ExpoAssignment 3_3 - The American Dream of Material Wealth...

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The American Dream of Material Wealth America is a society increasingly consumed with materialistic values. Today money is a prominent part of the American life. Americans are constantly wondering how much they have, how much they are going to make, how they are going to spend the money, and how they are going to earn more. This is the new American dream of earning enough to live not comfortable but leisurely. The air waves today are inundated with messages of “buy me” and “get this” as if the outcome of relationships and happiness pinned upon that one product. The old American dream was about working hard to be successful and having no monarchial figure to take away earnings. Of the land of opportunity where no barriers stopped one if one had the will power. As Russell Banks’ Continental Drift explores, the American dream is now all about material goods. Americans are caught in the capitalistic system, slaves not to kings as before but to debtors as they amass debt in order to keep up to a certain lifestyle or just keep up. Capitalism has lead to extravagance which makes everyone unhappy. Hard work no longer guarantees success because factors like race and connections affect pay. This is in strong contrast to the original, simple, American dream of working hard, succeeding, and living comfortably. Banks explores this idea through the journey’s of two people, Vanise, a young Haitian woman and Bob, a middle-aged white American both traveling to Florida to seek their American dream. Banks contrasts Vanise’s goals and ideals with that of Bobs to show how the American dream has become morphed. Vanise represents the old American dream and Bob the new. It is not as if the old American dream lacked a sense of materialism to it. The first explorers to the “New World” sought material goods, gold especially, to not only makes their lives more “enjoyable” but to pay off the cost of the expedition. Of course, the old American dream had more substance to it. It included religious freedom, political choice, and freedom
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from discrimination. Thomas Jefferson summed it up in the Declaration of Independence as “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness ” (Dreaming America 26) The difference between then and now is that the “pursuit of happiness” is increasingly based soley on a monetary basis. In Christopher Douglas Dreaming America
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ExpoAssignment 3_3 - The American Dream of Material Wealth...

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