Tortilla Curtain: the Myth of the American Dream

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America is often portrayed through images of well off middle-class families, shown alongside multiple cars and a large house that is filled with shining appliances and cupboards full of food. For hopeful immigrants to the United States, these images conjure the widespread myth of the American Dream. Immigrants believe that upon entry into the States, they will obtain prosperity through hard work and determination. The expression was first used in the beginning of the twentieth century when America was in an economic peak. Millions of immigrants from around the world came to America during this time to have their part in the classic rags to riches story. While this prosperity is achieved by some, for the vast majority of immigrants who come to this country, the American Dream will never become a reality. In T.C. Boyle’s provocative novel, Tortilla Curtain, the notion of the American Dream is the main theme, showcased by the illegal Mexican immigrant, América Rincon.

América grew up in Mexico and is completely protected from the harsh realities of the world by her father. Her family lives in a small town and while they are not wealthy, they always have a roof over their head and food on the table. As evidenced by her name, her parents obviously wanted more for their daughter. They imagine that someday she can make it out of their village and make something of herself. América imagines the United States as a country where everyone can have a comfortable lifestyle if they work hard to achieve it. She acquires these fairytale concepts from the novels and television shows she sees in Mexico; these media only illustrate the lucky few who have prospered in order to glorify the United States. América and her husband, Candido, truly believe that in American society "where it [is] green and lush the year round and the avocados rotted on the ground, and everyone, even the poorest [has] a car, a house, and a TV" (26). They imagine that if they come to work in the United...
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