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American Dream Essay

1735 words - 7 pages

The American Dream Having a family and finding a nice place to rear children does not seem like an unobtainable goal in the twentieth century, but once it was. In the past, a nice home, two automobiles, and high social status was a dream that would ensure happiness for the common man. Their dream was of the American Dream, defined by Webster as "an American social ideal that stresses egalitarianism and especially material prosperity." Currently, the American dream varies from person to person, touching every aspect of their lives. The authors, John Updike, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and John Cheever create characters, who pursue the values and ideals of the American Dream. Once the dream is obtained, they realize that the American Dream does not always guarantee personal happiness, acceptance, or contentment.In the past roles for women and men were strongly defined, and even if their beliefs differed from these roles, they followed them anyway. In John Updike's "Separating," Richard is a man who also like many others followed his assigned role, of providing for his family. This character does not just provide his family with the necessities for their lives, but also with many luxuries. Richard and his wife Joan have been married for many years, and have raised four children. Their children are no longer young, and they decide to break the news of their separation to them. As Richard and his wife discuss how tell their children Joan asks, "Do you have a better plan? That leaves you the rest of Saturday to answer any questions, pack, and make your wonderful departure" (Updike 2436). The tone set by that statement gives the reader some indication that this separation may evolve into a divorce, and that Richard may desire to be somewhere else. What could make Richard want to leave his family, home, and the life he has spent years building? John Updike answers this question by depicting Richard simply as an unhappy man in pursuit of happiness. Richard describes his last moments with his family as " Each moment was a partition, with the past on one side and the future on the other, a future containing the unthinkable now. Beyond four knifelike walls a new life for him waited vaguely" (Updike 2436). Richard is very emotional about his decision, for it not only means leaving his family, but also everything he knows should have made him happy. In the story neither Joan nor his kids are described as undeserving, Updike does not speak of a trouble marriage or bad kids, because he wants the reader to understand this separation is only about Richard. Richard represents the many men throughout the world that no longer follow the roles and values assigned to them by the American Dream. He has chosen to defy society and break the rules, by not suppressing his personal happiness for that of his family, but instead leaving one family with the possibility of starting another.Out of the three authors, F. Scott Fitzgerald is the only one of them that gives the readers a...

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