The Great Gatsby – S. Fitzgerald (1925)
In this book the main character, Jay Gatsby, embodies the American Dream of the 1920’s. He is a wealthy, successful, young man that has achieved this greatness through hard work and effort, or so it seems like that at a first glance.
Despite Gatsby having everything that is considered necessary to be happy, it is later revealed he is pretending to be someone he is not to impress the girl of his dreams, Daisy. Through this duality in Gatsby’s personality, we can see the opposition between dreams and reality. For he decides to become a successful wealthy man to obtain what he wants, but the reality is that by pretending to be great it is still impossible for him to go back time to achieve his goals.
This is further explained in the video below.
Of Mice and Men – J. Steinbeck (1937)
This novel tells the story of Lenny and George, two men who travel from ranch to ranch looking for jobs after the economic crisis of 1929. Both of them share a big dream to save up enough money to buy a ranch of their own and life off the land raising farm animals. All of their hard work and effort are invested into this dream but achieving it might be harder than they think.
George and Lenny, at first, appear to be two friends that work together; however, they have concealed the fact that Lenny is mentally handicapped. This is particularly difficult due to the fact that once their employer finds out about Lenny’s condition both of them are usually fired. Therefore, keeping a stable job with a steady income is nearly impossible. Despite having to deal with more issues than expected, George is willing to fight for him and Lenny until they can have a ranch with lots of animals, even if that means having to make sacrifices. His drive is admirable, for he has no relation to Lenny, yet he has taken it upon himself to take care of him and make him a permanent part of his life. Nevertheless, their plans always seem to fail. The message transmitted by Steinbeck in this novel is that in reality, dreams might not always be achievable, and failure is a part of life that everyone has to cope with.
If you want to learn more about the novel check out this video!
The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan (1989)
The Joy Luck Club offers a new perspective of what the American dream means. This book tells the story of a group of four Chinese mothers and their Chinese-American daughters who gather periodically to play majhong, a traditional Chinese board game. The novel is divided into four main sections. Each part narrates the story of one of the mothers and her daughter, depicting the sacrifices they had to make in order to get to America and the cultural differences both generations must face due to their different upbringings.
Here you can find an in-depth analysis of the novel
The Audacity of Hope – Barack Obama (2006)
In the past decades the conception of what an “ideal” life is like has drastically changed. The definition of the American Dream has shifted throughout time, due to the fact that the new generations have different necessities according to the political, economic, and social scenario of their time. The current U.S. president, Barack Obama, discusses this topic on his book “The Audacity of Hope: Reclaiming the American Dream”, in which he argues that anyone who hopes to achieve the American Dream can do it, regardless of their background. However, there are several policy arrangements that need to be made by the government, so that stability and security, in all aspects of life, can be reached by every American citizen.
Here you can check out Obama at the national democratic convention where he first delivered the speech that inspired the homonymous book.