The American Dream is a central part of American Culture and has been for over a century. It is an idea that is very much associated with the period circa 1900-1950, but the motivation for many immigrants moving to America today is the pursuit of the American Dream so it is still highly relevant to today’s life. At its core, the American Dream is to achieve prosperity and liberty for yourself and your family, which is naturally very appealing to immigrants from all over the world, many of which are coming from poorer countries with less equality and fewer opportunities for their citizens. According to the American Dream, any person, wherever they are from and however poor and tragic their background, should be able to make a success of themselves if they are willing to work hard.
The American Dream is likely inspired by the Declaration of Independence, which discusses the rights to “ Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. Prosperity was certainly not a central part of this idea but over time it has become that way, as people began to place more and more importance on material things. It could be argued that the American Dream is one of the reasons that America is the envy of much of the world for the sheer range of material goods that people own, and have available to choose from. Refrigerators for use in the home, for example, were invented in 1913, and soon after (when the American Dream was arguably at its peak), American culture prized ownership of the appliance, and owning a fridge was seen as a symbol of success.
One of the other major components of the American Dream that is still highly relevant today is the freedom for people to be themselves and be proud of who they are. This is something that is still very much a work in progress, as can be seen by recent events, but compared to many other countries around the world, America is still quite progressive when it comes to the rights of ethnic minorities, the gay and transgender communities and women’s rights. This is a big part of why America is so attractive to immigrants, because it offers them equal opportunities.
The American Dream is a theme that appears regularly in literature and on film, particularly from the first half of the twentieth century, with the protagonist often being a person who is in pursuit of achieving the American Dream, no matter what the cost may be. Writers such as John Steinbeck and Arthur Miller have multiple texts centered around the American Dream, and the result of people taking their desire to achieve it too far is often death and destruction, with the protagonist, who has good intentions and works hard to achieve it for himself, friends and family, greatly suffers as a result of his actions. This raises questions about how realistic achieving the American Dream is for the average man or woman, and exactly how much people should be willing to sacrifice in the pursuit of it.