American Dream

Use direct references to Emerson’s work from the first week, the history of the idea, the American dream, and from Alger’s Ragged Dick and/or Oh Pioneers! Be sure to have a main idea that you would like to discuss, based on your readings and/or upon the discussion boards from these last three weeks. I will be looking for that thesis statement in your opening paragraph.

For instance, you might be struck by Ragged Dick’s self restraint as he goes forward in his life. Currency conversion shows that $5 dollars he got would be about $88 today. He doesn’t spend it all though, does he? What is Alger telling us about how money should be spent, exactly? What is the relation of frugal behavior to successfully fulfilling a dream? What does self restraint take, exactly?

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Have you even considered what does make humans happy? Every time I think about the “pursuit of happiness” I wonder what the founding fathers meant. I understand that they were writing from a long ago time and I suspect that their ideas about life were far from our own. Today there are even scholarly journals that publish articles that explore human happiness. What does make humans happy? What would Alger, Cather, and/or Emerson say about the concept of happiness? Is this even an achievable or worthy goal? What are you thinking?

You might consider how Alexandra is treated as a successful female among the people of her tightly bound immigrant community. When her father selects her for the head of the household upon his death, he basically remakes her future. How does her life change and why? Can Alexandra pursue the American Dream, once given these responsibilities? Can she attain it? Can any woman?

Many readers of O Pioneers! resent the heck out of the two elder brothers, Lou and Oskar, for the way that they resent their sister, Alexandria. Can you, fitting into the shoes of these men and their time and place in history, write a defense of their resentment? What were they feeling, what would they have had to endure as the brothers to the successful Alexandra, and why do they blame her for the eventual tragic events of their lives?

Emerson tells us that imitation is suicide. Each of us must pursue our own dreams based on our beliefs, talents, and curiosities. It’s as if we are riding in that plane when the oxygen mask drops down to us and we are told we must fit it over our own mouth and nose before helping anyone else. This indicates self love but also a sort of selfishness. Equate Emerson’s idea to characters we are reading and thinking about.

Emerson writes about being our own person. He is in love with the idea that each of us are individuals. He asserts that we must develop our individuality or ruin our lives. Those who conform are lost, he says. We diminish ourselves when we listen to others and what they want for us. There are those who read “Self Reliance” and find it a welcome revelation — it’s the word I have been waiting for, one student said. Others argue that most of us must conform to succeed and they launch evidence to prove it. Discuss Emerson and his relevance. Are there those who have succeeded without listening to conforming voices?

Many of us may be unhappy about the fact that the American dream lately seems to be about the quest for things — especially “lusting” after opulent houses. Robert Schiller, a writer, comments, ” we need to bring back the American Dream of a just society, where everyone has an opportunity to reach ‘the fullest stature of which they are innately capable.’ ” He very much dislikes the American quest of big houses, love of things, and flashy behavior. Is materialistic behavior today so different than the dream pursued by the Bergsons or by Ragged Dick? Given our recent societal traumas, is this the perfect time to have a discussion about trying to return to a purer time?

This short paper should be about 750 words in length, double-spaced, and well organized. It should contain quotes and direct references to demonstrate you have read and thought about the works you use to discuss your topic. Cite sources using APA and edit mercilessly before uploading your work. There is a word count available in Word. If you are not using word, this translates to about two and a quarter pages.

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