The American dream can be defined as the promise of living in America with opportunities for all, regardless of social class, and according to their ability and effort (Schnell, 2010). Proponents of the American dream believe that there is equal opportunity for all in the American society to achieve success. Success is not pegged on social status, race, or creed, but rather on an individual’s own efforts. The definition of the American dream has unique interpretations to different people. The most common meaning is that of a life of abundance and prosperity, characterized by economic rewards that enable one to live a middle class life of comfort. Here, success is measured by material possessions such as beautiful homes, cars, a high income, and the ability to spend on luxury items. America is considered a land of plenty, and as such, many who come to the United States in search of the American dream have this form of success in mind.
The second meaning of the American dream is that of social justice, and the inclusion of all in the social and political aspects of American life. This is the American dream that is best illustrated in Frederick Douglass’ narrative. This is the dream that was sought by the civil rights movement, which was focused on widening opportunities for all Americans, regardless of their race or social status. This American dream is however more tightly intertwined with race, than with social status. Douglass’ narrative demonstrates the challenges faced by members of minority races in America in their pursuit of the American dream of equal opportunity, upward mobility, and inclusion in other social and political aspects of American life.
The American dream is based on several fundamental components, which are all illustrated in the narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass. These components include but are not limited to, individualism, hard work, equal opportunity, talent, and will. Douglass’ narrative clearly illustrates how these components played a part in enabling him to realize his ultimate dream of freedom.
The American dream is closely tied with individualism, where there is emphasis on personal achievements as well as individual rights. In American society, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and the freedom to express such opinions. With this right, each individual is expected to push himself towards success on the basis of his/her own personal efforts. The American dream is also based on the belief that anyone who has enough talent, will, drive, and merit can overcome insurmountable obstacles to achieve whatever they set their minds to. However, not everyone can achieve success as it is based on an individual’s abilities, initiative, and willingness to take risks. Frederick Douglass demonstrates this trait of individualism throughout his life, with his willingness to take risks, and to overcome obstacles placed in his way, so as to acquire whatever he sought. This trait is what sets him...