Sunday, 25 November 2012

"The American Dream"

"Traditionally, Americans have sought to realize the American dream of success, fame and wealth through thrift and hard work. However, the industrialization of the 19th and 20th centuries began to erode the dream, replacing it with a philosophy of "get rich quick". A variety of seductive but elusive strategies have evolved, and today the three leading ways to instant wealth are large-prize television game shows, big-jackpot state lotteries and compensation lawsuits. In this article, Matthew Warshauer, Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University, examines why so many Americans are persuaded to seek these easy ways to their dream."  Matthew Warshauer.

This quote describes the changes to the American Dream that have occurred across different generations. The change to the American Dream, in this case, is described as negative. As expressed in 'Ragged Dick', the American dream for Dick was to obtain a position of employment that was middle-classed and respectable. He did not wish for fame, or fortune; rather the opportunity to earn an honest living, through hard work, honesty and kindness (not stealing etc). 

The article describes how the current generation no longer have to work hard or dedicate themselves to something in order to achieve, highlighted by the examples of winning the lottery, television shows and law suits. This method of 'making it' was not available to Dick, as he was working/living in a time before television; although he does mention some situations where people were run over by carriages and then received a pay-out for damages evoked upon them. It shows how the 'American Dream' was once something people could strive for and obtain with hard-work and dedication, albeit with a little luck (such as Dick, by meeting the right gentlemen) and also with saving money in the right way (creating a bank account, spending wisely; not spending on gambling, alcohol and trips to the theater every evening). It has changed in today's generation to an 'American Dream' that is easily attainable without the presence of hard work or dedication, instead relying on luck (lottery, TV show winnings) and cheating/stealing from others in an effort to make money, and this 'make it'.

The definition of 'making it' has also changed from a time where earning an honest wage through employment (Dick) was considered 'making it', as he had stability and a respectable job to an age where 'making it' is all about how large your house is, what type of car you drive, and what your wage is; basically materialistic things; the more you have, the more you are considered to have 'made it'.

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