Thursday, 4 November 2010

Why the American Dream is getting old.

The American Dream is the defining concept of America. It’s what has driven America to the forefront of the world, it’s what has powered their capitalist consumer culture, and it’s also what has created some of the most powerfully emotive literature of the last century.

Some of the greatest novels in the world are, at heart, entirely about the American Dream. The Great Gatsby deals with the opulence and corruption at the heart of this effervescent phantom, whilst Death of a Salesman exposes the elusive impossibility of ever achieving the American Dream. Almost every great novel produced from America in the past hundred years has dealt in some way, been influenced by, in one manner or another, or simply been overtly and blatantly, completely about the American Dream.

And frankly it’s starting to get a bit old.

The Great American Novel seems to be a thing of the past. The biggest piece of literature to come out of America in the past decade seems to be, depressingly, Twilight. Almost every other piece of work by American authors has in some way been cliché, and this is in no way their fault. It’s endemic of American culture at the moment. And the problem is this; American authors can’t seem to write without allowing the American Dream to seep into their book.

The American Dream has influenced every facet of American culture, it’s true, and it certainly created a unique and massively powerful genre. However, it has been explored more than enough, and yet still America is obsessed with it. American culture becomes more and more consumer-driven by the day (just look at the number of adverts in their television programmes as an example), and their obsession with money, with wealth and with the personal freedoms of the individual and the supremacy of the dollar just grows stronger and stronger.

The America of today is one Ayn Rand would be proud of. It is an America that has campaigned with a vitriolic spite against a national health system for all, and has unleashed clarrion cries of abuse on it’s president for not fixing a deficit he inherited fast enough. All this is because they believe they are entitled to the best, and the minute they don’t get it, they have been wronged in some way. This was once one of the most admirable traits of America; it is what has lead to their global supremacy, their high quality of life and their amazing prosperity. However, it has now led to the advancement of the individual and the exclusion of those who can’t help themselves.

The American Dream was once an inspiration; a cry that you could achieve what you wanted and be truly great, and when its hollow façade was exposed by The Great Gatsby, Grapes of Wrath and Death of a Salesman, this was ground-breaking and relevant. But please, America, no more novels about how the American Dream has failed. We don’t need to read a book about it. All we need to do is look over the pond.


  1. To anyone who gets offended by this, I'd just like to say I don't really agree with half of what I'm saying in that article. It was written for my school newspaper, and originally I started off with the title 'Why the American Dream isn't getting old'.
    But today I'm in a foul mood (some people just make me want to punch them in the face) and so I just couldn't write a nice happy piece about the triumph of ideas and capitalism, so I let my inner, angry, socialist, consumerism-bashing lefty run loose and this was the end result.
    I'd just like to reiterate I don't really hold these opinions, but I just wanted to write a good article

  2. Miss Dommett is getting through to you then? :P