The American Dream's Not Dead

American dream was a nationalistic social ideal for the citizen’s democracy, equality and material prosperity. This has been clearly defined over time as a happy and successful life, because many aspire to this despite the effects of depression among other ailments, the traditional American dream is still alive. Despite this noble school of thought, the United States still struggles with democracy, economic and discrimination. Some citizens are happy with their status quo; a good job and a bright future. There are others struggling each day to achieve their dreams with the focus on a brighter day so near yet far. There are multiplying signs, that the Americans are torn in between achieving financial freedom and living a good social life, whether the two are achievable lies totally on personal effort.  This dream is all about freedom, equality and material independence.  Some could argue that if one wants to make it in America, then one must be ready to go through various hardships in order to achieve the American dream. People must understand, however that success is not achieved overnight; it may take a lot of time and sacrifice in order to achieve this dream. Also, it is important to keep in mind that this people have different dreams, and these dreams may be achieved at different times.  Some people dream of having a good social life while other dream of acquiring massive wealth.  This is what forms part of the American dream.

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The above is depicted in Horatio Alger’s novel, Ragged Dick, where a young man named Richard Hunter has struggled since childhood; as the title indicates, it gives a good account of a rag to riches scenario. It was after saving Mr. Rockwell’s son from drowning that Dick acquired a well paying job.  (Alger 263). This is an example of how ordinary Americans and immigrants struggle to achieve the American dream. The depiction of a young simple boy, going through the hardships of city life is a story of many Americans and, to a larger extend, the immigrants who start small and make it big. The dream is all about social status and knowing who is who in the society, and this is clearly demonstrated when Richard meets Mr. Rockwell, a wealthy man who changes his life completely (Alger 261).

Looking through Richards’ life, rags to riches is what many Americans strive for in their day to day struggle. Goal setting varies from one individual to the other depending on the motivation behind it. People are endowed with different perceptions and they end up having different dreams.  Those who are dedicated toward their dream eventually succeed. Ragged Dick might have been written in the 1800’s to reflect on the economics, society and discrimination of the time, but it reflects modern times and Americas struggles.  In fact, current United States politics of modern times are centered on who tackles these historical disparities.

In this setting it has been explicitly amplified beyond reasonable doubt, and this has attracted the perception that America is full of opportunities, but the means of attaining individual goals are different. Seeking the American dream, according to Ragged Dick, is a way of attaining self-actualization, negating the means and taking different routes for one to cut a meaningful niche, regardless of the direction taken. Many Americans have been made to believe that the dream can only be realized in the future and not present, thus they keep anticipating fulfillment.

On the contrary, we might argue that Gatsby's dreams in The Great Gatsby remains unsatisfied despite him having vast material wealth.  He also fails to achieve true love after his dream to marry Daisy fails. In his thinking finding true love would make him truly great.  To some extent Gatsby’s ambitions were materialistic but there was more to him than material wealth. This is the reason why Nick was able to admire Gatsby later. If Gatsby's ambitions were only based on material wealth he would not have realized the attraction towards Daisy, or developed to be such a romantic guy. This is a clear indication that material wealth could not satisfy his quest of having a good life. I think that Gatsby's dream was very much in line to the American Dream, being outlined here, one that is focused on being self-determined, self-reliant and improving in the social station.  I think being wealthy is part of the American dream, but not the whole point. Americans want to live happily by accomplishing various things. They want to have a job, own a home and be comfortable.  I have always felt that the American Dream is the opportunity to live the lifestyle that you want without any interference from external forces.  To succeed in life it does not mean that one has to end up with certain kind of house or a certain income.

Merging the Ragged Dick concept and Gatsby theory there is a consolation that Americans are working towards a particular goal, the American dream, but when this was individualized the zest of realizing the dream may have to be realized differently. Comparing the two scenarios you get the picture of a stair case where people are going up, while others are going down, and the harder you work the longer you stay up the ladder. In the pursuit for the American dream, skilled labor has turned out to be the best vacation for the educated citizenry. The American dream of becoming a better and happier citizen in all ranks is a major contributor to the welfare of the world. This is because the dream is based on hope of a better tomorrow. The pursuit for the American dream has created the haves and have-not, and those who do not have continue to ensure that those who have go on enjoying the socio-economic benefits associated with the current system. This is the class of the elite and the masses with high penetration of immigrants, being in the elite class since the eighteenth century. Continuity and ceasing opportunities will continuously keep the American dream alive as long as those perceived as having achieved the dream being in leadership. The American dream keeps the Americans’ hope alive, while shutting them from the reality that it is only the citizens who hold the key to their social mobility and economic equality. The citizens are the only ones who can keep this dream alive.

The Lesson

Through close examination of both Gatsby and Ragged Dick way of life, one may learn that personal achievement goes beyond acquiring massive wealth.  When personal achievement is tainted with wealth then it becomes devoid and hollow. Each person has an equal chance of becoming successful in life by his or her own way. Everybody should live his or her own dream. Allowing somebody else to live your dream is itself enough to ruin what has been built over the years. The dream is about self-awakening, self-actualization and self-believes a belief that starts with an individual goal which is externalized to reach out to all people. For this reason it is important for one to focus on his or her dream without minding the achievement of others.

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