materialism essay - Joshua Smith English 169 Mr Siegel...

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Joshua Smith English 169 Mr. Siegel October 7, 2008 The Materialistic Effects of the American Dream on Society At the heart of American values lies the strength of individualism and living one’s life as they wish. Individualism has always been an essence of what it means to be American, shaping the creation of the American Dream. The idea that through one’s own actions, one can create the life they want to live. This is a good idea, but, when combined with materialism, can lead to much of the chaos seen through Hurston’s “Their Eyes were Watching God.” The pursuit of the American Dream is what led to the black oppression as people attempted to pursue their own dreams, ambitions, and wealth through exploitation of others. Joe Starks was an ambitious character; a hard worker who would go to great lengths to achieve his dreams. According to traditional American values, he is a perfect example of what it means to be an American. The devout individualism advocated by American values leads to a country where everyone is out for themselves, ultimately leaving only those with power on the backs of the oppressed. By questioning the treatment of the mule and the morality of Stark’s actions, Hurston is critical of whether altruism is possible in the context of the materialistic individual. For if you are living strictly for your own individuality, wealth, and values, then all subsequent actions are ultimately for your own benefit at the expense of others.
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Following the American dream is one of the greatest American values, but this quest for material wealth can result in mindless indulgence at tremendous cost to the lower class. People looking out strictly for their own benefit often oppress the lowest classes of society. This is greatly exemplified by the people of Eatonville taking advantage of the symbol for all those without power, such as Matt Bonner’s pathetic mule.
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