Is the American Dream Still Possible: Analysis of Literary Works

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In two theatrical works authored by American playwrights, "Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller, and "Fences" by August Wilson, we witness an examination of the American Dream. Traditionally, this dream was exclusively bestowed upon the middle-class White population, excluding people of color from its promise. However, these two plays present the idea that the American Dream was a fallacy for both Whites and Blacks alike. The American Dream is a fable that proclaims equal opportunities for every American, granting them the means to achieve their loftiest aspirations.

During the 1950s, Americans pursued the American Dream with great hope for the future, striving to own homes and start families. The period between 1946 and 1964, notably reaching its peak in 1957, was referred to as the "Baby Boom" due to the substantial increase in births. Parents encouraged their children to pursue their passions and firmly believed that they could become anything they desired. This freedom encompassed the opportunity for wealth and success, allowing families to elevate their social class through dedication and hard work, despite the challenges that plagued society.

In the essay "Is the American Dream still possible?", I delve into the reasons why the American Dream is not merely a fairy tale, but a genuine prospect for anyone in America.

Is the American Dream still possible?

The American dream transcended mere words; it became a way of life for all Americans, granting each individual a chance regardless of their social class or circumstances of birth. It was not merely about material possessions but rather the pursuit of personal growth and fulfillment, unimpeded by the constraints of past civilizations and social hierarchies that often favored specific classes. Achieving the American Dream involved a challenging path, reconciling family values and aspirations.

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However, in the 1950s, African Americans were still denied access to the American Dream, with over half of their population living below the poverty line. Surprisingly, even some of the white men for whom the dream was originally conceived did not attain its promised success.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, in his novel "The Great Gatsby," aptly noted that each individual held their unique interpretation of the American Dream. During the 1950s, it became more about survival rather than pure success. Different people viewed success through varying lenses; for some, it meant wealth, while for others, it entailed happiness and a strong family foundation. The pursuit of the American Dream differed significantly between races, with Whites and African Americans navigating its complexities in distinct ways.

In the play "Death of a Salesman" and "Fences," both races grappled with the American Dream in their respective lives, seeking financial success and material comfort through different life approaches. "Death of a Salesman" revolves around Willy Loman, a 60-year-old man, delusional and self-conscious, haunted by past memories that seem surreal. His devoted wife, Linda, suffers as a result of his delusions and egotistical nature. Willy's fixation on his 34-year-old son Biff's perceived failures leads to family tensions. Biff's younger brother, Happy, joins the discussion, shedding light on their father's diminishing pride. In contrast, "Fences" follows the story of Troy Maxson, a former baseball player from the Negro league, who now works as a garbage man. His life is marked by tragedy and an unyielding sense of pride, ultimately straining his family relationships. Troy's son, Cory, faces challenges as he dreams of a college football scholarship, while his father's bitterness and regret serve as significant obstacles. Despite the similarities between the two plays, there are also marked differences in how they portray the American Dream and its impact on families.

Over time, the concept of the American Dream has evolved. In contemporary times, it revolves around personal prosperity, such as obtaining an education, securing a job with good benefits, affording healthcare, paying off debts, and leading a prosperous life. The American Dream still exists, though its interpretation varies among individuals.

To me, the American Dream encompasses personal success through education, family, and happiness. Although not everyone may concur, I believe that ample opportunities exist for people to pursue their dreams.


In conclusion, "Death of A Salesman" and "Fences" portray two middle-class families from the late 1940s to the 1950s, each facing internal struggles and challenges. While comparing Troy to Willy Loman may yield certain similarities, it's essential to recognize the vastly different paths they navigated in life. Willy Loman, a white man of privilege, squandered his advantages, while Troy Maxson, despite his hardships, exhibited resilience and determination. These plays offer a glimpse into the lives of urban families during that era, as seen through the eyes of their respective authors.

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