October 28, 2009
Recipe for the American Dream
Since the establishment of this country, Americans have set their eyes on success. The way we define success has changed along with technology. The American Dream is "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” When repeating this phrase out loud one draws up images of fancy cars, big houses, quality clothes, etc. What Adams fails to mention is that success requires work, furthermore success in terms of fancy cars, big houses and other luxuries require over 40 hours a week of work. The more time one spends at work, the less time one has to spend doing other things. Ellen Goodman’s “The Company Man”, is a prime example of why spending an excessive amount of time working is harmful to a human being. In providing a comfortable life for his family, the main character neglects to have a presence in his home. The pursuit of the American Dream calls for an unbalanced lifestyle, which alienates individuals from their families.
Very early on, Americans are taught to believe that the more one does, the more one receives in return. It is undeniable that this ideology stems from biblical teachings; “for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) This ideology continues to get instilled in every aspect of the average American’s life. The more studying a student does, the better grade the student receives. The more an athlete practices, the better athlete he’ll become. It is not odd that adults keep this ingrained in their minds as they go into the workforce. The more time and energy spent on the job, the more money and benefits an employee will receive. Money is an important ingredient in making the American Dream become a reality, and Americans experience constant reminders of the need to live the dream, through the media and peers. Living the Dream is not a crime in itself, but what gets sacrificed in the process may prove to be more valuable than most of the objects themselves. Christopher Clausen helps readers to understand in “Against Work” that “the workaholic…neglects his family, withdraws from social life and loses interest in sex.” (Clausen 673) Phil, the main character in Goodman’s, “The Company Man” works “himself to death, finally and precisely at 3:00 am Sunday morning.” (Goodman 629) Before his death, Phil “worked six days a week, five of them until eight or nine at night, during a time when his own company had begun the four-day week for everyone but the executives. He had no outside extracurricular interests” (Goodman 329), not even his life at home. It is heartbreaking for someone to die leaving their offspring to go around “asking the neighbors what [their father] was like” the “day and a half before the funeral.” (Goodman 630) Phil is so consumed by his job that his children never have the opportunity to connect with him and get to know him as a person, rather than simply their biological father. His wife admits to “missing him all these years” (Goodman 629), which shows his absence as her companion.
Phil never grasps the concept of balance, which is understandable considering the Dream he makes a reality never puts balance into the equation. “Working to earn one’s bread is something few people can escape. Working out of moral vanity is sheer self-deception.” It is true that the majority of people work because they are conscious of the fact that they will receive compensation for their time spent working. While it is imperative to earn enough to put food on the table and clothing on the backs of our loved ones, it is also imperative keep life outside of work in mind.
Although working to obtain a “comfortable” life, without having to live from paycheck to paycheck demands a lot of time from a weekly schedule, there are benefits to hard work besides earning more...