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We all have a dream, but the difference is how we realise our dream, how we obtain our dream, and how our dream changes us. This is evident in our learning of dreams and aspirations through the texts Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keys, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? by Lasse Hallström, and through my own studies of Million Dollar Baby by Clint Eastwood. These three highly acclaimed texts represent the same ideas on dreams and aspirations, which can be defined as hope, desire or the longing for a condition or achievement, but these texts express the same ideas differently, shaping our understanding of dreams and aspirations.
“If you can imagine it you can create. If you can dream it, you can become it.”
William Arthur Ward
These three texts contain the search for dreams, whether they be absurd, simple, or take you on a journey. Throughout the texts, the protagonists realise their dreams, each represented in a different way. In Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keys, Charlie’s dream is to be intelligent, not so that he can be normal, but so people will like him. Charlie knows that his retardation has cut him off from most of society, and has limited his ability to connect with people, but he does not mind. Charlie does not long to join society to increase his social standing; rather, he longs to join primarily because he is lonely. In Charlie’s mind, intelligence is the quality that will gain him entry into a world of friends. The resulting irony is that when Charlie does become incredibly intelligent, he finds himself even lonelier than before.
“I just want to be smart like other pepul so I can have lots of frends who like me.”
progris riport 6th page 10
It is also Charlie’s innocence of his dream that allows him to be exploited. It is Professor Nemur that has allowed Charlie’s innocence to be vandalised through the operation, as Professor Nemur expresses his own motivations in comforting Charlie that he will be famous, and will make the history books. However, these are Professor Nemurs’ dreams not Charlies, and Nemur is only using Charlie to reach his dreams.
“And he said that meens Im doing something grate for sience and Ill be famus and my name will go down in the books.
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Charlie’s dream may seem absurd to some, as technologically there is no magic cure for mental disability, and is the reason why Professor Nemur did not want Charlie to tell other people, as they may think that it is stupid, and hopeless.
Gilbert’s realisation of his dream in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? by Lasse Hallström is a lot different to Charlie’s. Unlike Flowers for Algernon, Gilbert only realises his dream midway through the film text, and this is only through Becky pushing Gilbert just far enough out of his rut to make a few things happen, forcing him to wake up to his life, and to take action. Gilbert is placed was in “hibernation” as nothing happens in Endora, and his life is dull, and simple.
“Living in Endora is like dancing to no music”
Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp)
However, when Gilbert does realise his dream of being free from the burdens of Endora, and being able to leave, it seems quite simple and humble compared to Charlie’s dream of being intelligent, and Maggie’s dream in Million Dollar Baby to become a successful boxer.
In Million Dollar Baby, by Clint Eastwood, there are dreams throughout the film text, some impossible, some present, some lost, and some unseen. Million Dollar Baby focuses on the unseen dream of Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), the 32 year-old inexperienced boxer. Her desire to box consumes every free moment she has in the effort of becoming a successful boxer. However, no one believes she has the power to do it except for her, but her willingness to continue endeavours on.
“If there’s magic in boxing, its the magic of fighting battles beyond endurance, beyond cracked ribs, ruptured kidneys and detached retinas.
It’s the magic of risking everything for a dream nobody sees but you.”
Eddie "Scrap-Iron" Dupris (Morgan Freeman)
Maggie’s dream is not lavish, but she works for it, as it is the only thing she has ever felt good doing. Her family can be seen as trailer park trash, but she does not want to be like them, and she works hard for her dream, so she can feel respected for earning her own merits, and not cheating the welfare system.
"Boxing is about respect: getting it for yourself, and taking it away from the other guy."
Eddie "Scrap-Iron" Dupris (Morgan Freeman)
Through realising your dreams, it can be understood about dreams and aspirations that anyone can have a dream, whether they be absurd, simple, or take you on a journey. However, your dream may exploited for another person’s own benefit in reaching their own dreams. You may have to be encouraged by another person to see your dreams, or no one will believe in your dreams, except yourself, and have the choice of continuing to reach your dream, or quit all together.
Obtaining your dreams is the difficult part of your dreams and aspirations. Another person may hand your dream to you, or a series of conditions may allow you to live out your dream, or you may have to work hard for your dream. Charlie’s dream of being intelligent is made possible through other people. Charlie only has a limited responsibility of making his dream happen. He only has to be willing to live out his dream, but he is made to record his thoughts in progress reports, and undergo tests to allow people like him to be given the opportunity of becoming intelligent. The progress reports also act as a guide to see if Charlie has been able to obtain his dream of becoming intelligent. Charlie thinks that his dream will come true overnight and looses hope in his dream of becoming intelligent.
When I waked up this morning rite away I thot I was gone to be smart but Im not. Evry morning I think Im gone to be smart but nothing happins. Maybe the experiement dint werk. Maby I wont get smart.”
PROGRESS REPORT 8 April 17, page 15
Gilbert could only obtain his dream once his burdens of Endora had passed. Two of his burdens which had constricted Gilbert to Endora, Betty Carver, his lover, and his mother, had passed, allowing Gilbert to live out his dream of leaving Endora. Gilbert had faced two opportunities to live out his dream through Betty leaving town, and his mother’s death, but had to face his third burden; Arnie. However, Gilbert came to accept Arnie, and learnt through Becky that Arnie was part of him, and they could never separate. Unlike in Charlie obtaining his dream, Gilbert had to work for his dream emotionally by accepting Arnie as part of his life that could never be separated.
As nobody believed Maggie could live out her dream, she had the greatest job out of the three protagonists to obtain her dream. Firstly, she had to convince others around her she could obtain her dream, and secondly, she had to actually obtain the dream. She convinced others, particularly Frankie Bunn that was able to become a successful boxer through her sheer willingness to learn and improve. She then obtained her dream through her determination to do so, through hard work and sacrifice.
Our understanding can be shaped of dreams and aspirations through the protagonist obtaining their dream. You may be able to obtain your dreams through other people’s help, or through a series of conditions that give you the opportunities to obtain your dreams, but you may have to understand and come to an agreement with the opportunities that were given to you. It is also evident in our understanding that dreams may have to worked for by yourself, in order to obtain them, even if no one else believes in you.
Once we have obtained our dreams, they may change us. Charlie goes through a detrimental change that distances him from other people around him. Even though he is very intelligent, he still has the emotional capabilities of what he had before the operation, as he has not had the time to develop his emotions at a pace a normal adult would have. This causes Charlie to be reclusive and shut himself off to his friends. Charlie did not fully understand his dreams’ consequences, and he is now in a worse position than he was in the beginning of the text.
As Gilbert only obtains his dream in the final stages of the film, we don’t see a drastic change in him, but rather gradual changes. His dream changes Gilbert for the better and for the worse. When he realises his dream, he starts to stop pleasing others, and starts to do things that he wants to do, taking control of his life. However, he forgets his responsibilities around the house, and becomes angrier, rather than his old humble self, as he forgets that Arnie was still in the bath, and hits Arnie when he refuses to take another bath. He also changes emotionally, as he opens up to the world, and awakens, forced to take control of his life.
Gilbert: “My father didn’t give anything, he was just there. It was like he was already dead.”
Becky: “I used to know a guy like that.”
In her efforts to obtain her dream, Maggie does not change much. Her personality stays the same, but she can express herself through presents to her family as she now has some money. However, when her family rejects the house she bought them for a gift, she becomes more determined to become a better boxer. She does not let the fame or money get to her, and she still calls Frank “Boss”, and rarely spends any money on herself.
When she has her accident, she changes drastically. She looses hope in the world, and emotionally becomes crippled. She looses hope and belief in herself in the time of need, but people around who did not believe in her at the start, stand by her defiantly. Her last stand is to end her life, as she is convinced there is no point in continuing her struggle, but on her deathbed she changes one person’s life, and gives hope to that person.
It is evident in our understanding of dreams and aspirations that our dreams can change us, whether it is for better or for worse. We may not comprehend the consequences to our dreams, and we must face these consequences. We can change emotionally, opening up to the world, or letting go, and loosing all hope around us.
Through the three texts; Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keys, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? by Lasse Hallström, and Million Dollar Baby by Clint Eastwood, our understanding is clearly shaped in many different ways. Anyone can have a dream, and in the realisation of their dreams, they may be absurd, simple or take you on a journey. Our dreams may be obtained through the help of others, through a series of opportunities, or through consistent hard work. Finally, our dreams can change us for better or worse, or emotionally opening us up, or to be reclusive and let go of the world.