Three Perspectives on the American Dream

In each chapter, Swados’ makes a commentary on the American Dream, revealing new visions and alternative perspectives. With the case of the character LeRoy, the American Dream is the individual expecting opportunities rather than making opportunities for him/herself. LeRoy was able to become a member of the Hampton choir and discover his true ambition when a visiting professor happened to hear him through the open window. (4) It is because of luck and coincidence that LeRoy had the opportunity to study and practice music, which makes him believe that because he has a “golden throat”, he will successfully have a music career after his “detour”. This is demonstrated when he says, “I expect one day I’m going to be on the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air. I fully expect it.” (16) and “That’s why I keep on practicing, maybe he’ll give me a scholarship. It’s happened before, why not to me?” (16) Again, we see that LeRoy confidence solely relies on the one coincidental event and a body part, his throat, and thus, he is waiting to be discovered. Though LeRoy is willing to work hard to raise money for his family, he throws away his “American Dream” once he is injured, demonstrating that because his throat is a damaged good, no opportunities will come to him.

In the second chapter, the American Dream is a commodity since happiness is gained from buying a car he himself has produced. Kevin feels like he has become an American when he is handed the keys, giving him ownership to a product that is representative of capitalism, stability, and mobility- America. This American Dream is deflated when Kevin realizes that “the prize itself had become valueless and demanded that you replace it with another, shinier one.” (40) His happiness is short-lived since it stems from a mere product and is an ongoing cycle that keeps people unsatisfied and always searching to fulfill their emptiness and desire. Furthermore, Kevin realizes that his happiness should not be at the cost of human labor such as LeRoy’s injury and Walter’s sweat. Happiness should not be from something external but rather internal and should not have a price tag, but rather be free of charge. 

In Walter’s chapter, the American Dream is altered as the inspector says, “For six years, I was like you. This was going to be just temporary until I found something with a real future. It took me six years to realize that I was going to be spending the rest of my life here… I got married, had three kids, now im building a home near the plant. So I make the best of it.” (56)  Because the laborers perform routinized work, they become trapped and become comfortable with the monotony of work and life, ultimately making them forget about their ambitions and their original dreams. As a result, they have no choice but to make the best of it, hoping that it would achieve happiness and prosperity. Though the inspector may not have attained his original American Dream, he is able to build his own home and secure stability for his family. 

 

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One thought on “Three Perspectives on the American Dream

  1. Yes: there seems to be a lack of fit between the dominant ideology of an individual “rise” via the Dream and the actual situation of the industrial worker, whose fortunes depend on a collective defense of a relatively static set of conditions and benefits, where the goal is to protect the collective and not the individual’s “opportunity.”

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