‘The America Dream’ is a longstanding common belief of the American population that in the United States, people are free to realize the full potential of their labor and their talents and every person in the United States has the opportunity to become wealthy. This belief sprang from the idea that the American society is an egalitarian society where the strictures of the class system hold no power, in contrast to the traditional societies of the Old World where those of the highest social status were those with ancestral titles to vast landholdings, the American society is held to be a strict meritocracy where hard work, ingenuity and innovation is rewarded.
The foremost exponents of the American dream are the novels of Horatio Alger. Alger’s novels tell the story of poor but hard working and honest pubescent boys who manage to become well-off through their honesty, effort and determination against odds. In contrast to the naïve optimism of Alger’s works, many other authors have brought forth a more jaded and cynical view of the American dream in their works of fiction. Two of these works of fiction, which depict the American dream in a negative light, are John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
Of Mice and Men is the story of the shattered dream of two poor friends George and Lennie who travel from place to place working for low wages in horrible conditions. Their dream is to have enough money to buy a ranch and “live off the fatta the lan’” (Steinbeck 15).
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