What is the American Dream?

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Updated: Apr 14, 2022
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What is the American Dream? What does it look like through different perspectives; rich or poor? The American Dream is a very prominent theme in both The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald because it shows how hard work can lead from rags to riches or vise versa. Both of these books give two completely different outlooks on the American Dream. The American Dream is seen through different lenses based on where you come from and what you want to achieve.

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The American Dream can mean totally different things to others. Some will say it’s freedom, class or race, or maybe even the ability to work or choose where they want to work. However not everyone gets what they want, or even close to what they expected. In The Jungle it shows how many immigrants migrate to the United States in hopes of a better life, and in hopes of achieving the wonderful “American Dream”.

The American Dream in The Jungle is very much the same as it is now; you own a home, and have a good job. Sinclair tells Jurgis’ thoughts on America, “Jurgis, too, had heard of America. That was a country where, they said, a man might earn three rubles a day, and Jurgis figured what three rubles a day would mean, with prices as they were where he lived…,” (Sinclair 22). Many immigrants believe hard work and determination will lead to prosperity and success. In this book, a Lithuanian family moves to America with the belief that everyone should be treated equal. For example, this shows how Jurgis perceived the American Dream, “In that country, rich or poor, a man was free, it was said; he did not have to go into the army, he did not have to pay out his money to rascally officials – he might do as he pleased, and count himself as good as any other man” (Sinclair 22).

He believed that no matter what class you are in it should not matter as long as you are working hard. Jurgis brought his family to America and they were very hopeful, but once they start to face the reality it was a lot more difficult than they thought and things did not go they way they pictured. Once they move to America they move into a gross, overcrowded house in the smelly town of Packingtown. “An elemental odor, raw and crude…rich, almost rancid, sensual, and strong” (Sinclair 24).

Life in Packingtown was terrible, the winters were almost unbearable and the summers were torture. Jurgis kept telling himself and his family that things would get easier and that they should just continue to be positive. However in The Great Gatsby the American Dream is very different for Gatsby. In this book Gatsby overcomes his poor past and ends up getting a huge amount of money. For Gatsby the American Dream is about gaining wealth and finding happiness. Fitzgerald shows it as an idea: something to reach for. Gatsby’s dream is shown through his love for Daisy. “But I didn’t call to him for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone–he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward–and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock” (Fitzgerald 20).

In this quote he is reaching for something, a green light. It is something he can not have which represents Daisy. Gatsby wants a better life, and he thinks he can achieve it if he puts his mind to it. However Gatsby considers himself as a failure when daisy chooses Tom over him. Without his dream, which is Daisy, he has no reason to live. “But with every word she was drawing further and further into herself, so he gave that up and only the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped away, trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling unhappily, undespairingly, toward that lost voice across the room” (Fitzgerald 126).

It is obvious she still wants Tom. All of Gatsby’s money can not save him even though many believe money is the solution to many problems, perhaps it just makes it worse. The “American Dream” is a hard concept to grasp. It includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, however it also includes failure. The American dream has both positive and negative effects on the country, but in the end people create their own fate. Americans have a higher level of living hence why many immigrants come to the United states; to also have a higher level of living. However, having too much freedom is a downside, for it has led to crimes being spread way out of proportion. The Great Gatsby and The Jungle both have some challenges that makes happiness impossible. Both characters have such high hopes but sadly both end up in despair. The authors both show that in order to be happy, do not set endless goals. Jurgis ends up very disappointed with the way american industries are and with how he is being treated. Gatsby ends up dead while trying to reach for his dream. The American Dream is portrayed very differently in both books, however both end up not achieving it. It is something people strive for. Happiness is not possible while trying to reach the American Dream because everyone will always want more. Yes, it is possible to gain success, however maybe not through the American Dream; do not have immensely high hopes.

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What is the American Dream?. (2022, Apr 05). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/what-is-the-american-dream/