The Impossible American Dream in Anzia Yezierska's “America and I,” Uncle and Jayanti from Chitra Divakaruni's “Silver Pavements, Golden Roofs,” and Leon from Fae Myenne Ng's Bone. America has always been characterized as the land of dreams and opportunities. Immigrants entering America took these characterizations to heart. The dreams and aspirations of stable, wealthy, and happy lives in America became known as the “American Dream”. However, the “American Dream” hardly ever turns out like any individuals have anticipated. This is evident in the lives of the main character from Anzia Yezierska's “America and I,” Uncle and Jayanti from Chitra Divakaruni's “Silver Pavements, Golden Roofs,” and Leon from Fae Myenne Ng's Bone. The failed “American Dream” is a driving force in all of their lives. Gregory S. Jay suggests a solution to this problem though. He writes,
The literary history of the US ought to be represented not by 'the American' and 'his dream,' but in terms of how various cultural groups and their forms have interacted during the nation's ongoing construction...Such a history would have many protagonists, wearing many faces, speaking many languages, recalling divergent history, desiring different future...focused around contestation rather than unity” (Jay 271).
Jay suggests a way to eradicate the idea of the “American Dream” and create a new life and dream for each individual. In the lives the main characters from “America and I,” “Silver Pavements, Golden Roofs,” and Bone, it is evident that the negative aspects of the “American Dream” have huge impact. But it is also evident how their lives could have been different if Jay's suggestion is taken into account.
The first example of the negativity of the “American Dream” is in the unnamed narrator of Anzia Yezierska's story “America and I.” The narrator immigrates from Russia to America full of dreams and desires. She says, “America was a land of living hope, woven of dreams, aflame with longing and desire” (Yezierska 1970). For the narrator, America represents the ideal place to live, where everyone's dreams can come true. She believes that “in America everybody works for love. Nobody has to worry for a living” (Yezierska 1974). The narrator quickly finds out that life in America is not about working for love. Despite having hope that the former Russian immigrants that she is working for will treat her well, her very first job ends with her receiving no wages for her hard work. The narrator's second job is no better, with endless hours, little rest, and even less money. She is confused and cannot seem to discover herself and her place in an America that is so different than her...