What is the American Dream?

What is the American Dream?

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The American dream is the idea (often associated with the Protestant
work ethic) held by many in the United States of America that through
hard work, courage and determination one can achieve prosperity. These
were values held by many early European settlers, and have been passed
on to subsequent generations. What the American dream has become is a
question under constant discussion.


In the 20th century, the American dream had its challenges. The
Depression caused widespread hardship during the Twenties and
Thirties, and was almost a reverse of the dream for those directly
affected. Racial instability did not disappear, and in some parts of
the country racial violence was almost commonplace. There was concern
about the undemocratic campaign known as McCarthyism carried on
against suspected Communists.

Since the end of World War II, young American families have sought to
live in relative bourgeois comfort in the suburbs that they built up.
This was aided as a vision by the apparent winning of the Cold War.

The American Dream appears to have enduring appeal to many in other
countries. The United States remains a magnet for immigrants today,
receiving 1 million legal entrants annually--the highest such rate in
the world. Whereas past generations of immigrants tended to come from
Europe, a majority of contemporary immigrants hail from Latin America
and Asia. Unknown numbers of illegal immigrants also enter the country
annually, chiefly from across the southern border with Mexico.


The concept of the American dream has been the subject of much
criticism. The main criticism is that the American dream is
misleading. These critics say that, for various reasons, it simply is
not possible for everyone to become prosperous through determination
and hard work. The consequences of this belief can include the poor
feeling that it is their fault that they are not successful. It can
also result in less effort towards helping the poor since their
poverty is "proof" of their laziness. The concept of the American
dream also ignores other factors of success such as the family and
wealth one is born into and inheritable traits such as intelligence.
In particular, in the US it is difficult for children of poor families
to afford college; not attending college sets upper limits on their
career success, and it is essentially impossible to earn a bachelors'
degree — necessary for many fields — in one's free time once one
begins working full-time.

A critical comparison of the American dream and the experience of
Italian-Americans is one of the themes in The Godfather film trilogy

A View from the Bridge

A View from the Bridge is a play by Arthur Miller originally produced

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as a verse drama on Broadway in 1955. It was based upon an unproduced
screenplay that Miller developed with Elia Kazan entitled The Hook,
dealing with corruption on the docks of a port. (Though the movie was
never made, Kazan's 1954 film On the Waterfront developed similar

Though the 1955 production was not successful, it was revised in 1956
to become a more traditional prose play, and it is through this
version that audiences are most familiar with the work today.
(Interestingly, the play was adapted into an opera in 1999 by William
Bolcom, thus bringing the story back into verse.)

The main character in the story is Eddie Carbone, and his
relationships with his niece at the arrival of his wife's cousins.

Marco and Rodolpho

In the play the brothers, widely separated by age, are usually
referred to in this order, but Rodolpho is more prominent in the first
act and at the start of the second, while Marco becomes more important
towards the end of the play. Make sure you know why this is. In every
sense except their being brothers, the two are unalike. This is not
just a subtle matter of character, but is shown in ways which are
obvious in a theatre. They look different, they act differently and
their speech differs.

Rodolpho is slender, graceful and (unusually in a Sicilian)
blond-haired (Eddie nicknames him "Danish"); he is strong enough to
work, but weaker than the thick-set Eddie. Marco is not simply strong
by contrast, he is unusually strong by any standard, and excites
admiring comment from Mike. Marco is dark and powerfully built.

Where Rodolpho speaks almost incessantly, Marco is often silent. He
has some difficulty speaking English, but this is not his only reason.
He is very attentive to what is going on and being said, he thinks and
then speaks, and he clearly believes actions speak louder than words,
whether in unloading a ship or threatening Eddie. In the latter case,
as he raises a chair like a weapon, he is able to express an idea
which he would not wish to put into words as it would seem to show
ingratitude to his host. Rodolpho is an enthusiast for all things

This explains why he spends money on fashionable clothes and records,
of which Eddie so disapproves. He loves Catherine but is appalled at
her suggestion that they return to Italy. Marco, on the other hand,
clearly misses his family and has only come to the U.S.A. out of love
for them. Rodolpho has learned, presumably from tourists, records and
books, how to speak fluent English. Marco speaks more slowly and less
correctly, but with simple dignity and clarity. Because there is no
regular paid work in his home country, Rodolpho has learned other ways
to support the family: there is nothing so odd in his singing, cooking
and dress-making skills. But in a world where there is work, and men's
and women's tasks are clearly defined, as in Red Hook, these talents
are suspect.

Both Rodolpho and Marco are proud, but Marco has a stronger sense of
the traditional values of the community. When Eddie attempts a joke
about the "surprises" awaiting men who return from working in the
U.S.A. for several years, Marco corrects him, while appearing not to
see anything funny in the suggestion. It is Marco who tells Alfieri
that at home Eddie would already be dead for his betrayal: he feels
even more strongly than Eddie does the values which Eddie expresses in
telling the story of Vinnie Bolzano. Rodolpho, on the other hand,
tries to calm his brother, and offers Eddie a chance to make peace, a
chance which Eddie spurns.

Marco feels a sense of responsibility for his brother (he tells him to
"come home early") but also feels responsible to the community, and
ready to punish the one who has injured its unity, Eddie. It is
Rodolpho whom Eddie seeks at first to eliminate (by showing Catherine
he is homosexual, then by betraying him and Marco to the authorities).
But after Marco spits in his face and announces: "I accuse that one",
Eddie's quarrel is with the elder brother. He will barely speak to
Rodolpho and refers to him in the third person when he is present: "He
didn't take my name; he's only a punk. Marco's got my name." Eddie
understands that, in effect, a challenge has been issued by Marco;
contradicting Marco is Eddie's only way of trying to recover the lost
name, but is as impossible as it is for him to have Catherine as a
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