The American dream reality or illusion

“The negative side to the American Dream is when people chase success at all costs, which in turn causes the vision and dream to be destroyed.”  According John Steinbeck’s “Paradox And Dream”, Americans live in paradoxes and never achieve true satisfaction. To achieve the American Dream, we do everything possible. Similar to The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, Nick, also known as the narrator, sees firsthand the extremes Jay Gatsby goes to in his quest for a rekindling of an old love. Gatsby’s dream remains as pure as ever, but his obstacles become more corrupt than the last. This leads to his untimely death. Gatsby is a believer in his cause and the pursuit of the extravagant Daisy. Steinbeck and Fitzgerald are correct in their views about Americans never being satisfied or achieving the American Dream. Satisfaction can be a false illusion. It is a belief that something will happen, but it never happens.

Americans believe they are part of something greater. Americans believe that they are part of the American way, which is characterized by determination and purity. This will eventually lead them to their highest point of life, the fulfillment of their American Dream. Our purity becomes corrupted ignorance. Steinbeck, in “Paradox & Dream”, describes this as “We proudly insist on our political positions being based on the issues. We will vote against any man due to his religion, name or shape of his nose.” This is an example of American life’s corruption.

How can we be proud of our purity and live our dreams? Steinbeck explains another example of how the American way to life is failing many people. Steinbeck explains this by saying, “A man who is hungry, unemployed by his own stupidity, that of others, a man beat by a brutal copman, a woman forced to prostitution because of her laziness, high costs, availability and despair- all bow with reverence towards the American Way of Life.” Steinbeck basically says that even though they are in terrible circumstances, all these people feel deep respect for America’s way of life. This is an important way to show Americans’ ignorance about the problems they face in their lives and the dreams they pursue. Steinbeck’s view is supported by millions of Americans who have fallen for the American dream.

Many people believe that anyone can achieve the American Dream if they work hard enough. Fitzgerald loves to portray the idea that the American Dream is corrupted by a lack of morality in The Great Gatsby. In the 1920s, the American Dream changed from a comfortable lifestyle to one that is characterized by wealth and power. Fitzgerald wants to show that focusing too much on the materialistic aspect of the American Dream can lead to disappointment. This is evident when Nick hints at it: “It wasn’t when my curiosity about Gatsby was at his highest, that the lights in his home failed to turn on one Saturday night. And, as obscurely, it had begun, Trimalchio’s career was over.” It was only gradually that I realized that the cars which were expectingly parked in his driveway stayed there for a few minutes before driving off.” (Fitzgerald 113). Trimalchio was a fictional character that was created by Roman Petronius. He rose from “rags-to-riches” but was eventually defeated by the ostentation of success. Even though Gatsby is no longer a luxurious host, he remains determined to regain his true love. Because their American dreams are devoted to materialistic possessions, this portrays Jordan, Tom, George and Daisy as the undisputed Trimalchios in the novel. Wilson telling Michaelis about his encounter with Myrtle is a less direct, but equally relevant example.

Wilson said, “She might fool you, but she couldn’t fool God.” (Fitzgerald 159). Wilson is telling Myrtle this to say that God saw all she did in her attempts to get into the world of wealth, including the affair with Tom. Wilson stated that Michaelis saw Dr. T.J. Eckleburg’s eyes after Wilson made this statement. The eyes on the billboard may be just that of a billboard. But to George Wilson, they are the eyes that guard everyone. Wilson believes God is aware of all the sacrifices Americans will make to achieve the American Dream. Americans can commit crime and infidelity, as demonstrated by Tom, Gatsby and Myrtle, if that is what it takes to attain true happiness or satisfaction.

Satisfaction refers to the fulfillment of one’s desires, expectations, and needs. Understanding why Americans are so happy is crucial. The Great Gatsby also highlights the importance of dissatisfaction as it explains why everyone will do whatever is necessary to achieve their ultimate goal of contentment. There will always be a unfulfilled wish, so nobody will ever be content. Tom, who is wealthy and married to Daisy in The Great Gatsby has a daughter, but he’s never satisfied. Tom was once a very talented football player, but his dreams were cut short by an injury. Nick states that Tom was dissatisfied because he had no vision into Daisy’s heart but felt that Tom would continue to drift, just a little wistfully looking for the dramatic turbulence in an irrecoverable football match. (Fitzgerald 6). Nick is referring to Tom’s dissatisfaction by hinting at it. A successful football career could have prevented this. Tom has an affair with a lower-class woman to satisfy his needs. This exposes Tom’s true motivation for his behavior, which portrays him as a disgusting individual.

Steinbeck also adds to the dissatisfaction effect by saying, “The result is that it seems like we are in a constant state of turmoil both mentally and physically.” Steinbeck is simply saying that being unhappy can lead to physical and mental distress. This is because we don’t stop looking for comfort or trying to achieve the American Dream. Inability to feel satisfied is a sign of our inevitable decline.

There is a strong argument that the American Dream is a tool that can lead to fulfillment when it is achieved or realized. Steinbeck, in “Paradox & Dream”, states that dreams are our vague longings for what we want to be and how we can make it happen: wise, just and compassionate. It is possible that the fact that we have this dream at any time is a sign of its possibility.” (Steinbeck). Steinbeck wants to convey the idea that the American Dream may be possible and is achievable. This is crucial to Steinbeck’s argument that Americans might be different from those who consider us delusional for believing the American Dream.

Similar to Steinbeck’s, Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby suggests that perhaps the American Dream may not be a product our imaginations. Nick says respectfully, “He had traveled a long distance to reach this blue lawn.” (Fitzgerald 180). Fitzgerald uses this to say that Gatsby was courageous enough to pursue his dream, even though he failed. Nobody can deny how close he came to realizing his American Dream. Steinbeck and Fitzgerald both give hope for the American Dream.

It is clear that the American Dream is a figment of people’s imaginations that allows them to pursue their dreams and goals. People who think they are happy are lying. Everyone will always have a deep-seated desire or wish. Satisfaction is a hoax. It’s a fact that is unavoidable. Sometimes, it’s not about the destination but the journey.

American Dream against Reality Throughout History

Since the 1930s, the American dream has been a driving force in America. The concept encouraged many Americans to work hard over the next several decades. Their goal was to be able to do whatever they wanted. Many people took numerous steps to achieve noticeable social or economic mobility. Psychologists and political leaders used this idea to encourage their followers and to support them in pursuing the best activities and initiatives to reach their full potential. Many Americans still face many problems and challenges. They also have not been able to realize their goals. This paper explains why the American dream is a myth.

The American Dream

The American dream was founded on the idea of a nation that would support all people and empower them to realize their potential. Many societies believed that the country was capable of achieving this vision before 1964. Citizens were encouraged to work hard and pursue new goals, as well as to send their children to the best schools. This development encouraged citizens across the world to recognize that America is indeed a land of great opportunities (“Academic Freedom”) It was clear that ambitious, courageous, and productive people would do great things for their families and themselves.

Every American citizen was confronted with new realities by the Civil Rights Movement’s (CRM) events and experiences. The United States was facing a major problem with racial discrimination. Many victims were unable to achieve their dream of equality because of this problem. They were unable to access better jobs, quality education, or sustainable medical services.

These circumstances would eventually lead to African Americans and other minorities being forced to question the American dream through nonviolent protests (“Academic Freedom”) In reality, social mobility rates have declined due to the United States’ increasing justice system and inequalities.

The United States has made many achievements since the 1960s. Many corporations and industries have continued to dominate the global marketplace by inventing and presenting innovative technologies that meet the different needs of customers. To combat a variety of bad behavior, new laws and policies have been created. These include inequalities in work environments, gender disparity, ineffective programs for social welfare, disempowerment of elderly and minority groups, and ineffective social welfare programs. These ideas and laws have been informed by the vision that America will always be a land of many opportunities (Gescinska 47). The remarkable fact is that citizens have continued to be unable to realize this reality.

This assertion is supported by the issue of poverty. Despite being a rich democracy (“America’s Wealthy”), the United States has one of the highest levels of poverty. Most programs designed to address this problem have not produced positive results. People living in extreme poverty are unable to attain equality and achieve their goals in life. This country has a high number of children who live in poverty (Gescinska 50). This is a stark reminder that the government has not done much to improve the situation.

Income inequality is the second area of concern. The ability to create a national dream is possible through attributes such as standard salaries and wages for everyone. Globalization has led to a situation where the government is completely ignoring the issue of inequality. Many citizens have made better choices and political decisions that support corporate America’s interests (“Academic Freedom”) Different citizens are unable to find better jobs or pursue their economic goals.

Education is one of many catalysts for economic growth and development. The American dream was a concept that everyone should have access to quality education. This would have allowed all citizens to achieve their goals and take part in activities that would ultimately transform their lives (“Academic Freedom”) Reality is that education has been neglected by the government as a powerful tool for creating new opportunities.

Many children cannot access high-quality education because American colleges and learning institutions offer costly courses or programs (“Academic Freedom”), making it difficult for them to get quality education. Individuals who choose to study at religious-based institutions have also been denied equal educational opportunities and resources by some state governments.

Self-improvement seems to have replaced the American dream. This idea is believed to impose responsibility on individuals to work hard and pursue their goals (Gescinska 50). This goal is becoming difficult or impossible for many. Many people in poverty have been affected by this. The other side is that those who are focused on their goals will eventually overlook others, leading to greater disparity. The corporate world is a place where the rich can go further. These businesses have a significant impact on what people eat, drink, and think. They can also influence the political system and support those who are able to achieve their goals.

Because of ineffective policies and systems, only a few Americans control the highest percent of America’s wealth. Only 1% of the population manages around 43 percent of America’s wealth (“America’s Wealthy”), according to statistics. This trend is unlikely to change unless the government takes the necessary steps. Many businesses and corporations are controlled by a small number of people. These attributes show that the American dream is still a fantasy for the majority of Americans.


The current state of affairs reveals the need for the government’s to adopt appropriate laws and policies to address major problems facing many Americans. It is important to first focus on the recent developments that have blurred the role and importance of democracy in improving the lives and experiences for all citizens.

The idea of political leadership, for example, has taken a different route. Corporations and entrepreneurs tend to support parties that will protect their business interests or meet their expectations. The result is that many people are not able to realize their full potential in a country that was supposed be equal (Cramer 45). It is important to first consider the transformation of the country’s political system in order to support all people’s dreams.

Second, the United States needs new laws to improve the quality and accessibility of education. The NAACP, for example, has advocated a new policy that ensures that all education boards across the country treat students with dignity and address their needs. It also promotes programs that are compatible with the needs of different communities (“America’s Wealthy”). Superior policies and programs will help more Americans realize their potential and live the American dream. Superior programs that improve the quality of healthcare, social welfare, and income will help more people achieve their goals.

The government should also support and introduce better laws to address the many problems faced by citizens of the country, such as inequality, poverty, underrepresentation, income discrimination and homelessness.


This discussion has shown that the American dream is not a reality. While the original pioneers of this idea encouraged citizens to work hard and keep their eyes on their goals, subsequent governments have failed to implement better or more evidence-based strategies and policies to support it. New laws, policies, and programs will help citizens face the problems they continue to face, making it easier to live better lives.