Collapse of American Dream Essay Example
The American Dream was a literal everlasting dream full of hope for achieving perseverance. Every era has had its struggles and only individuals themselves have control over their destiny. Believe in the dream, and you might have everything wrapped around your finger in no time. A great time, the 20s, was supposed to be stable, but then found itself collapsing. Why? What have we as Americans done wrong, and how should we re-evaluate ourselves for better?
The Dream was the belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born into, can attain their own version of success in a society where upward mobility is possible for anyone. This was economic prosperity. It should’ve been successful but maybe “it is just a dream that’ll never become true. If you’re realistic, it seems almost impossible to bring yourself out of poverty to success and know that it’d be fundamental to sacrifice, take, take risks, and work hard to obtain what you want and the position you wanna be in”(Barone).
James Truslow described it as, “That dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with an opportunity for each according ability of achievement” (Barone). There are two distinct forms of the American Dream, the one where people wanted to become crazy wealthy, and the one where they just wanted a stable happy life and all the necessities.
There were homesteaders who left the big cities to “ find happiness and their piece of land..they were the immigrants who came to the United States looking for a better life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Their dream? The desire to settle down, have a home, and a family”(Barone). I think the American Dream was the pursuit of material prosperity. People weren’t happy with what they already had. They wanted bigger homes, bigger cars, everything better in every aspect. Nobody felt grateful enough with what they already had, meanwhile, there were others in real life suffering, working double just to ensure survival. Instead of worrying about the little things in life we needed to ensure we were content with less and not prioritize the idea of gaining wealth, we need to be okay with living a simple fulfilling life.
The Collapse of the American Dream in Literature
The collapse of the American Dream was very apparent in the 1920s and this was evident by looking at the literature of the period. One look at F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby will prove this. For Instance,” Do you always wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it ” (Fitzgerald 11). In my interpretation I believe that this applied to every character in the novel; The writer was trying to imply that people had all these opportunities to be great and feel phenomenal, but they always chose to miss them.
Anyone who doubted themselves wasn't ever going to reach the dream. Gatsby, for instance, was reminiscing about all his mistakes and what he could’ve done differently. He felt like he had something left to do, something else in his path, and that when it came time to do it, it was too late. Nothing had relevance as much as his vision ever did. In one of many frustrated occasions Gatsby stated, “Nobody’s coming for tea. It’s too late!” He looked at his watch as if there was some pressing demand on his time elsewhere. “I can’t wait all day” (Fitzgerald 85). This was a reflection of his personality and how much of an impatient and petulant man he was.
Gatsby was the man everyone aspired to be and some even envy’d because he appeared as if he had everything figured out. However, Gatsby was struggling to understand what he was doing, and for what purpose. To fill that void he had, he assured he threw the best parties around and all he did was show out with all the material things he became acquainted with. Many times Gatsby was caught in a dilemma. For example when,” It wasn't a strange coincidence at all” (Fitzgerald 147), it was said, it was talking about Gatsby buying a house so that Daisy would be just across the bay.
He was prioritizing the wrong things and all he could ever think about was Daisy. He had constructed this image of himself so that Daisy would notice him. Despite being drowned with wealth and materialistic objects, he wasn’t living like he had it, instead in the past. He didn’t want to move forward from his past and was in denial of it. Gatsby had one goal and that was to get Daisy back. “He passed visibly through two states and was entering upon a third. After his embarrassment and his unreasoning joy he was consumed with wonder at her presence. He had been full of the idea so long, dreamed it right through to the end, waited with his teeth set, so to speak, at an inconceivable pitch of intensity. Now, in the reaction, he was running like a wound clock” (Fitzgerald 111).
Dreams that Never Come True
Devastated, as I’m sure he was because he waited crazy long for something that in the end turned out to be only a dream that couldn’t become reality. The reality that was uncovered was about Daisy’s true intentions. He came to realize that all those years he was asleep, vulnerably blindfolded by this woman’s beauty and behavior. “ This is a terrible mistake “ he said, shaking his head from side to side,” a terrible terrible mistake” (Fitzgerald 87). When coming to realization Gatsby was in shock. After chasing after someone for so long rejection is the biggest fear possible and when it becomes your reality I’m sure you're swimming in a pool of dangerous emotions. In addition, it was so unexpected from a woman who claimed to love Gatsby for himself, and not his fortune. All he ever cared for was pleasing her and it took a toll on his confidence. “
She didn’t like it...She didn’t like it, it’s hard to make her understand...I feel far away from her” (Fitzgerald 104). He was so invested with this woman, that he forgot to invest in himself. It was never about having all that expensive stuff, and not having a beautiful woman to spend your days with. It also wasn’t about appearing great, it was about being great, and he had forgotten how to be. It all falls into context when you open your eyes. “Even a precaution like, “ I felt that I had something to tell him, something to warn him about, and morning would be too late” (Fitzgerald 147), wouldn’t have prevented Daisy’s betrayal. Your choices, your future and that is what Gatsby chose.
Everything began to deteriorate for him, and he always knew,” Daisy was extraordinary, but he didn’t realize just how extraordinary a “nice” girl could be” (Fitzgerald 149). “ She vanished Into her rich house, into her rich, full life, leaving Gatsby—nothing” (Fitzgerald 149). This portrayed selfishness and this was when Gatsby realized he had nothing left of him in every aspect of his life. The collapse of The American dream isn’t only shown through the Great Gatsby It’s also apparent in other pieces of literature such as the love song of Eliot. In this poem Eliot showed overwhelming emotion. It felt as if his heart was heavy and mind as open as the sky. The way he portrayed his thoughts, to me it seemed like he was going with the flow in his life. He said,” Time for you and time for me, and time for a hundred indecisions” (Eliot 719).
He wasn’t exactly prepared for any obstacle coming his way, however he kept an open mind about everything going on saying, “ There will be time to prepare a face to meet the faces that you will meet; there will be time to murder and create” (Eliot 719). He really underestimated his capacity in life and was blown by what he could achieve. His concern was evident enough by stating, “And I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker and I have seen the eternal footman hold my coat, and snicker, and in short, I was afraid” (Eliot 720). He came to realize he had it all under control and had a plan. “In a minute there is time for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”(Eliot 719). The dream was about having a plan and following it and even if you mess your path up you can always rebuild it. “Make known the evenings, morning,and afternoons.
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” (Eliot 719). His immense emotion shown through the song showed how passionate he was about his moves and thoughts. He said,” There will be time to prepare a face to meet the faces that prepare a face to meet the faces that you will meet;there will be time to murder and create”(Eliot 719). He wanted to persevere so badly that he trained himself to focus and only surround himself around goal oriented people who are just as hungry as he was. When you create a new concept for yourself and you incorporate it into your lifestyle, it is what you become and grow from, and because of that you murder the past. The past that haunts you and restrains you from being successful.
He expressed,” Come back to tell you all. I shall tell you all-if one setting pillow by her head should say, “that is not what I meant at all. That’s not it at all”(Eliot 721-722). Taking risks can be daunting and even disheartening, however if you never reach high, you’ll forever stay low. The outcome can even show you who you are and where you stand in life. “No! I am not prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be”(Eliot 721-722). This was his moment where he became aware of his value and it can either be like getting a weight off your chest or destructive. He was becoming more insecure by the day, and he couldn’t help but think about his past mistakes and how he could’ve just moved on from them. He was growing old and wanted to reverse his destiny.
Events leading up to and during the 1920s clearly contributed to the collapse of the American Dream. There was something we were all aiming for in the 1920s and that was a better life. The desire to acquire material things was overpowering and wealth was pretty much the only objective during this era. Whenever an individual encountered wealth they’d be mesmerized, “Daisy Buchanan cries when she sees Jay Gatsby's shirts, because she’s never seen such—such beautiful shirts before.” (Fitzgerald 117). Daisy and Gatsby were supposed to be In love but the only thing Daisy ever cared for was money and so because of that she married a man she didn’t even love.
When she spent time at Gatsby's home she realized how far he’s gotten without her. She felt no resentment but was definitely envious of all the things she could’ve possessed if she had married Gatsby. During this time period there was an Economic Bill of Rights advocated which gave people ” The right to decent housing, to a job that was sufficient to support a family, and oneself, to educational opportunities for all, and health care” (Amadeo). This was huge and Roosevelt made the statement, “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that..true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence..People who are hungry , people who are out of a job are the stuff made” (Amadeo).
The First Sights of Great Depression
It was truly a struggle that everyone faced as well as inflation which had a significant impact doubling wages however quadrupling the cost of necessities. Around this time there was a significant amount of people migrating from south to north looking for a better life. Many migrated to “ Escape segregation and racism”(“History.com”). This was termed the “Great Migration”. The 1920s was an unbalanced time period and despite,” Growing wealth and conspicuous consumption during the 1920s, more than 60% of Americans lived just below the poverty line — especially black-Americans and those living in rural areas”(“History.com”).
It was a sick time and before the stock market crash there was prohibition. Prohibition in the United States was a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933. However, people still consumed alcohol heavily due to the fact that there were bootleggers. These were people who illegally made, imported,and sold alcohol during this time.
The stock market crash began in 1929 after, “Black Tuesday hit Wall Street as investors traded some 16 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange in a single day. Billions of dollars were lost, wiping out thousands of investors.”(“History.com”). This caused the start of the Great Depression which brought what felt like a never ending crisis. Relief and reform measures were enacted,but the depression didn’t end until 1939.
Women are always a huge deal especially when helping to turn the tables around. “Though slow to use their new voting rights,by the end of the decade women were represented on local, state, and national committees and were influencing the political agenda of the federal government”(“History.com”). Due to woman being able to put their input in many subjects there was a lot of social improvements, protective laws for child labor, prism reforms, and political equality. This was a time to be remembered, many people sacrificed everything they had,they risked their lives,and mental health. They fought for the dream, they wanted the dream.
The corruption of the American Dream shaped our country significantly, as well as the WW1, The Roaring 20s, and the Feminist Movement. What do you think would have happened if these events never occurred? If the music and drinking didn’t contribute? How would the collapse have gone? What steps would we have to take to fix it?
Benner, Louise. “Women in the 1920s.” NCpedia, NC Museum of History, Jan. 2004, www.ncpedia.org/history/20th-Century/1920s-women.
Amadeo, Kimberly. “5 Ways Our Founding Fathers Protect The American Dream.” The Balance, The Balance, Feb. 2019, www.thebalance.com/what-is-the-american-dream-quotes-and-history-3306009.
Barone, Adam. “Learn About American Dream.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 5 Apr. 2019, www.investopedia.com/terms/a/american-dream.asp.
Editors, History.com. “The Roaring Twenties History.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 14 Apr. 2010, www.history.com/topics/roaring-twenties/roaring-twenties-history.
Eliot, T.S. The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S Eliot. Prufrock, 2002.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Scribner, 2018.