American Dream in Literature Essay Example


James Truslow Adams wrote The Epic of America in 1931 where the term American dream was first used. James Adams states, “That dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement.” The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few obstacles or barriers. It is the belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success in a society where upward mobility is possible for everyone. The Declaration of Independence states the principle that underlie the American Dream “ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. The American Dream is achieved through sacrifice, risk-taking, and hard work, rather than by chance. Throughout the course of American Literature, we learn what the American Dream was like for many individuals. Some important literature that stuck out was “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins, “Hills like elephants” by Ernest Hemingway, “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright, and “Up from slavery” by Booker T. Washington. From reading their stories these characters reveal many moments as to what their American dream was during that time.
In each one of those significant short stories they valued a particular dream. In “The Yellow Wallpaper” it describes an emotional young wife and mother that is suffering from postpartum depression. Throughout the story the young women’s American Dream is to free the prisoned lady trapped within the yellow wallpaper on the walls. In reality the short story was referring to her as if she wanted to be a free woman not imprisoned by her beloved husband and life after having her newborn child (Gilman). American Literature has been a big help in understanding what it really means to be an American. American Literature offers information and many lessons, it helps us learn identity, civil rights and literacy works. It also helps comprehensive training such as reading, writing, and critical thinking. American Literature is a creation of the nation’s unique culture.  

The American Dream for the young girl in “Hills like White Elephants” was to be able to be loved and cared for. She did not want nothing to change between her relationship with the American man. In the short story the couple is at a train station which is surrounded by hills, fields, and trees in a valley. The American man and the girl sit at a table outside the station, waiting for a train to Madrid. The man orders two beers and the girl remarks that the nearby hills look like white elephants (Hemingway). The man states he does not see it that they should enjoy theirselves (Hemingway). She then retracts her comment from earlier by saying they do not look like elephants anymore and begins to have fun by drinking. The American man begins to mention an operation to the girl although the story never specifically states what kind of operation it really is it refers to an abortion for their unborn child. Throughout the story the man becomes agitated and tries to downplay the seriousness of the operation by stating it is simple and that really it was not even an operation at all. The girl is curious and unsure, but the man keeps answering with everything will be fine afterwards just like they were before, and that it will fix their problems. The American man states that he knows people that have done it and found happiness, so the girl dispassionately agrees. He claims he want force her but all she wants is to make sure he will still love her and that they will live happily together afterwards. The man continually confuses the young girl by pressuring her into the operation but then states not to do it if that is not what she really wants. In the end she decides to part her future with the American man assuming that she no longer wants to keep the baby either. Much like the girl in the short story we have many young teens and adults having babies wanting to be able to keep their unborn child due to the fact of being able to keep the man but in reality the guys are wanting different. They being to pressure and push the young girls into thinking having an abortion is the best option so that they want have to deal with the life changing events. 

American Literature is the written or literacy work produced in the United States and other preceding colonies. Literacy is a tradition that begins as a linked broader tradition of English. Learning and Understanding the meaning of American Literature is very beneficial for myself, others, and society the reasoning for this is because it shows us a time and period in which ways you can give wisdom to our modern society today. American Literature is important due to the education of many different people and the culture it reveals of the United States history. American Literature represents our world, but it also shows us ways in which we can change the world or adapt to the changes that have already been taken place without our realization. Literature teaches us about ourselves, both good and bad. You can relate to characters and evaluate why you may have reactions to certain things. Teaching us about our behavior and likes or dislikes as a person. 

The American Dream for Dave Saunders the seventeen year old boy in “The man who was almost a man” was for everyone to treat him as a man not the little boy they saw him as. Dave Saunders believes having a gun will show the man he is but, in the end, Dave fails at his attempt. Dave ends up killing his friend ole Jenny the mule one afternoon on the plantation. Dave attempts to lie about how Jenny died but his father did not believe that. Mr. Hawkins the owner of the plantation and boss then demanded Dave to pay for the mule by working the payment off when he found out the truth about how Jenny actually died (Wright). Mr. Hawkins and the town people laughed at Dave and began to call him a boy because of the carelessness incident. Dave was not amused that everyone made fun of him and laughed at the fact of how he killed the mule. He was even more upset and betrayed by his parents who sold him out instead of protecting him in the end. Dave was so upset that he snuck out that night, jumped on a train out of town to really show the towns people, Mr. Hawkins, and his family the man he was not they boy they always thought he was. 
Booker T. Washington’s American Dream is to make the interest of both races one, they should both be fulfilled Washington has stated. In “Up from slavery” Booker Washington shares his life story, but he also shows that blacks can accomplish just as much as the white people. To promote the work of his school, and to spread his views on race and inequality. He informs us as the readers his personal experience of having to work to rise up from the position of a slave child during the Civil War, to the difficulties and obstacles he has overcome to get an education. Booker T. Washington begins with slavery and ends with his life as a renowned educator. It was written in a simple style with an optimistic tone that suggest to African Americans that they can succeed through self-improvement and hard work. It tells Washington’s development from enslaved man to free one, from former salve to student, from student to local school teacher, from local school teacher to renowned educator, thinker, and race leader, then goes on by elaborating his theory and social program for radical uplift. Washington is curious, ambitious, and earnest in all he undertakes. 
Today’s American Dream is being able to graduate from college with minimal debt, secure a job in your field that has benefits, be able to afford health care costs, and still live a comfortable life. The American Dream is the set ideals of Democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity, and equality in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success. The American Dream is important due to the fact not only was it brought into the minds of all social classes, but it was in fact something that was attained and experienced by the majority of Americans. This prosperity helped to bridge the gap between the individual identity and the identity of the social community as a whole. 


Works Cited Page
Washington, Booker. “Up from slavery”. Norton pp. 701-724. Accessed 8, 2020.
Gilman, Charlotte. “The Yellow Wallpaper”. Norton p. 842. Accessed 8, 2020.
Hemingway, Ernest. “Hills like White Elephants”. Norton pp. 803-07. Accessed 8, 2020.
Wright, Richard. “The Man Who Was Almost A Man”. Norton Vol. D. Accessed 8, 2020. 

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