American Dream: a Myth or Not
American Dream: A Myth or Not Many people have dreams whether it be to buy their dream car, dream house, or go on their dream vacation. Here in the land of freedom and opportunities, we all strive from one dream; the American Dream. The American Dream can mean different things to many people. For some it can mean success or freedom, for others, it can mean having lots of money and luxurious things. In today’s society, everyone hopes for this dream. But is it possible for each and every person to achieve this dream?
Some people go to school, get a well paying job, and become able to make it to the top while the fortunate ones get there on pure luck. Then there are others who have difficulties climbing the economic ladder and remain at the bottom discovering this dream becomes nothing more than a myth with endless trials and disappointments (Sandler). Individuals not only need to realize the true meaning of success, but must also know that with enough determination and motivation, and with the right attitude, the American Dream can become a reality or even a myth (Foster). So what is the American Dream?
Essentially the American Dream becomes the idea that anyone can succeed through saving and hard work, and be potentially happy living a successful life. People were always taught that if they are honest and worked hard enough, they would be able to obtain their dreams (McNamee and Miller 9). However, the American Dream seems to be more difficult to reach nowadays because not everyone is content with what they have. Society seems to be caught up by the media and everything around them and become brainwashed to believe that the American Dream includes big mansions, luxury cars, and expensive possessions.
Today’s houses are “fully equipped” to pay off and lessen the loss of the public area. But fifty years ago homes were 1,700 square feet compared to now houses are up to 2,700 and interior architecture (Sandler). The definition of success has also been changing over the decades and causing people to desire things that they never would have before. As some would define success by getting married and having a family, others would define it by making a six-figure salary and wearing designer clothes and accessories.
With today’s generation, it can never be enough and people tend to want more and more which raises the standards of success for some people causing many to lose hope in their dreams (Wolpin). When people are not satisfied or happy with what they have now, it leads to unhappiness and desiring more means having to make more money. Instead of struggling to pay off credit cards used to pay for unnecessary material things, people should learn to be content and happy with what they currently have and perhaps they would be able achieve success (McNamee and Miller 27).
Success in America is not guaranteed, however, neither can it be a guaranteed end of failure. America, well known for its diversity of cultures filled with many different races and backgrounds (Sandler). Every individual can be given the opportunity to succeed regardless of what they are or where they came from. Although, it may be true that a white child raised in an upper-class neighborhood will have greater chances of success then an African-American or Hispanic child who was raised in a poor community, it does not mean that success cannot be obtained.
According to a recent Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll found that African Americans and Hispanics were more likely than whites to believe that children of all races had adequate chances to succeed in America (Brownstein). Chances for success in America can definitely be possible if a person is determined enough and put the extra effort in to it. To say that because of one’s gender, race, color, religion, sexual orientation or background, success cannot be unattainable, is just another excuse to give up.
It might take more work and motivation to climb to the top, but if everyone knew the benefits and resources available to them, they would realize that success can be very possible (Sandler). Education is certainly not necessary for someone to become successful. Look at Bill Gates, Thomas Edison, and Steven Spielberg (Wolpin). However, not everyone has the same intelligence and skills of these men. Many people require a good educational background. It has been traditionally said that a good education leads to success.
It can be known that a person who graduated with a college degree has greater chances of finding a well-paying job than those who do not. The government offers assistance to those interested in a higher education. Government grants, financial aid, and scholarships are just to name a few (Brownstein). Many people are not even aware of the benefits available to them because they are not informed about it or they might not have the tools to research about it. Some may not even feel they reach the standards of being good enough or smart enough to even try.
Despite a person’s race or background, no one should feel that just because they may be born in poverty or grew up in a lower class neighborhood, they have to stay that way or live that way. People need to start believing in themselves and know that the sky is the limit. If everyone would take advantage of all the free money and benefits that become available to them, they could reach their goals and see that anything may possible (Wolpin). For many generations, people sought out for their American Dream and believed it can attainable. However, lately it has become a myth to some and many are losing hope for the future.
It does not have to be this way though. Many immigrants fled to America (McNamee and Miller 13). The fortunate ones arrived on a plane, while the not so fortunate ones arrived on a boat. Despite the financial hardships and language barriers, they still managed to save money, open up their own business, and do what they came here to do; achieve their American Dreams (Wolpin). If these people can do it, anyone can do it. People have to wake up and realize the good things this country has to offer and learn that this world can not be perfect.
Everyone has to work hard for success, but for success to happen, one must seek the opportunity and take advantage of it. No one said that life would be easy. Society needs to also understand the true meaning to success and what it means to them. In addition, they need to realize that with the right attitude, determination, and motivation, it may be possible for any individual, regardless of color or where they came from, to rise above the rest (Wolpin). Striving for success nobody thinks that he follows somebody’s well planned way.
A single person or a small group does not create the notion of success, but it is created by our whole society. The myth of instant wealth is one of the most popular myths society uses. In fact society uses the hope of instant wealth to make people work harder. In a recent survey two out of five people who consider themselves middle class are struggling to stay there (Wolpin). The fact that they do not have a real chance of obtaining that wealth by competing in the economic system stays invisible to the most of people (Sandler).
More than 65 percent of American with parents from the lowest fifth of earners remains stuck in the bottom two-fifths (Brownstein). Families struggle to pay a mortgage, credit card payments to put food on the table, to pay for two cars, to pay for health and life insurance, clothes. What is left often goes to the children in the way of camps, sports, maybe a little in a pre-paid college plan. Usually nothing become left behind after that. (Foster). The idea of success did not change very much since the beginning of last century.
There happened some variations but the idea stayed the same: working hard will bring you to the top of the society circle. This idea became very popular in the end of eighteen hundreds thanks to the stories, written by Horatio Alger. In spite of similarity of all his books, his works had an edition of hundred thousand copies. Simple idea of getting into upper class circles starting from the very down, became accepted by society as a model of success achievement. People have believed that if they will work hard than they can achieve success (Bloom 66).
Richard Hunter, main character of the book Ragged Dick has been a typical example of American notion of success. According to this book everybody can became well recognized and financially prosperous if they would work hard and show their merit. Dick, “a young gentleman on the way to fame and fortune,” as his friend Fosdick from the story Ragged Dick describes him in the end of the story, climbs on the social ladder, starting from the very bottom. Being absolutely illiterate and having no money in the beginning, Dick gets into a business circle of people, by working hard and showing his merit.
People always need hope and this story gave hope to everyone. If a person from the lowest class of society could get into the high class then everyone else was able to do the same (Bloom 69). Looking back in history it becomes clear that the economic situation in the end of nineteenth century in all big countries was unstable (Wolpin). The new industrial economy had just started the developing, so more and more enterprises required a lot of cheap workforce. The only way to make work force cheap was to create a huge “boom” in job market (Brownstein).
Stories, like “Ragged Dick,” “Great Gatsby” and “Death of a Salesman” was the trigger that pushed people to work and created this “boom”( Bloom 47). As all myths, this one served only one purpose, to drive the masses of people in the desired direction. The hope to succeed was as unnoticeable as a swallow in the sky. Myth does not say how many people actually achieved what they all are striving for (Sandler). The overwhelming majority has never gotten either fame or wealth that they continually strive for. In reality, working hard may not be enough to obtain wealth and fame; the components of success.
There are also a lot of other people who continually strive for success too. This creates the rivalry thanks to which the majority of people would fail (McNamee and Miller 9). People become driven to work hard by the notion of success without having almost any chance to succeed. But is it bad? Without competition the success would not be so impressive. Our economy is based on competition between people. The myth does not give any real chance to succeed but it may be necessary for our present economy and society to exist. Works Cited Bloom, Harold. The American Dream. New York: Bloom, 2009.
Brownstein, Ronald. “Is the American Dream a Myth? ” Nationaljournal. com. N. p. 17 October2009. Web. 5 April 2011. Foster, Timothy. “ The Myth of the American Dream. ” Articlesbase. com. N. p. 31 July 2009. Web. 16 April 2011. McNamee, Stephen and Miller, Robert. The Meritocracy Myth. Lanham: Rowman and LittleField,2004. Sandler, Lauren. “The American Nightmare. ” Journal of Psychology Today March/April 2011:70-77. EBSCO Host. Web. 5 April 2011. Woplin, Bill. “In the Middle of the American Dream. ” Americancityandcounty. com. PrismBusiness Media, n. d. Web. 5 April 2011.