The American Dream

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Grant Wunibald
The American Dream

The American Dream is the idea that hard work and commitment will result in prosperity and completion of personal goals. It is perceived by many to be an easy way of pursuing and following through on their goals in life. Beginning in the late 1800s immigrants came into the United States looking for employment and the opportunity to succeed. These new opportunities would help lead them towards fulfilling their American Dream. The social class system in America determines the lifestyle and outcome of one’s life. The majority of people who are born into a low social class will continue to be poor throughout the rest of their lives. These people may have a goal to become wealthier, but these goals will never be fulfilled because of their negative ascribed and achieved characteristics. Positive ascribed and achieved characteristics help push people ahead in society and the social class structure. Negative ascribed and achieved characteristics hold people back and force them to overcome these obstacles in order to succeed. Ascribed and achieved characteristics greatly affect the pursuit the Dream for people. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck perfectly portray the effect of the social class system and these personal characteristics on the American Dream. Determining one’s success or failure is based upon these characteristics and ultimately determines the social class in America.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, contains many different circumstances in which these characteristics affect their pursuit of the American Dream. Jay Gatsby, the main character of the book, pursues his dream by becoming wealthy. Born into a poor family, Gatsby tries to earn his dream girls’ love by making money. For five years he makes a great amount of money only to try and impress this woman’s expectations. He faces the problem of not realizing that the past is gone and he cannot get things that are impossible to reach. The book, Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, shows the effect of social class and personal drive to reach the American Dream. Lennie, who is mentally retarded, faces an obstacle he will never be able to overcome. Although his dream is simple, it will never be reached because of this ascribed characteristic. Another character in the book is Curley’s wife. An ascribed characteristic that she strives from is her beauty. A negative characteristic that holds her back from achieving her dream is her low social class and the fact that she’s a woman. All of these characters have different limitations, but they will all affect their pursuit of the American Dream and result in the same outcome.

The Great Gatsby shows the effect of ascribed and achieved characteristics upon the upper class. Jay Gatsby was born into a low social class. He falls in love with Daisy Buchanan who is very wealthy. His desire for love is an impossible feat that he cannot obtain because of his low social class. “Rich girls do not marry poor boys, Jay Gatsby” (Movie: The Great Gatsby). He pursues his dream by becoming wealthy and hoping that she will accept him as the same social class. A positive ascribed characteristic that will help him is the fact that he is a white male. This helps him because white men have a better chance of getting what they desire over any other gender or race. A negative ascribed characteristic is the fact that he was born into a lower class family. This will hold him back and greatly affect his pursuit of the American Dream. A positive achieved characteristic that Jay Gatsby, is the fact that he is rich after overcoming an extraordinary obstacle of beginning in a lower class position in society. His rise in the social structure from lower to upper-lower only took him five years to obtain. This is an astonishing feat in which he has succeeded and pushed himself ahead in pursuing his dream. “Almost five years! […] It had gone by her, beyond...
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