The American Dream and Poverty in the U.S. by Sarah Butler

The American Dream to me is the idea that you have to be successful and have 2childrenmoney to be happy. The American Dream has many facets that change over the course of US history as well as facets that contradict each other.

There is the idea that with hard work, you can come from nothing and achieve the dream life of a happy family and successful career. The iconic Migrant Mother photograph from 1936 during the Great Depression paints a picture of poverty in the West during this time period. This photo is hard to relate to the American Dream. The mother, Florence Owens Thompson is working as a crop picker to provide her 7 children with food. This family doesn’t have a home all they have is a tent and an old car.

It is hard to relate my idea of the American Dream to this family because they are in such dire conditions. Their mother is stressed and worn down because she is unsure of where their next meal will come from. She is caring a heavy burden and wants to care for her children. Because The United States was so poor at this moment in history it was hard to pursue the American Dream without an income. Thompson could hope to achieve the American Dream but in the state she was in, as well as the state the country was in, it was more about survival than dreaming.

The problem with poverty during the Great Depression according to Dorothea Lange and Carter Revard is that it was so severe. Poverty was on a new level and when people would go to California for jobs they were met with low pay and increasing debt. This level of poverty relates to the American Dream in that the dream becomes unattainable. These people were putting in hard work with nothing in return. They were not slowly climbing the ladder to happiness through hard work. The American Dream becomes distant because during the Great Depression it is unrealistic because of the high level of poverty.

The American Dream relates to how we understand the ideas of America in the ways that America was founded. America was built on the ideal of freedom. Europeans moved to America to be free but at the same time that was a contradiction in that there were slaves and women didn’t have equal rights. This is similar to the American Dream in that the American Dream can be a contradiction. In the case of the Migrant Mother hard work didn’t lead to overall happiness and success, which is the basis of the American Dream. The American Dream is an idea that creates what America is, but its complexity has to be fully understood to find the deeper meanings of what America stands for.


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