The “American Dream”. The dictionary definition is “the aspirational belief in the US that all individuals are entitled to the opportunity for success and upward social mobility through hard work.” (Dictionary.com)  We hear that term often, but for every individual, it means something different. For some, it’s imaginary, not real. It’s eluded them and left them in sorrow. For others, it’s their glorious tale of going from rags to riches and for some it’s still just a dream. They work every day to make their American dream come true, whether it’s to be a doctor, a teacher, a professional athlete, a millionaire or anything in between, yet it still escapes them.

In 2018 The New York Times partnered with the American Enterprise Institute to conduct a survey of 2,411 Americans about the American Dream. In this survey, over 80% of people claimed that “to have freedom of choice in how to live” and “a good family life” were essential to fulfilling the American Dream. On the other end, only 16% believed that being wealthy was essential to the American Dream.

The main character in Jim Thorpe The Original All American, Jim Thorpe, became a success story of the American dream. Thorpe became one of the greatest football players ever and now even has an award named after him. Every year the “Jim Thorpe Award” is given to the best defensive back in college football. However, like most, his road wasn’t easy.

Thorpe grew up bouncing between different schools and being away from his family for long stretches of time; only Thorpe was Indian. The schools that Thorpe attendedwere meant to assimilate Indians into American culture. Students were beaten for using their native language or their old names. This didn’t end up being the best environment for an Indian like Thorpe to thrive in. 

This challenge along with many others didn’t slow Thorpe down, however. He faces many other challenges throughout the novel, and if you’re interested in finding those out, you should read the whole book.

For Thorpe, the American dream was real, as real as it could be. Unfortunately that is not the case for everyone. 

From an economic standpoint the American dream of working hard to get what you want or of being creative and making your own business is coming to a stagnant halt. Mark Manson in “The American Dream is Killing Us” states “In fact, it’s now the opposite: now there are millions of hardworking, intelligent people who are living from paycheck-to-paycheck and are stuck in jobs with few opportunities for advancement and little hope for the future.” 

Thorpe’s story-tailed path of his American Dream took place in the early 1900s. Manson wrote his article about the downfall of the American Dream in 2016. Is it possible that American Dream is nearly impossible to achieve in the modern day and age? Or perhaps does the possibility of fulfilling the American Dream depends on what you believe fulfilling the American Dream truly means.In 2018 The New York Times partnered with the American Enterprise Institute to conduct a survey of 2,411 Americans about the American Dream. In this survey, over 80% of people claimed that “to have freedom of choice in how to live” and “a good family life” were essential to fulfilling the American Dream. On the other end, only 16% believed that being wealthy was essential to the American Dream.

The historian James Truslow Adams invented “the American Dream” in 1931 (Anthony Brandt). Is it possible that the phrase and idea that has shaped a significant amount of american culture has died not even 100 years after it was created? Is it more possible that it’s only died to those who have given up on listening to it’s heartbeat, no matter how faint at times, and moved onto other things?

Works Cited:

“The American Dream.” AMERICAN HERITAGE, 1 Nov. 2019, www.americanheritage.com/american-dream.

Bruchac, Joseph. Jim Thorpe, Original All-American. Listening Library, 2008.

Engle, Jeremy. “Do You Think the American Dream Is Real?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 Feb. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/02/12/learning/do-you-think-the-american-dream-is-real.html.

Mark Manson. “The American Dream Is Killing Us.” Mark Manson, 19 Jan. 2019, markmanson.net/american-dream.“What Does The American Dream Mean?” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, 29 Oct. 2019, www.dictionary.com/e/pop-culture/the-american-dream/.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Is the American Dream dead? by Brendon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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