The implicit critique of the American Dream in “Sea Oak”.
The notion of the American Dream is widely used describing the American Society in general. Sometimes we hear: “He is the real embodiment of the American Dream”. But what does it mean? Is he famous? Is he successful? Has he much money? The answer is YES. He is prosperous and wealthy. But how has he reached that? The answer is he believed in the American Dream. What is the American Dream, then?
The American dream is the idea held by many in the United States of America that through hard work, courage and determination one can achieve prosperity. These were values held by many early European settlers, and have been passed on to subsequent generations. The origin of the American dream stems from the departure in government and economics from the models of the Old World. This allowed unprecedented freedom, especially the possibility of dramatic upward social mobility. Europeans came to America to escape a poor quality of life at home. They wanted to embrace the promise of financial security and constitutional freedom they had heard existed so widely in the United States. That was the time when some poor people coming to a new Land could achieve wealth. Nearing the twentieth century, major industrialist personalities became the new model of the American dream, many beginning life in the humblest of conditions but later controlling enormous corporations and fortunes. Perhaps most notable here were the great American capitalists Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. This acquisition of great wealth appeared to demonstrate that if you had talent, intelligence, and a willingness to work extremely hard, you were likely to be a success in life as a result. There are hundreds of such examples, in fact. But, still, is that so simple? Is that really a formular that works? That is the question.
The American Dream is the part of the American culture. It is the main theme of the american literature. Writers turned, are turning and will turn to that vital problem of the society. And do the authors advertise that American dream? In fact not. Firsty there were some novels idealizing the American Dream. But that was just beginning. The young contry grew and developed and the Dream that helped to bilt America underwent, of course, changes and became not so ideal. The concept of the American dream has been the subject of much criticism. The main criticism is that the American dream is misleading. For various reasons, it simply is not possible for everyone to become prosperous through determination and hard work. The consequences of this belief can include the poor feeling that it is their fault that they are not successful. It can also result in less effort towards helping the poor since their poverty is “proof” of their laziness. The concept of the American dream also ignores other factors of success such as the family and wealth one is born into and inheritable traits such as intelligence. In particular, in the US it is difficult for children of poor families to afford college; not attending college sets upper limits on their career success, and it is essentially impossible to earn a bachelors’ degree necessary for many fields in one’s free time once one begins working full-time.
Sea Oak by George Saunders touches that theme as well. So, what do we have. A young man without high education earning his living dancing streptiz, but not even trying to make more money, his two sisters with babies sitting at home and wathcing stupid TV programes; they seem to be satisfied and not going to change anything they are not even trying. And their beloved aunt Bernie being quite determined and working hard all her life. Simply following the formula. The formula of the American Dream. She must be at least wealthy. But is not wealthy at all. She lives in poor conditions eating canned food. She even doesn’t have either husband or children. Her nephews are for her like her own children. But she always sounds very optimistic. She always says that everything gonna be Ok. But deeply in her soul is very unhappy, she is dissatisfied with her life, she feels that life has passed her by, but she is old already. How awful it is when we understand the truth or our mistakes and can’t change anything. Aunt Bernie dies. She dies to come back. Saunder uses such a device that at first we can’t understand what is real and what is unreal. The truth is that the unreal is the American Dream itself, the blind believe in that fabulous idealized American Dream. The dead unreal falling apart aunt teachers them what should they do: to work hard !yes! but to show themselves to advantage, to get education and not only in a particular field of knowledge, but to broaden their scope, to learn more things about live , to experience something knew and try new things when you can’t achieve something even when you are determined and work hard. Life is full of chances and opportunities.
Did the nephews get the message?! But the clever and attentive reader evidently did. And that all is true not only about American. We can apply it to the society of the whole world. The author criticizes that Dream, but he doesn’t want people to give up when we don’t get what we want. He tells us to seize the day and get everything possible from that world and not believe in formulas. Formulas work in physics, but modern society doesn’t have formulas.