The death of the American dream

No Thumbnail Available
Gorevan, Alan
Issue Date
BA in English Literature and Drama
Dublin Business School
This Final Year Project explores some of the key literary texts by twentieth-century American writers. It argues that these texts reflect certain aspects of the American character which are encapsulated in what is called "'the American Dream". Close readings of the relevant texts, set alongside citations from pertinent authorities, is the principal method of formulating such an argument. Chapter 1 examines what is meant by the term itself, finding it to be a collective outlook based on two fundamental ideas: that the individual directs his or her own life and that the past is less important than the future. Chapter 2 examines the way F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby depicts an elitist wealth-driven society. Chapter 3 looks at two of Arthur Miller's plays. Death of a Salesman shows the tragedy of an ordinary man who is haunted by the idea that his life has been a failure, while The Crucible explores the descent of a community into mass hysteria. Chapter 4 examines Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and suggests that its mixture of fact and fiction is a response to the limitations of "objective" journalism. Chapter 5 looks at David Mamet's plays Glengarry Glen Ross and American Buffalo, and argues that both of them are commentaries on American capitalism. Mamet's character treatment equates the salesmen of one play with the petty thieves of the other. Chapter 6 examines William S. Burroughs' novels Naked Lunch and Ghost of Chance, and argues that both texts are focused on the conflict between the individual and society. Chapter 7 concludes by suggesting that individual freedom and the ways in which it has been negated are the key themes to emerge from this Final Year Project.