Home » Facing Up To The American Dream: Race, Class, and The Soul of a Nation

Facing Up To The American Dream: Race, Class, and The Soul of a Nation

In Facing Up To The American Dream: Race, Class, and The Soul of a Nation by Jennifer Hochschild, she explains that there are various kinds of success embodied in the American Dream. She claims that success can be absolute which means that achieving the American Dream implies “reaching some threshold of well-being, higher than where one began but not necessarily dazzling. “(p. 16) Success can also be relative in which achieving the American Dream consists of becoming better off than some comparison point. Finally, success can be competitive.

With this definition of success achieving the American Dream occurs by chieving victory over someone else. “My success implies your failure. “(pp16-17) Hochschild goes on to explain that the achievement of success, whatever the definition, is essentially the main tenet of the American Dream. The pervasiveness of the American Dream throughout ALL of America’s historical periods (for more on that seeA History of the American Welfare System)has created a fantasy of success.

Hochschild asserts that these fantasies, “are innocuous so long as resources roughly balance dreams for enough people enough of the time. (p 27) Unfortunately, this is not the case and so many people are unable to achieve the success that hey dream of. Since America’s foundations are built on this success ideology, those who are unable to achieve it are seen as failures and are marginalized by the rest of society as a result. (see The Meaning of Words Part I and The Meaning of Words Part II)”The better the dream works for other people, the more devastating is failure for the smaller proportion of people left. “(p 29) In the commercialized hip-hop of today the image of success put forth is competitive.

Albums increasingly contain references to the superiority of the artist over another person or group of people because of his (and sometime her) material wealth. Yet, the writers of current welfare reform legislation fail to notice these aspects of the real world. Americans are so caught up in their own American Dreams that they don’t realize that the American Dream just might not be possible for everyone. The men, women and children on welfare PROVE that monetary success DOES NOT come to all those who work hard. Welfare proves that you CAN’T always pull yourself up by the bootstraps.

However, America relies on its Dream to justify the accumulation of the very rich and to provide a fruitless hope to those who have not. Acknowledging that the Dream isn’t always ttainable means acknowledging that there might be something wrong with the Dream. If there is something wrong with the Dream, maybe you or I can’t achieve it. Since from its inception America has been based on the ideologies within the Dream (self-made success, individualism, hard work), acknowledging that it might be flawed, or even worse that it is a LIE, is too frightening for many people to do.

Thus, the concept of welfare–of giving money to the “unworthy” poor(see The Meaning of Words Part I)–directly violates the ideologies within the American Dream. Instead of admitting that the Dream just oesn’t work the same way for all people, we blame and punish those who don’t achieve it by labeling them lazy, and corrupt. The welfare-reform legislation of 1996 is a direct result of this attitude. The writers and supporters of this legislation attempted to create a welfare system in which nobody gets “something for nothing”.

Working is so important that if the states fail to reach their designated percentages of “welfare to workforce” their federally funded welfare grants are reduced. Interestingly enough, this does not punish the state or those in charge of finding welfare recipients jobs, but it punishes those on welfare. In fact, the concept of “working” is so important that the kind or quality of work done is irrelevant.

Picking up chip bags on the median for eight hours a day will suffice, just as long as the poor are “working” individualism embedded within the American Dream. nd does not refer to the broader concept of individualism (e. g. self-sufficiency, reliance on one’s own hard work and morality) that I argue is part of the American Dream. In a country that from its inception has perceived itself as a land of democracy, prosperity, and equality, and has formed an ideal of achievement that relies on the xistence of these qualities (the American Dream), The American Dream of the self-made man American Dream of success. finding the American Dream. But what is the real American Dream?

Is it finding the streets paved with gold? Is it being able to choose what you want to do? Is it democracy? Is it having the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? This are many of the questions that books such as The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Linden Hills by Gloria Naylor. The characters in these works try to live their lives and achieve the American Dream. However, by living their lives by the American Dream, the characters find that it is misleading, and they usually end up being destroyed.

The American Dream is different for each individual. To truly live the American Dream, one must live freely and happily, instead of by another person’s restricting definition of the American Dream. This is what our forefathers meant, that is why they revolted against the English to win freedom, and why Americans even today strive to achieve what they think is right, such as Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, Affirmative Action and many other controversial issues.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this essay please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.