The American Dream

Albert Schweitzer once said 'Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you're doing, you will be successful.' Many Americans today robustly believe in the idea that the key to success is popularity and money, but in reality, sucess depends on solely happiness. Despite the amount of friends or money one has, without a sense of fulfillment and contentment, once cannot complete the journey of life.
In Arthur Miller's play, Death of a Salesman, the tragic life of an aging man and his journey to achieve the American Dream is portrayed. We see how a father tries to disregard his own failure and try to fulfill his dream indirectly through his son. His eldest son, Biff, clearly disagrees with this way of thinking. Biff tries to convince his father that they were not meant for the so-called 'Dream' when he says 'Pop! I'm a dime a dozen, and so are you!' (Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman, pg. 132). Due to the fact that Willy (Biff's father) believes so strongly in the relationship between popularity and success, the fact that his son disagrees leads him to commit suicide. This is a perfect example of how the need for acceptance and love plays an enormous role in even the everyday person's life. If the failure to achieve a certain amount of income or a certain level of popularity can lead to suicide, that says more than enough about the unnecessary pressures American society places on its citizens. All Biff wanted was for his father to accept him for who he was, but instead he was rejected for what he failed to become.
The Catcher in the Rye illustrates how, even when one has financial support and 'friends' there can still be an absence of self-esteem and self-confidence. Holden Caulfield can't go a day without continually judging others and, because of this, he fails to create any worthy friendships. Also, despite his family's riches, Holden carelessly spends his money as if it has no significance, as if it is unimportant to his life. 'Goddamn money. It always ends up making you blue as hell.' (J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye). Although Holden suffers from a disorder, the main reason he lacks friends is simply because others don't accept him. We are deleterious to our own kind because we do not allow others the equal chance to achieve happiness. We deny this luxury of joy and self-contentment because we as a nation cannot even allow them the opportunity to feel accepted and loved for the people that they naturally are.
In the novel Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury provides social commentary on the corruption in society created by money and popularity. In the novel, a firefighter by the name of Guy Montag lives every day precisely with the same routine that he has been accustomed to his entire life. He is not just any regular firefighter, but one who burns books. The novel's setting takes place in an advanced American city where all people are controlled to be equal. The government of the city does not tolerate the intellect of an individual or an 'excess' in financial income from any household. Also, the people do not maintain any meaningful relationships with other individuals but do in fact share it with the technology that surrounds them. Guy sees right through the pretense that technology's advancements can produce true happiness. He yearns for more valuable interactions with others and he wishes to broaden his span of knowledge, but is denied this because of his society's restrictions. This clearly makes him unhappy and he fights the government to create a free world as a means of expressing his dissatisfaction with its regulations. 'Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.' (Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, page 183). This is a significant illustration of how despite the amount of materialistic objects such as technology or money one has or even just the idea of popularity possessed by an individual cannot be associated with one's happiness.

In Black Boy, Richard Wright describes the mystery that was his childhood. Richard lived in a period of time where Americans were segregated solely based on the color of their skin. Raised under the notion that blacks belonged under the power of whites, Richard hungered not only for food, but for a sense of competition and happiness that he has never known. Although he eventually achieves a steady income and all the food he could ever want as an adult, he is still not able to gratify this hunger. He finds that the constant rejection from his family and peers that he has experienced as a child has left a void in his heart. This void does not allow him to achieve true contentment with his life. He even says 'Trying to please everybody, I pleased nobody'' (Richard Wright, Black Boy, Ch. 18). He spent so much of his childhood trying to be loved by his family that he is never satisfied even as an adult because he fears rejection. This further proves the constant struggles for acceptance and popularity only lead to an individual's demise.
In F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, he portrays the extravagance of the 'Roaring Twenties'. The story takes place in New York, and the main character Nick moves to in order to pursue his dream in business, yet soon enough he encounters the unexpected. Nick encounters the drama that unfolds between a love triangle involving his cousin Daisy, her husband Tom and her teenage sweetheart Jay Gatsby. Jay Gatsby plays the role of the incredibly rich and popular man who constantly throws grand parties, yet he sits alone at these events. Since he distances himself from his guests it shows that regardless of his popularity, Gatsby chooses to relieve himself of any company. He throws parties solely because he conforms to society's idea by showing off one's wealth, popularity is earned. However, this way of living goes against Gatsby because he is still unsatisfied with his life. 'I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in the others'young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.' (F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch.3). Gatsby, also craves an intimate and real relationship with another individual. Even though many people surround him due to his 'celebrity' status, he still feels disconnected from the reality that envelops him. He also lives such an extravagant life style as a means of winning back Daisy's love. However, she loved him for who he was as a person not for his wealth. Money and popularity can neither win us our acceptance nor buy us our friendships.
We strive so hard to achieve just a small piece of acceptance from our peers, when all that is needed is a sense of happiness with oneself. Mahatma Ghandi once said 'Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.' Therefore, when we are constantly thinking of what others think, we are enticed to say and do what others desire us to do. Once an individual thinks in a way that is original to them, they will then start to do and say things that are original to them. Biff Loman couldn't have said it any better when he said, 'Why am I trying to become what I don't want to be'when all I want is out there waiting for me the minute I say who I am.' (Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman, pg. 116). Once we allow ourselves to be content with who we are and allow ourselves to live the life we choose, that is when we will truly succeed. The only way to achieve this is to completely disregard materialistic items as well as the opinions of others and find peace and understanding within ourselves.

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