, people associated happiness with wealth, and the quest for happiness and self improvement became replaced with the quest to simply acquire monetary wealth.