Entertainment / Literature / American Dream: A theme in American literature, film, and art that expresses optimistic desires for self-improvement, freedom, and self-sufficiency. Harry Shaw notes that the term can have no clear and fixed expression because 'it means whatever its user has in mind a particular time' (12). In general, it has connotations of 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness' in Thomas Jefferson's phrasing. One expression of this is the materialistic 'rags-to-riches' motif of many nineteenth-century novels. Here, a young pauper through hard work, cleverness, and honesty, rises in socio-economic status until he is a powerful and successful man. An example here would be the stories by Horatio Alger. Other expressions of this theme focus on more more abstract qualities like freedom or self-determination. Many critics have argued that this dream is in many ways a myth in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries, given America's frequent discriminatory treatment of immigrants and its continuing economic trends in which an ever smaller number of wealthy people acrue an ever larger percentage of material wealth with each generation, i.e., 'the rich get richer and the poor get babies.' Other events, such as the loss of the American frontier, segregation and exclusion of minorities, mccarthyism in the 1950s, unpopular wars in Vietnam in the 1960s, and gradual ecological devastation over the last hundred years, together have inspired literary works that criticize or question the American Dream--often seeing it as ultimately selfish or destructive on one or more levels. Examples of these writing would be Miller's Death of A Salesman, Ellison's Invisible Man, and Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.
Dream Noun Synonyms: imagine, fancy, conjure up, hallucinate
Dream Adjective Synonyms: reverie, day-dream, delusion, fantasy, hallucination, illusion, vision, mirage, pipedream, (flight of) fancy, speculation
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