Greed: The Enemy of the American Dream
Corrupting the American Dream, greed distorts the means of success in America and causes Americans to walk the easy road to success, instead of the arduous road. However, the easy road does not lead to true success and is a trap to greedy Americans, while the arduous road leads to self-fulfillment and completion of one’s American dream. The Founder’s desired for American’s to have the ability to obtain their dreams, and the Declaration of Independence is proof of this; nevertheless, Americans still fail in doing so simply because of their repugnant desire of material accumulation as a false sense of success. Greed, tempting Americans to buy materials they cannot afford, prevents Americans from diligently working hard to obtain what they want. Furthermore, greed is counterproductive to success, as shown in the novel, “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” Similarly, The Fountainhead shows that not trying to achieve ones dreams for oneself and greedily trying to just get more money and status leads to misery. Finally, “I Hear America Singing” shows that Americans who work diligently and take the difficult road are satisfied and have hope of accomplishing their dreams.
The Founders' Belief of the American Dream
King George III of Britain, hungry for money, let his greed consume him by repeatedly enforcing unlawful taxes on the American colonists in order to get quick cash. However, taking this easy road led to a huge financial loss overall for Britain since Americans relinquished ties with Britain with the creation of the Declaration of Independence. Instead of working hard for what he wanted, King George abused Americans rights which ended up resulting as a horrible loss for him. King George became blinded with greed and the Declaration of Independence acted as a punishment for his ways. But more importantly, the Declaration of Independence allows Americans to have a chance in accomplishing their American dreams and succeeding by guaranteeing “unalienable rights” such as, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Jefferson). Nonetheless, just because Americans have the right to pursue happiness and succeed does not mean they will.
Confusion of Success and Money
Success has been “confused…with simple accumulation” (Wright) which is the pitfall many Americans fail to notice. The reason success has been so misconstrued is because Americans tend to only exhibit success through items. Americans do not intend to succeed anymore, but they definitely intend to be seen as successful. So, to be seen as successful an American must show off his or her Lamborghini, or designer clothes. However, most Americans cannot afford such things unless they buy on credit. Americans who buy items they cannot afford on credit though, do not realize they must pay for it sooner or later since they are so blind from greed. These Americans often fall into financial turmoil and end up losing more than they bought, since Americans did not work hard for what they wanted. Americans are merely flies lured by the delicious nectar of pitcher plants; the flies only focus on the sweet nectar, overseeing the imminent danger of pitcher plants’ slippery walls which prevent flies from escaping and causes them to slowly drown to death, while being dissolved by acid.
The Obsession to Impress
The short story by D.H. Lawrence called “The Rocking-Horse Winner” exemplifies that greed destroys success by concentrating on hiding failures instead of becoming successful. Paul’s mother had just received 5,000 pounds from Paul which was meant for paying the debts his family, but instead of paying the debts, Paul’s mother buys an assortment of new furnishings with the money. Paul, “frightened” by the metaphorical voices that resemble his families’ debt, was hoping that giving his mother the money would stop the voices, “And yet the voices in the house, behind the sprays of mimosa and almond-blossom, and from under the piles of iridescent cushions, simply trilled and screamed in a sort of ecstasy: ‘There must be more money! Oh-h-h; there must be more money’” (Lawrence). The nice furnishings simply hide the fact that Paul’s family is poor and only causes the family to acquire even more debt. The greed of Paul’s mother and her desire to show off to company and pretend her family is successful drives Paul crazy and leads to his death at the end of the story. Paul’s mother is the epitome of Americans who are consumed by greed with their own consumerism; they both only desire obtaining more and more items to appear successful instead of bettering themselves and actually trying to be successful. Paul’s mother and greedy Americans are trapped by greed and their need to look successful and as Amitai Etzioni states, “What is needed next is to help people realize that limiting consumption is not a reflection of a failure. Rather it represents a liberation from an obsession." Americans who obsess to impress will never accomplish their American dreams and truly be successful since they are bound to trying to please others instead of trying to please themselves.
Money and Status are not the Real American Dream
Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead, shows that the world views success by the amount of money one makes which is obtained through pleasing others, instead of true success, which is working for ones own desires. The former, Peter Keating, is an architect who works hard to please others, while the latter is Howard Roark, an architect who works hard to please himself. In the beginning of the novel, Keating is extremely successful by following his client’s wants and acting fake and Roark is a complete failure only having a few housing projects here and there. Then a slow transition takes place, revealing Keating as a depressed failure and Roark as a true success. Keating finally realizes at the end of the novel that he never wanted to be an architect and chose it for more money and fame instead of his childhood dream which was painting. Keating, hoping to finally live his dream shows Roark six canvases of his art to see if they are any good, and Roark gently says, “it’s too late, Peter” (Rand 582). In association, Americans who do not follow their true American Dreams and take the easier route for prosperity and rank are not truly successful because they never accomplished their real dreams.
The Real Dream: Enjoy what you do
The goal of the American Dream should be to work hard for oneself in following one’s own dreams. Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing,” shows that Americans who work hard in their duties are happy, productive human beings. Whitman says “I hear America singing” (Whitman) in all of America’s labor and diligent work, showing that Americans are joyous when working hard to accomplish their goals. Additionally, Whitman says, “Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else.” This means that each American individually has his or her own song which is their specific, unique American dream. Believing that the arduous road is the true road to success, Whitman describes the commonplace manual labor jobs and how people who have these jobs although pay may be low, still have hope to accomplish their American dreams. Consequently, Americans should not focus on a career just because it pays well, instead, Americans should focus on careers that make them happy and look to do their best in their jobs.
Jefferson, Thomas. “Declaration of Independence The Wants, Will, and Hopes of the People.”
www.ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, 4 July 1776. Web. 20 Sept 2011.
Whitman, Walt. "I Hear America Singing." www.poetw.org. PoetW.org, 1867. Web. 20 Sept 2011.
Lawrence, D.H. "The Rocking-Horse Winner." www.clasicshorts.com. B&L Associates, July 1926. Web. 20 Sept 2011.
Rand, Ayn. The Fountainhead. Centennial. New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1943. Print.
Etzioni, Amitai. Consumerism and Americans. Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2009. 41-46. Print.