The “American Dream”

What really is the “American Dream”?

Source – modified

When I hear the phrase: “The American Dream” I immediately think back to World War I and World War II and I think of the hundreds and thousands of immigrants that came to the United States of America. Either to get away from the struggles of their home country or to start a new life with their family.

But once they reach the United States their dreams are crushed with the reality that life isn’t that easy. They face so many hardships, for example: finding housing, jobs, and happiness. People already in the United States do not appreciate immigrants coming into their country and trying to take their shelter, jobs, and food. So they discriminate against them, shun them, sometimes they even attack them.

Picture taken by me

That’s why I feel like the “American Dream” shouldn’t really be considered a dream. It shouldn’t be something people aspire to gain. Though I can understand that if people are really going through a really rough spot and the United States is a way better option then of course they can pray to gain the American Dream.

In The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck, he tells a story about the Joad family’s adventure to California from Oklahoma. The Joad family leave their home in Sallisaw, Oklahoma to move west to California to find jobs to get money. The reason why they are looking for jobs is because “[d]ust [is] comin’ up an’ spoilin’ ever’thing so a man didn’t get enough crop…An’ ever’body got bills…the folks that owns the lan’ says, ‘We can’t afford to keep no tenants,’ (Steinbeck 47).

The drought that is currently from the Dust Bowl is killing the land. The farmers can’t grow any crops to pay their bills and so the landowners have to kick the farmers out of house and home. But there are rumors that there is plenty of land and jobs available in California, so the all the farmers move west.

The Joad family wanting to move to California is their version of the American Dream, except it’s the Californian Dream. They dream of being in California and having a job and a happy life, but to their dismay life wasn’t going to be like that. The Joad’s journey and arrival to California is really similar to the immigrant’s journey.

The Californians call the people that come from Oklahoma, “goddamned Okies”, and if that isn’t a degrading thing to be called then I don’t know what is. (Steinbeck 283) The people from Oklahoma are also called “dirty and ignorant…degenerate, sexual maniacs…thieves…filthy…strangers,” which aren’t very nice words to call human beings just like you. (Steinbeck 283).

Which makes it more an example for the Okies to not have their semi-“American Dream”.

According to In the Strawberry Fields by: Eric Schlosser, in the Language of Composition textbook, he visited Watsonville, California to see the strawberry fields.

He states that growers (of strawberries and etc.) can hire and fire workers like that without any explanation at all. It doesn’t matter if a “migrant has been an employee for six days or for six years. The terms of employment are laid down on a daily basis” (432). Those terms of employment are really similar to those in The Grapes of Wrath. Which aren’t very good terms. Which further leads me to believe that trying to get to America with nothing but a suitcase isn’t going to be an easy task.

My family immigrated to California from Hong Kong. Not only was there a language barrier, but my grandparents had to find jobs to support their daughter and three sons.

Picture taken by me: Back Row (left to right) – Uncle Stephen, Aunt Olivia Front Row (left to right) – Uncle Henry, My Dad Tommy

My grandparent’s story is kind of similar to that of Eddie Huang’s book: Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir. 

Though my grandparents didn’t have enough money to create their own restaurant when they reached California, they worked their butts off working in other people’s restaurants to earn money to eventually start their own restaurant.

My grandparents worked in Chinese restaurants to gain experience, once they had enough money they opened their own restaurant called Mei’s Chinese Restaurant on Beach Boulevard. Where as Eddie’s parents opened a steak and seafood restaurants. My grandparents worked long and hard hours, trying to manage your own business isn’t as easy as it seems.

In conclusion, I think if that if you can work hard and overcome the obstacles in front of you the “American Dream” might not only be a dream.


4 thoughts on “The “American Dream”

  1. Jennifer says:

    I like that you used your own family example to show how the American Dream had to worked for, as many immigrant families who came here with almost nothing (including my own) know. I’d like there to be more analysis or just more in-depth discussion of your ideas, but great job!


  2. mkchu100 says:

    Quite an interesting read. I think of the “American Dream” as a idea constructed to help people gain hope for a brighter future. It is something that can become reality if one puts in the effort. I hope that the hope created by the “American Dream” does not fade away in people.


  3. aysiab29 says:

    I really like how you included your personal story of your family and how you were able to connect it with “Fresh Off the Boat” to show that there are so many stories of people achieving the “American Dream.”


  4. Suaylia says:

    I don’t necessarily think immigrants are taking the “jobs” of this country. If the jobs were not wanted by the first place by native Americans, then how it is considered “stealing” or “taking” jobs?

    I disagree with the idea that the American dream is dead. What other country do you know that offer more opportunities especially entrepreneurship than America?

    Yes the economy is not the best. But here in America you can be anything you want to be. We have more opportunities than in our parents’ native country. So I certainly don’t think the American dream is dead.

    I see the American dream as something tangible and achievable.

    I can see why our parents or our grandparents see America has the land to make it big.
    But honestly though let’s be real when you move into a different country, you gotta be realistic. You are going to face challenges and it’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it in the end.


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