Westward Expansion and the American Dream

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Jake Tyler
U.S. History 1
12 April 2012

Westward Expansion and the American Dream
The experiences a nation undergoes often shape its national identity and define who they are as a country. Throughout the course of its history, America has developed a national identity which is the American Dream. The American Dream is defined as the qualities that make up America and most of its people they include; opportunity, success, determination, and ingenuity. Many events in American’s history highlight the idea of the American dream between the period of its creation and the 1900’s, but few have succeeded to exhibit all the qualities that make up this idea. One specific event in America’s history has succeeded in demonstrating the four qualities included in the American dream; this event is America’s period of Westward Expansion. The events that occurred during America’s Westward Expansion, although small, played a large role in exploiting and highlighting the qualities that make up the American Dream.

The American Dream encompasses the qualities that make up America and most of its people. They include opportunity, determination, success, and American ingenuity. Opportunity best describes America and its identity rather than the identity of its people. America is often described as the land of opportunity and many people use this to live the American Dream. During the Period of Westward Expansion people from all over the United States came to settle in its new un-trodden lands to search for riches, and to take advantage of the opportunity it offered. Opportunity in the Western territories was known and present even before the creation of the nation. The west gave people the chance to mine for gold or to start anew in its growing cities. The ultimate goal for people emigrating to the west was to be successful and obtaining a better life. Many of the people achieved success by raising families, creating profitable farms, or becoming rich. Success is another large part of the American Dream and was only achieved through the determination of the expansionists. Determination is a characteristic that defines the work ethic of the American people and describes how they carry out the American Dream. American ingenuity is also a part of the American Dream and contributes to the identity of the Americans. The creativity and the ingenuity of the American people help define them as free thinkers and innovators of the modern world. These qualities of the American Dream can be clearly shown through America’s period of westward expansion.

The journey west to America’s newly gained territory of Oregon is an important event during Westward Expansion that highlights the American Dream. The expansion into the Oregon territory during the period highlights the characteristics of the American Dream; opportunity, success, and determination. The people who traveled the Oregon Trail had to face many dangers and obstacles to arrive at the opportunity that laid in the west. Those dangers included fierce animals, hostile Indians, storms, rivers, diseases, and robbers. Pioneers also lost many livestock to coyotes and other predators and because of this, they had to stay up all night to guard them. In addition, almost all rivers were considered huge obstacles to the pioneers considering the difficulty of getting entire wagons and oxen across safely. Water was also very scarce on the trail and the pioneers were constantly in danger of running out between watering holes. Possibly the worst danger that could occur would be breaking a wagon wheel or an axle. Despite the dangers on the trail, the expansionists went forward to secure a better life for themselves and their families. The fact that these people were willing to weather these dangers highlights the power of American determination, a factor which is so prevalent in the American Dream. As a result, many of the people who traveled and completed the trail were successful in achieving...
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