Review Of The Theme Of Great American Dream In Three Books

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Rooted in the United States Declaration of Independence which was adopted in 1776, the ‘American Dream’ proclaims that, “all men are created equal” and have a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. This set of ideals, despite the ambiguity in the definition of ‘happiness’, sets the tone for an underlying theme of the 3 books, ‘Of Mice and Men’, ‘The Kite Runner’ and ‘The Joy Luck Club’. The characters in these books each pursue a different version of the ‘American Dream’, despite their origins being from different backgrounds, facing a multitude of diverse hindrances and obstacles, and enjoying, or indeed enduring varying degrees of success in their quest. The key protagonists in these books were sold or developed their own versions of the Dream, based on their setting and the surrounding, secondary factors. However, these dreams were altered, overhauled, delayed or even abandoned during the course of the stories. Key antagonists in the plots also played a significant role in these diversions of the pursuit. Additionally, this research paper argues whether the ‘American Dream’ is indeed the holy grail that it claims to be, or is it merely an impracticable deception, created by desperate minds, yearning for the ultimate salvation.

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Of Mice and Men is set in 1930s America, the world has recently slipped into the Great Depression (1929-1939), the American economy was floundering, with high unemployment rates, low wage distributions, homelessness and overriding sense of gloom. The American dream then was marriage, having 2 children, and a house to live in. pursuit of this dream drove immigration rates up, exacerbating the unemployment conundrum the country was facing, low wage workers were often exploited in part due to their desperation and opportunism from the more affluent employers. In the novel ‘Of Mice and Men’, two migrant farmworkers, George and Lennie, were based in somewhere south of Soledad, California, in the Salinas River Valley, California’s economy was healthy when compared to other states, three industries in particular thrived in the 1930s, agriculture, oil production, and film making, this attracted thousands of new settlers. George and Lennie were part of this group. A key driving reason for this was their desire to get away from “trouble”. They were escaping from their previous employers in weed due to Lennie’s mistake. Their dream was to have a future, one with “a little hThe ouse and a couple of acres and a cow and some pigs and live off the fat of the land!” This was their version of the great America dream, to own their own ranch, not needing to work for others, or to run away to avoid trouble, but instead lead a comfortable life with no worries. They were not afraid of labour but they yearn for a possession which they can call their own.

The Joy Luck Club roots back to 1949 in China, where the Chinese Communist Revolution, led by the Communist Party of China and Chairman Mao Zedong was coming to an end. The People’s Republic of China and the United States were finding common ground over a variety of issues, as evidenced by President Trumen’s publishing of the ‘China White Paper’. Suyuan Woo was the only survival in her family of the ruthless revolution and she escaped to America, with the help of her husband Canning Woo. In San Francisco, she was part of a refugee welcome society which originated from the first Chinese Baptist church, this highlights that she did not migrate into a well to do family and was required to take part in Bible study classes, it was through these classes where she met the Hsus, Jongs and the St Clairs, forming the Joy Luck Club. They were similar in their perceptions of the American dream as well as their backgrounds. They wanted to fully integrate into the American or Western style of life, when describing her story in Kweilin, Suyuan “could only see the dripping bowels of an ancient heir that might collapse on me”, with the backdrop of the japanese invasion vivid in her mind, she desired safety and security, this was a promise the American Dream could fulfil for her.

The Kite Runner was set in the 1970s, this was the golden age of Afghanistan, there was an era of modernity and democratic reform. Amir, with his father, Baba Khan, lived in relative comfort, “the most beautiful house in the Wazir Akbar Khan district”, the American Dream in this case was a non existent concept, given how well to do they were. This changed in 1979 when the Soviet Union army invaded Afghanistan. This version of the American Dream is different from the stereotypical viewpoint of moving to America with nothing and eventually becoming successful. In The Kite Runner, the concept of the America Dream is Amir finding a way to forget his past, establish a connection with Baba and to start a new future. In the later part of The Kite Runner, Amir’s American dream now involved a new character, Sohrab. Sohrab is an ethnic Hazara orphan after his parents were murdered by the Taliban, a military organisation. Being a victim of this rule, Sohrab is world weary and craves freedom. Amir’s campaign to adopt Sohrab and bring him to America is a promise of redemption for both himself and the child.

Despite the different settings from which the characters originated from, they craved an improved situation and lifestyle which was the basis of their pursuit of an American Dream. Their cultural backgrounds and traditions played critical roles at different timings to create an individual version that is unique to each story.  

16 December 2021

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