The Definition of the American Dream Essay Example

Throughout the years, the definition of the American dream has been interpreted in many different ways. The American dream today is defined as an achievement that is not characterized by the amount of expensive things you own or the amount of money you have, but it is about what truly makes you happy. Each individual’s version of success may vary, but a common factor found in everyone is pursuing the element that makes you truly happy. In the long run the person who achieved their American dream will be more content in life than the person who didn’t. If an individual works hard enough, no matter where they come from, success can be achieved.

Completing the American dream is a difficult task and a person can only begin to acquire their dream once they know what truly makes them happy, so they can strive for that. For example, in the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the main character Jay Gatsby achieves all of his accomplishments with Daisy, his one true love, in mind. He knows that if he becomes successful, he will be able to win Daisy back. He never reaches his goal of being with Daisy and is never truly happy, even with all the wealthy aspects of his life. Gatsby knows the one thing that brings him everlasting happiness and strives for his goals with the right objectives. In The Great Gatsby, Nick, a friend of Gatsby, explains the moment that Gatsby sees Daisy, for the first time in *idk how many* years, claiming that Gatsby “... hadn't once ceased looking at Daisy...he stared around at his possessions in a dazed way, as though in her actual and astounding presence none of it was any longer real.” (5.112) This brings to light the fact that Gatsby is completely in love with Daisy and, in that moment, he realizes that all of his hard work was about to pay off. At this moment Gatsby feels as if his version of the American dream is nearly completed because he never had the one thing he truly wanted: Daisy. It is believed by some that they know what makes them happy so they strive for that, but once they achieve it they aren’t fulfilled with happiness. This enables the idea that they failed to find the authentic version of their happiness. In order to achieve true happiness, an individual first has to find what makes them happy. Many people do not have a complete grasp on this idea which leads to them not feeling content with their life. As stated by Sogyal Rinpoche, a widely known Buddhist teacher, “True happiness and peace of mind cannot be found in anything external; it can only be found within.” Many people do not understand their own wants and therefore simply try to get more money and once they achieve that goal, they realize it is not actually what they wanted. Not everyone is motivated to find the source of their happiness because they are too busy trying to achieve what they believe is their American dream. These people will never fully understand the American dream, no matter how hard they work or how much success they gain, because it can never be attained until they find their true source of happiness, not just what society has conditioned them to believe is their happiness. Gatsby can also be used as an example for this concept because he has had this idea that Daisy was his only true origin of happiness in his head ever since he was young. All in all, true happiness is an aspect in life that is very hard to understand yet very crucial for the American Dream.

In order to achieve the American dream, an individual has to realize that material things do not define the dream and a person’s success does not have to solely depend on wealth. Although that stereotype is believed by many people, there are some people that prefer a simple life. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, Samantha Smith stated that “While people differ to the meaning of the American dream, very few-just 11% of the public- say ‘being wealthy’ is essential to their own view of it. By contrast, majorities say ‘freedom of choice in how to live(77%), having a good family life(70%) and retiring comfortably(60%) are essential to their view of the American dream.” This information explains the various opinions that American citizens have on the idea of the American dream and that money is not always equate to contentment. Many people are beginning to value family life and freedom of choice over wealth, which displays the major change in the thought process of the general public. Most of the people who believe in these concepts are millennials and years ago the overall opinion on the American dream was completely different than it is now, which shows an improvement in the economy and offers hope for the future. Although material things don’t define a person, in today’s society it is very hard to become successful without also having money. Money also provides basic needs for a family such as putting food on the table and having a roof over a families head. Money doesn’t define happiness but in some aspects of life it is needed in order to thrive. These are aspects that many people take for granted and people in poverty seek to achieve. Success can be defined in many different ways but one of the ways the Merriam Webster Dictionary defines it is as a “favorable or desired outcome. Also: the attainment of wealth, favor or eminence.” This provides the standpoint of most adults mindsets, they believe in order to obtain success you have to also obtain wealth. This mindset is wrong although many people believe it is true, Gatsby is a clear illustration of the fact that success does not equate to wealth because although he had an abundance of money he was never happy without Daisy. The upcoming generation is beginning to change that stereotype but people who still believe in old values go by this concept. Despite the fact that the definition stated mentions the importance of wealth, There are also other definitions used to describe success, and these definitions are more accurate. For example, on dictionary.com success is defined as “the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one's goals.” This definition displays what success should be more commonly defined as, the achievement of personal goals, not the achievement of goals others believe you should accomplish. Success can be measured in different ways and this definition correlates towards happiness because accomplishments can mean a variety of achievements. An accomplishment is whatever makes a person happy.

In order to achieve the American dream you cannot back down to anyone or anything, you have to make what you want known. In the novel Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer the main character Chris Mccandless was born into a well-off family but decided to give everything he owned up to live as a hitchhiker. He wanted to live his life day-by-day and not have anything planned out. Mccandless had a hardworking attitude and did not stop until he got what he wanted. Eventually, Mccandless went on a life-threatening journey through Alaska, which was a dream of his, and unfortunately did not make it out alive. This exhibits his hardworking attitude and ability to strive for what he wants. Mccandless was born into a wealthy family but did not experience a good family life. Despite his constant disagreements with his family, he was able to obtain his dream on his own. If one is born into a good family, not necessarily wealthy but a loving family, they would be considered lucky. A person who isn’t born into a loving family would be deemed unlucky. Someone who comes from an unlucky family can still achieve the American dream, they would just have to work harder than a person coming from a loving family. Chris Mccandless would have been deemed unlucky because of his unfortunate family life, which made him have to give up everything he owned and work tirelessly to achieve his American dream. John D. Rockefeller is a great example of coming from nothing and achieving his dream as well. He was one of six children and was raised solely by his mother since his father was constantly travelling due to his job. Throughout his life he worked on small side jobs in order to gain extra money. This gave him a very hardworking attitude which contributed to his achievement of the American dream. He became America’s first acclaimed business person and the fact that he came from a childhood filled with poverty made his accomplishment even more shocking. He rose to success through creating an oil company with his brother which eventually became a monopoly of the United State’s oil. John D. Rockefeller built himself up from basically nothing in order to achieve a better life for himself and his family. Chris Mccandless and John D. Rockefeller both display the notion that the American dream is not necessarily achieved by luck but is achieved by a hardworking attitude and striving for their goal. If you work hard enough, no matter where you come from, you can achieve success. The American Dream is misunderstood to mean that people should work to achieve money; however, many people don’t understand that this does not equal happiness, as shown through Gatsby’s wealth yet uncontentment, the alternate definition of success, and Mccandless’ abandonment of wealth.


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