The American Dream

In broad terms, the American Dream captures the idea of America as a land of limitless opportunities for whoever is willing to deploy the full range of their talents and skills towards self-advancement. Overall, America stands apart from other countries in the world because of its unique opportunities, cultural diversity, and abundance of resources. The governing idea behind the American Dream derives from the belief that individual initiative and a robust sense of ambition are sufficient guarantors of great achievements for anybody in America (Clouse 16). Most importantly, the relentless pursuit of people’s liberties and freedoms have made it possible for ordinary people to make bold advancements in the fields of investment, technology, sports, and other areas that illustrate the country’s spirit of progress. America has overcome the common societal restrictions that often pose impediments on the people’s path to success. However, history and experience have shown that the manifestation of the dream depends on a mix of dynamics.

One way to think about the American dream is to consider the various factors that often work together to yield success in the lives of many people. Among the issues that determine the extent to which a person may make remarkable progresses in one field or another are the range of opportunities in the society and the degree of permissiveness of the society. In general, America is widely considered as a land of immense opportunities with progressive laws that allow people to achieve their dreams in whatever field that interests them (Clouse 23). The growing volume of literature that has been devoted to the exploration of the American Dream has often focused on the proposition that the pursuit of personal progress in connected to the social climate and the political atmosphere in the country (Cullen 45). America is considered as an exceptional country in the sense that it has achieved great feats of progress in both regards.

Another way to understand the essence of the American dream is to consider the various historical proclamations that set the country on the path to liberty. Primarily, the idea of progress as understood within the context of the American dream reflects within the Declaration of Independence (Cullen 27). According to many historians, the drafting of the declaration marked an important milestone in America’s political and social life because it entailed the assurance that every American had rights and liberties that could be deployed at will to make their lives better in every respect (Clouse 33). The letter and spirit of the declaration launched all Americans on the path towards the actualization of their individual potentials in ways that could not apply in the years before the country achieved its liberties and freedoms. Renowned Americans throughout history have always evoked the dream as their guideposts in their various field of achievement.

The expression of the dream has always been it term of making a lot of money, excelling in the professional fields, and attracting great material gains. The dream holds that it is easier to achieve such success in America than elsewhere on the planet. According to some anthropologists, the idea behind the American dream lies in the aspect of cultural diversity (Clouse 40). The growing form of diversity has been the major propulsion that has made life comfortable and manageable for many Americans. In one sense, it might be assumed that the combined strengths of different cultures have culminated into the many advantages that make up the American dream. One way of understanding this reality is to think of America as a land of promise and one that attracts innovative people from different parts of the world. In modern times, the flourishing of the Silicon Valley businesses and the bold advancements in the fields of technology are considered as manifestations of the dream.

Although the realization of the American dream is largely connected to the multiple opportunities in the country, the actual manifestation depends on the initiative of the individual. Whoever aspires to achieve great success is required to condition his or her mind towards hard work and discipline, which are the main factors. In some way, it is often considered that the manifestation of the dream depends on the degree to which people are willing to put their minds and efforts into strategies and initiatives that attach to the idea of success. The limitless nature of the dream requires individuals to work in ways that enhance their achievements in areas that appertain to their destiny (Clouse 22). The realization of personal achievement requires the application of the total commitment and absolute trust in the idea of success and the spirit of excellence.

However, there is crucial evidence to suggest that the meaning of the dream has transformed gradually over the years because of the dynamics of social realities. The American society of the 1920s was significantly different to the America of today in terms of social expectations and individual capabilities (Clouse 39). Some social analysts contend that modern times America may have reached the point of saturation because of the overexploitation of the opportunities. Moreover, societal conflicts that the often-elusive pursuit for cultural integration has made it difficult or certain aspects of the dream to work out in a meaningful and orderly manner. In one sense, it might be assumed that the changing realities and the socio-cultural challenges that emerged in the past decades have compromised many aspects of the American dream. For instance, surveys into the living standards of Americans have revealed gross inequalities across ethnicities, genders, religions, and other demographic factors.

Various studies into the various manifestations of such inequalities show that African Americans, Latinos, Pacific Islanders, and other minority groups are socially disadvantaged in terms of the realities (Clouse 41). With regard to this reality, it has often been argued that the white Americans are favored by the structures of the American dream because of the prejudiced aspects of the institutions. The path towards self-advancement for many African-Americans is beset by multiple socio-economic and cultural factors (Cullen 38). For example, the education system in America is widely considered as inappropriate for the unique challenges of the African-American. Many African-Americans and people from minority groups fail to make great advancements in the field of education. Consequently, many of them lag behind the white Americans concerning the utilization of the various opportunities that attach to the idea of the American dream.

If the realization of the American dream depends on matters of background, it follows that Americans from privileged backgrounds will always enjoy favorable advantages than Americans from less privileged backgrounds. Besides, Americans who fall outside the category of the dominant groups may incur some unique disadvantages that relate to their identities. It is upon such grounds that the reality of the American dream continues to manifest many signs of imbalance. At some point in the 1920s, there was a widespread assumption that the dawn of the new America had arrived. The idea of democracy and inclusiveness were flourishing at all levels of the diverse society. The increased clamor for the rights of the minorities had led to the realization of freedoms and liberties in areas where none existed before the period. However, the hopes for a truly liberal America full of opportunities has tended to dissipate as conflicts and external challenges continue to grow.

Renowned authors have devoted resourceful literature to explain the nature, challenges, and opportunities that are inherent in the American dream. Arthur Miller’s famous play, The Death of a Salesman, remains one of the most famous works of literature that have explored the dangers of the American Dream in the life of an individual. The play shows how the life of an industrious individual could be ruined through the blind pursuit of the American dream. The main character Willy Lowman endeavors by every means to adjust the schemes of his life in accordance with the dream but faces myriad challenges that prove insurmountable to the end (Miller 28). In part, his unfortunate fate relates to his inability to understand the inherent challenges in the American dream. Among the most outstanding insights from the book is that reality behind the dream depends a lot on a matrix of individual strengths, which do not work in exactly the same way for every individual.

The dynamic nature of the American society has often altered the dreams and ambitions of individuals in ways that complicate the manifestation of the American Dream. Hopelessness and despair are some of the consequences of the blind pursuit of the American Dream. As such, it becomes necessary for individuals to engage with the concept of the dream in a way that accommodates the possibility of inapplicability in certain contexts and situations. Naturally, the society expects people from privileged backgrounds to have better chances in life than individuals from less privileged backgrounds. However, the American Dream was supposed to play out in ways that allowed people from less privileged backgrounds to achieve profound successes in life if they deploy their potentials and optimize the opportunities that present themselves in their lives. The acknowledgement of this reality was particularly uplifting to people who lacked certain advantages in life because of the structural flaws of the society.

Other literary authors have bemoaned the idea of the American Dream in the sense that it fosters narcissistic tendency and erodes morals. In the opinion of such authors, the excessive pursuit for material gain could compromise the moral fabric of the society. In some way, the material culture in America promoted the growth of secularism as individuals and groups began places more emphasis to money and possessions ahead of morality and virtue. As such, crime and corruption became avenues towards the achievement of the American Dream. As the society continued to grow in abundance, many adherents of the American Dream began to diminish in their morality. The thinking of America as a society without values began to shape up in the aftermath of the aggressive pursuits of the dream. In many communities, the family institution and the idea of love were replaced by the pursuit of monetary advantages and material possessions.

The emergence of America as a superpower provided the impetus towards the pursuit of the dream. Many people began to acknowledge the power of the society as an outgrowth of multiple factors that depended on the essence of success. The American Dream was funneled from abstract ideas about success to the acknowledgement of the unique potentials that lay inherent in every individual. Apart from the flourishing of the material culture, the society began to express itself in ways that suggested a gradual dissipation of traditional restrictions that had derailed the pursuits of individual rights and liberties. The country grew in abundance and began to distribute its wealth within the commonwealth. The drastic growth of wealth eventually led to the emergence of opportunities in different spheres of the American society. In the opinion of some analysts, such opportunities no longer hold as the harsh economic realities continue to diminish the pursuit of the opportunities.

In The Great Gatsby the idea of the American Dream is captured in the perspective of the unique challenges and the peculiarities of the dream in the context of the individual. The main character endeavors in every respect to lead a prosperous life and join the ranks of the truly privileged people in the society (Fitzgerald 13). However, the riveting twists in fate and the apparent hollowness of his pursuits suggest the fundamental shortcomings of the American Dream. The weight of underprivileged backgrounds appears to diminish his façade of success in nearly every respect. With respect to the manifestation of the dream in the lives of individual, it might be argued that the inappropriate manifestation of the dream often leads to frustrations or failure particularly among those for whom the idea of material abundance reigns supreme. Like many other books that have explored the dimensions of the American dream, The Great Gatsby reads like a lamentation against the excesses of material advantages.

Once the attainment of wealth becomes primary the motivator of one’s struggles in life, there I often the danger of individuals lapsing into indulgence into frivolous and ostentatious lifestyles. Alcoholism and drug abuse have often been cited as some of the main symptoms of the adverse effects of the American Dream (Rank, Thomas, and Kirk 62). On the surface, the pursuit of the dream is considered as deriving from the natural instinct of individuals to pursue ways of self-advancement. However, lack of checks into the raw ambitions of individuals often lead to recklessness and the inability of individuals to consider the possible negative implications of their aspirations. As such, it becomes necessary for individuals to lead their lives in accordance with the balance between ambitions and the requirements of moral laws. The extent to which the dream promotes the overall welfare of an individual or group depends, in part, to the external realities in the society.

Devoted followers of the American Dream did not anticipate some of the challenges that continue to afflict the country today. Insecurity, fragmentation of the society along ethnic lines, unemployment, and the high cost of living show that the American society has multiple social challenges to contend with before adjusting itself with realities of the dream (Rank, Thomas, and Kirk 134). In general, it might be argued that many facets of the American society derive their stability from the promise of the dream. Moral critics have suggested the substitution of the material goals of the dream with a unique moral code that encompasses the high values, which define America as the bastion of people’s freedoms and liberties. Those who share this view are focused on the fact that America’s stability depends a lot on the capacity of individuals to promote values and virtues that incline with moral freedom.

Facts and statistics confirm that the United States is home to most of the wealthiest people in the world. More than any other country, the United States continues to support the ideology of capitalism as the pathway towards human progress (Rank, Thomas, and Kirk 102). Most of the top-ranking billionaires in the world live and invest in America. The tenacity of the American economy is one of the strengths that are sure to guarantee continued growth in the country. Collectively, the factors that support the prosperity of individuals in America underscore the fact that the country retains significant opportunities for growth. Some economic perspectives have often analyzed the American Dream in light of the fact that it compromises the welfare of those who fall outside its orbit of its overall concept (Rank, Thomas, and Kirk 46) Those who hold on this idea argue that the great achievements of some people in America are dependent on the misfortune of many others.

The growing gap between America’s poorest households and the affluent sections of the society is often upheld as an illustration of flawed idea of growth. In another perspective, it might be argued that the unmitigated avarice for wealth contributes significantly to the prevalence of lifestyle diseases in the United States. Health statistics show an upward trend of people who suffer from stress, depression, and many other mental conditions that are associated with frustrations (Cullen 28). Owing to the incapacity among many American to recognize the vanity of exclusive search for material advantages, many people are routinely challenged with aspects of mental instability. If happiness is one of the important indicators of progress, then the American Dream has not fully lived up to its promise. The obvious reason is that many Americans are incapable of manifesting happiness in its most refined essence.

Social reform is a preferred way of reclaiming the essence of the American Dream. Various governments have often formed progressive policies in an effort to reclaim the essence of the dream. Overall, the rethinking of the American Dream should begin with an assessment of the various ways in which it could be supported from various aspects of the society (Cullen 20). The main idea behind the reform should be the empowering of Americans in ways that would spur their initiative towards the pursuit of the goals. Without doubt, America is ahead of many other nations in the world with regard to equality and supportive social systems. However, there is the need for the systems to be reinvented in ways that would enable systematic growth for all Americans.

Ultimately, the American Dream has yielded profound progress at both individual and societal levels. The idea behind the dream derives from the acknowledgment of the capacity to optimize, multiply, and maximize the inherent strengths, skills, and talents in the lives of individuals. However, some aspects of the dream have often fostered narcissistic instincts and the excessive pursuit for material advantages at the expense of morality. Besides, the unmitigated love for money and other material possessions have ended in frustrations among individuals, families, or groups. However, the general idea behind the dream is one that celebrates the essence of progress and the limitless capacity for individual initiative.



























Works Cited

Clouse, R. W., et al. Living the American Dream: But what it is? (Chasing the Dream Maybe More Exciting than Living the Dream). American Journal of Management, 13 (3), 2013. pp. 25-38.

Cullen, Jim. The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea That Shaped a Nation. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Fitzgerald, F. S. The Great Gatsby. Liboa: Atlantico Press, 2012. Print.

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. London: Penguin Books, 1987.

Rank, Mark R, Thomas A. Hirschl, and Kirk A. Foster. Chasing the American Dream: Understanding What Shapes Our Fortunes. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016.