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The American dream

What is the American dream?

A unitary definition does not exist–the American dream probably has a different meaning to every US citizen. For some it is the dream of freedom and equality, for others it is the dream of a fulfilled life or even the dream of fame and wealth.

In general, the American dream can be defined as being the opportunity and freedom for all citizens to achieve their goals and become rich and famous if only they work hard enough.

History of the American dream

The first settlers hoped for freedom of religion; in their home countries they had been persecuted because of their religious and political views. Bad living conditions in Europe and the hope for better living standards in America attracted more and more settlers to migrate to the new world. The booming US industry during the first half of the 20th century caused the myth from rags to riches.

The American dream today

Todays role of the American dream is a matter of discussion. Some think that the American dream is still a viable element today, for others it is only an illusion.

The American dream focusses on the success of the individuum (not the wellbeing of the whole population). On the one hand, this has advantages, e.g. lower taxes, little interference of the state. On the other hand, the same advantages are disadvantageous for society: there is no social fond for the poor and there is no serious interest in important issues like environmental protection etc.

Discussions on the American dream

The American dream is often a topic for essays or debates. The questions raised are usually:

  • Is the American dream still alive?
  • Is the American dream still working?
  • Is the American dream still worth pursuing?

If you have to comment on one of these questions, you should first give your definition of the American dream. (You already know that there is no unitary definition, so your readers/listeners need to know what exactly you are applying to.) To what conclusion you come in the end is a matter of your own political views–there is no right or wrong here. Its always good, however, if you try to understand both sites. The following thoughts might be useful when talking/writing about the American dream:

  • Do all US citizens have equal opportunities or are there still conflicts concerning the origin or believes of certain groups?
  • If we say that everyone can become rich if they work hard enough–does that mean that the poor are only too lazy? (Or do we have to take other factors into account, too?)
  • Why does it have to be the American dream? Wouldnt the same dream be possible in other countries?
  • What makes so many people want to live in the United States?
  • If you had the choice, how would you decide: take the opportunity to become rich and successful thanks to low taxes or pay higher taxes from which the jobless can benefit (you might be jobless as well one day, but not necessarily)?
  • What are the advantages / disadvantages (for the individuum and society) if people only try to pursue their very own dreams?
See also topics in our writing section:
General Information on Writing English Texts
Comments (Stating your Opinion)
General Information on Spoken Texts

Literature on the American dream

  • The great Gatsby, novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Death of a Salesman, play by Arthur Miller

Movies on the American dream

  • The Great Gatsby