In January, the 11th graders finished up our unit on the American Dream. Within this unit we read The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, and Death of a Salesman - all stories which concern themselves with the impossibility of the American Dream. Students were required to take two of the three stories and write an essay discussing what the authors are trying to teach readers about the American Dream.
Below we have Noah S who loves reading, heavy metal, and Monty Python. Noah will also be attending the YSU English Festival with me and a few other students in April, so you may hear from him here on the blog again.
The American Dream in Famous Novels
The consequences in pursuing the American Dream are a common moral standpoint illustrated by many authors. The greatest consequence in the process of reaching the American Dream often results in the death for the characters involved, such as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman and George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men. Both novels share this common theme and prove that the American Dream is not easily achieved.
The extraordinary novel Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, expresses how hard many had to work just to get by in life. The novel takes place during the Great Depression, an era infamous for its ideological concepts of the American Dream. George and Lennie are the major characters whose dream is to move to a ranch of their own. However, Lennie, who is mentally disabled, accidentally gets in the way of that dream throughout the story. In the end, Lennie dies, which leaves George freer than ever to pursue his dream, although he doesn’t and we don’t know what happens to him afterward. The theme Steinbeck illustrates is that you have to make sacrifices in order to achieve a goal sometimes.
Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller, expresses the viewpoint of a supposed “madman,” Willy Loman, and how his dreams reflect upon him. Willy’s dream is to gain both popularity and money in his life. In order to achieve this dream, Willy lies to his family and to himself about his profits, cheats on his wife to gain favor with a buyer, and puts down all others not like himself. However, as the story progresses, Willy’s life of delusion slips him further into a nervous breakdown. Miller, like Steinbeck, demonstrates that one must make sacrifices in order to achieve a goal.
As mentioned above, both authors imply that one must make sacrifices and difficult choices in order to achieve a goal. Both novels’ main characters share an arguably similar dream, however, Willy’s dreams are about making a lot of money and gaining popularity and respect. George and Lennie’s dream is much more realistic and less self-centered than Willy’s. Nonetheless, the characters in both novels possessed dreams that could only be made possible through hard decisions. Realistic or not, each, unfortunately, led to death.
The perseverance of the American Dream in these novels is a common theme. People have to take chances and make sacrifices to chase a dream. Dreams need to be realistic, but even if they are, there can be consequences. Successful and unsuccessful dreams alike can work out for the good of everyone, which makes them worth trying.
Hope you enjoyed this month's Student Spotlight! Please leave any comments or discussion pieces below. We will check back and use it for further class discussions.