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Argumentative Essays on American Dream

Hook examples for essays about american dream, rags to riches hook.

Explore the timeless appeal of the American Dream by examining stories of individuals who started with nothing and achieved remarkable success. From Andrew Carnegie to Oprah Winfrey, these stories inspire and symbolize the dream's possibility.

The Immigrant's Dream Hook

Take a closer look at the American Dream through the lens of immigration. Analyze the experiences of immigrants who came to America in pursuit of a better life and the challenges they faced while chasing their dreams.

The Illusion of the Dream Hook

Discuss the idea that the American Dream may sometimes be more of an illusion than a reality. Explore how societal barriers, economic inequalities, and systemic challenges can obstruct the path to achieving one's dreams.

Generational Perspectives Hook

Examine how the concept of the American Dream has evolved over generations. Compare the dreams and aspirations of different eras, from the post-World War II boom to the challenges faced by millennials and Gen Z today.

The Dream in Literature and Film Hook

Explore the portrayal of the American Dream in literature and cinema. Analyze iconic works like "The Great Gatsby" and "Death of a Salesman" to uncover the themes of ambition, success, and disillusionment.

Financial Prosperity Hook

Delve into the financial aspects of the American Dream. Discuss the pursuit of homeownership, financial stability, and economic success as core components of this dream, and how they have evolved over time.

Freedom and Independence Hook

Consider the role of freedom and independence in the American Dream. Explore how the dream encompasses not only financial success but also the pursuit of personal liberty, self-expression, and self-reliance.

The Dream Deferred Hook

Reflect on Langston Hughes' question, "What happens to a dream deferred?" Analyze the consequences of unfulfilled dreams and how they impact individuals and communities, shedding light on the complexities of the American Dream.

The Dream and Social Justice Hook

Examine the relationship between the American Dream and social justice. Discuss how unequal access to opportunities and systemic discrimination have influenced who can pursue and achieve the dream.

Immigrants and The American Dream

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The Ever-evolving American Dream

The american dream: an illusion or reality, broken ambition: why is the american dream not attainable, a general idea of american dream, let us write you an essay from scratch.

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The Possibility to Achieve The American Dream

Dark side of the american dream, the notion of the american dream, critical examination of the american dream: illusion or reality, get a personalized essay in under 3 hours.

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Equal Opportunity and The American Dream: a Critical Appraisal

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The concept of the American Dream centers around the notion that individuals, irrespective of their place of birth or social status, have the potential to achieve their personal definition of success within a society that offers upward mobility opportunities for all its members.

In 1931, James Truslow Adams introduced the phrase "American Dream" in his book, emphasizing the belief that every individual, irrespective of their social class or background, should have the opportunity to lead a fulfilling and prosperous life. Adams articulated that the American Dream entails the pursuit of a better, more abundant existence, where individuals can thrive based on their abilities and accomplishments.

The origin of the American Dream can be traced back to the founding principles of the United States of America. It emerged as a belief system that reflected the ideals of freedom, equality, and opportunity that were integral to the nation's formation. The concept gained prominence during the early years of the country's history, as immigrants sought a better life and economic prosperity in the New World. The term "American Dream" was popularized in the 20th century, particularly during the post-World War II era when the United States experienced significant economic growth and social mobility. It became synonymous with the idea that hard work, determination, and meritocracy could lead to upward social and economic mobility, allowing individuals to achieve their goals and aspirations. Over time, the American Dream has evolved and been interpreted differently by various generations and cultural groups. It continues to serve as a symbol of hope and opportunity, representing the aspirations and dreams of individuals striving for success and a better future in the United States.

Public opinion on the American Dream is varied and complex. While the concept has traditionally been revered as a symbol of hope and opportunity, there are differing perspectives on its attainability and relevance in contemporary society. Some individuals view the American Dream as a fundamental pillar of the nation's identity, representing the ideals of hard work, meritocracy, and upward mobility. They believe that with determination and perseverance, anyone can overcome obstacles and achieve success, regardless of their background or circumstances. This optimistic view holds the American Dream as a source of motivation and inspiration. However, there are those who critique the American Dream, arguing that systemic barriers and inequalities hinder equal access to opportunities. They highlight issues such as income inequality, limited social mobility, and structural disadvantages that make it challenging for individuals, particularly those from marginalized communities, to achieve their aspirations. The public opinion on the American Dream also reflects generational and cultural differences. Younger generations, in particular, express skepticism and question the viability of the traditional American Dream, seeking a more inclusive and equitable vision of success.

The representation of the American Dream in media and literature has been a recurring theme, capturing the aspirations, challenges, and complexities of American society. One notable example is F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel "The Great Gatsby," which delves into the pursuit of the American Dream during the Roaring Twenties. The protagonist, Jay Gatsby, embodies the relentless pursuit of wealth and social status as he tries to win back his lost love. The novel critiques the shallow and elusive nature of the American Dream, exposing the dark underbelly of materialism and the illusion of happiness. Another representation can be found in Arthur Miller's play "Death of a Salesman." The character of Willy Loman personifies the American Dream as he strives for success in the sales industry. However, the play highlights the disillusionment and personal tragedy that can accompany the pursuit of this ideal, shedding light on the sacrifices and compromises made in the name of success. In contemporary media, films like "The Pursuit of Happyness" and "American Beauty" tackle the American Dream in different ways. "The Pursuit of Happyness" portrays the struggles of a man determined to provide a better life for his son, emphasizing the resilience and determination required to overcome adversity. "American Beauty" explores the hollowness and superficiality of the American Dream through a satirical lens, challenging societal norms and materialistic values.

“When we make college more affordable, we make the American Dream more achievable.” — William J. Clinton “I am the epitome of what the American Dream basically said. It said you could come from anywhere and be anything you want in this country.” — Whoopi Goldberg, “The American Dream is a phrase we’ll have to wrestle with all our lives. It means a lot of things to different people. I think we’re redefining it now.” – Rita Dove

The topic of the American Dream is of great significance when it comes to understanding the ideals, values, and aspirations deeply ingrained in American society. Writing an essay on the American Dream allows for a critical examination of its historical origins, cultural impact, and evolving interpretations over time. It provides a platform to explore the promises and challenges associated with this concept, shedding light on its complexities and contradictions. Examining the American Dream allows us to delve into issues of social mobility, equality, and the pursuit of happiness. It prompts discussions on the role of opportunity, hard work, and meritocracy in achieving success, while also addressing systemic barriers and inequalities that hinder progress. Moreover, analyzing the American Dream invites reflection on the changing dynamics of the nation, the influence of consumerism, and the impact of globalization on individual and collective aspirations.

1. Adams, J. T. (1931). The Epic of America. Little, Brown, and Company. 2. Bellah, R. N., Madsen, R., Sullivan, W. M., Swidler, A., & Tipton, S. M. (2008). Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. University of California Press. 3. Fitzgerald, F. S. (1925). The Great Gatsby. Charles Scribner's Sons. 4. Hochschild, J. L. (1995). Facing Up to the American Dream: Race, Class, and the Soul of the Nation. Princeton University Press. 5. Jackson, K. T. (1985). Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States. Oxford University Press. 6. Levine, L. W. (2005). Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America. Harvard University Press. 7. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Simon & Schuster. 8. Riesman, D., Glazer, N., & Denney, R. (1950). The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character. Yale University Press. 9. Turner, F. J. (1893). The Significance of the Frontier in American History. American Historical Association. 10. Wilson, W. J. (1987). The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy. University of Chicago Press.

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what is the american dream to you essay

103 American Dream Essay Topics & Examples

If you’re in need of American dream topics for an essay, research paper, or discussion, this article is for you. Our experts have prepared some ideas and writing tips that you will find below.

📃 10 Tips for Writing American Dream Essays

🏆 best american dream essay topics & essay examples, 👍 catchy american dream topics, ❓ american dream research questions.

The American dream is an interesting topic that one can discuss from various perspectives. If you need to write an essay on the American dream, you should understand this concept clearly.

You can choose to present the American dream as a miracle that one cannot reach or depict a free and wealthy nation. In any case, the American dream essay is a good opportunity to reflect on the concept and learn more about it.

There are many topics you can choose from while writing your essay. Here are some examples of the American dream essay topics we can suggest:

  • The true meaning of the American dream
  • The image of the American dream in the Great Gatsby
  • Is the American dream still relevant in today’s society?
  • The role of the American dream: Discussion
  • Americans’ beliefs and values: The American dream
  • Can we achieve the American dream?
  • The American dream in today’s world and society

Remember that you do not have to select one of the American dream essay titles and can come up with your own one. Once you have selected the topic, start working on your essay. Here are ten useful tips that will help you to write an outstanding paper:

  • Start working on your essay ahead of time. You will need some time to study the issue, write the paper, and correct possible errors.
  • Do preliminary research on the issue you want to discuss. The more information you know about the question, the better. We advise you to rely on credible sources exclusively and avoid using Wikipedia or similar websites.
  • Check out the American dream essay examples online if you are not sure that the selected problem is relevant. Avoid copying the information you will find and only use it as guidance.
  • Write an outline for your essay. Think of how you can organize your paper and choose titles for each of the sections. Remember that you should include an introductory paragraph and a concluding section along with body paragraphs.
  • Remember that you should present the American dream essay thesis clearly. You can put it in the last sentence of your introductory paragraph.
  • Your essay should be engaging for the audience. Help your reader to know something new about the issue and include some interesting facts that may not know about. Avoid overly complex sentences and structures.
  • Make your essay personal, if it is possible. Do not focus on your opinion solely but provide your perspectives on the issue or discuss your concern about it. You can talk about your experiences with the American dream, too.
  • Provide statistical data if you can. For example, you can find the results of surveys about people’s perspectives on the American dream.
  • The concluding paragraph is an important section of the paper. Present the thesis and all of your arguments once again and provide recommendations, if necessary. Remember that this paragraph should not include new information or in-text citations.
  • Do not send your paper to your professor right away. Check it several times to make sure that there are no grammatical mistakes in it. If you have time, you can put the paper away for several days and revise it later with “fresh” eyes.

Feel free to find an essay sample in our collection and get some ideas for your outstanding paper!

  • Essay on the American Dream: Positive and Negative Aspects The American dream is one of the most revered ideals of the nation and it has become a part of the American national identity.
  • Michelle Obama American Dream Speech Analysis – Michelle’s purpose was to introduce her husband as man who was more concerned about the common citizens’ concerns and who was willing and able to help everyone to realize his/her American dream because he himself […]
  • The American Dream by Edward Albee Play Analysis The American Dream play is an apologue of how American life has turned awry under the pretext of the American Dream.
  • American Dream: “Fences” by August Wilson The American dream makes it clear through its guarantee of the freedom and equality with the promise of prosperity and success as per the ability or personal achievements of every American citizen.”Fences” reveals the obstacles […]
  • American Dream in “The Pursuit of Happiness” Film In America today, there is a general belief that every individual is unique, and should have equal access to the American dream of life “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.
  • The Tortilla Curtain: American Dream – Characters, Summary & Analysis The cultural difference between the two families is introduced by the author as a theme describing the role of gender in the community.
  • American Dream After World War I People lost vision of what this dream was supposed to mean and it became a dream, not of the vestal and industrious, but of the corrupt coterie, hence corrupting the dream itself.
  • The American Dream in The Great Gatsby After spending some time in this neighborhood, Nick finally attends Gatsby’s exuberant parties only to realize that Gatsby organizes these parties to impress Daisy, Nick’s cousin, and wife to Tom.
  • American Dream and Socialism in the Book “The Jungle” by Sinclair The main idea of the book lies in upholding the Marxist belief of the inevitable collapse of capitalism and the accession of the proletariat, or industrial working class.
  • Portrayal of the American Dream in the 20th Century Theatre However, different analysts criticized the use of the amelting pot’ in the play to show the pursuit of the American dream terming it as unrealistic in the sense that the term amelting’ creates a picture […]
  • Willy Loman and the American Dream As a result of his boasting, a great deal of what his family knows about Willy is based upon the image he feels he must portray of himself in order to bring himself in line […]
  • Femininity and the American Dream in Works of Chopin, Gilman, and Williams Even though the general understanding of the American dream was advertised to everyone, the idea was more applicable to the male members of the American society, which is reflected in Chopin’s “The Story of an […]
  • Is the American Dream Still Alive? The American Dream can be defined as a summation of national values entrenched in the culture of the United States. In this regard, the minority groups in the United States are often on the receiving […]
  • Meritocracy and the American Dream In the perception of such people, the American Dream is directly connected to meritocracy, i.e.a judgment on people on their individual abilities rather than the connections of the families, and in that regard such perception […]
  • Whitman, Hughes, and the American Dream Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes, two prominent figures of American poetry of the past, are of them.”I Hear America Singing,” “I, Too,” “Harlem,” and “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” are the emotional responses to the […]
  • The American Dream in Arthur Miller’s Plays Willy has a distorted vision of the American Dream, and he has such blind faith in this inaccurate vision that it leads to his mental disturbance when he is not able to accept how the […]
  • American Dream of Early Settlers He did not tell the settlers of the difficulties they were going to face in moving from Europe to the land of honey that is America.
  • The Corrupted American Dream and Its Significance in “The Great Gatsby” The development of the American dream and its impact on the society of the United States is a pertinent topic of discussion for various authors.
  • The Dilemmas of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby The Great Gatsby is a story of a young man in the early twentieth century who seems to know what he wants in the way of that dream and what to do to achieve it.
  • The American Dream, Social Status and Hierarchies The persistence of social status and hierarchies in modern-day America undermines the possibility of realizing Winthrop’s ideal community as a goal for the current American Dream, considering his argument of wouldivinely ordained’ holds no traction […]
  • The American Dream and Its Roots The tension between the ideals of the American Dream as espoused by the Puritans and the realities of American life has been a recurrent theme in American history.
  • Tensions in the American Dream The imbalance can lead to debates and discussions about the meaning and purpose of the American Dream, as well as a conflict between the ideals of freedom and agency and the desire for a more […]
  • Support of the American Dream Act of 2001 In contrast to many supporters of the American Dream Act, some individuals claim that the policy promotes the entrance of illegal immigrants.
  • The Possibility of Realizing the American Dream Thus, according to the author, the American dream is only a fantasy. Returning to the ideas of Krugman, Cox and Alm, and Dalmia, it seems necessary to highlight some aspects.
  • The American Dream: Meaning and Myth Initially, the existence of this myth set a very high pace and performance for the American economy because it was the only way to achieve the desired level of prosperity.
  • Reflection on the American Dream Concept The vision of the American Dream can be different for individuals, and people create their interpretations according to their specific experiences.
  • Reaching the American Dream From Scratch For example, the experience of a person coming to the United States from Haiti is one of poverty, under-resourced communities, and a complete disillusion with the promise of a good life.
  • The American Dream Based on “Re Jane” by Patricia Park The main difference is that Jane had a chance to live her dreams in New York than in Seoul. Nina is an example of Jane’s friends who want her to succeed and understand the flaws […]
  • The American Dream in Boyle’s The Tortilla Curtain The personal experience of the characters can be explained by their varying life conditions and, hence, are linked to the notion of the American Dream, which can be achieved by everyone while the efforts differ.
  • Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’, Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ and the American Dream “The America Dream’ is a longstanding common belief of the American population that in the United States, people are free to realize the full potential of their labor and their talents and every person in […]
  • Color Adjustment: False Image of American Dream The documentary tells the story of white, well-dressed people advertising the American dream, completely ignoring that the U.S.is not only a country of the white race.
  • The American Dream: Franklin’s and Douglass’s Perception The objective of this paper, therefore, is to discuss the topic of the American dream and how both Franklin and Douglass, each exemplify this dream.
  • The American Dream and Success One of the most pertinent topics associated with the American Dream is taking the courage to act and seize the opportunity.
  • The Concept of American Dream: Examples of Columbus and Bradstreet Bradstreet’s other dream was to be able to secure a position in the ‘New world’ and still be seen as a woman who cares for her family.
  • Racial Wealth Gap and the American Dream The speaker evaluates the accumulative wealth of Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites in America and arrives to the conclusion that race plays a role in financial burdens that many people of color experience.
  • American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 Although the major idea of the book is a critical one, the author’s intention does not concern analyzing approaches to the American social evolution in order to define the most adequate one.
  • History of Achieving the American Dream James Truslow Adams who wrote the book “The Epic of America” defined the American dream as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity […]
  • The American Dream in the 21st Century It is the labor of these people that allowed the country to afford to build its industry and set up a base for fulfilling the American Dream.
  • The American Dream: Defining the Great Society For instance, the Medicare bill was for the elderly and the poor, human rights for the oppressed, and antipoverty laws that set a stage for growth in the society.
  • American Literature and the American Dream The difference in how the dream is defined lies in how one sees the shape and color of the concoction, whether the texture is just right for the shape of the taste buds assessing the […]
  • American Dream and Reality for Minorities The topic of our concern is the reality that is faced by women, blacks, and war veterans who are associated with the American army.
  • Richard Rodriguez’s Opinion on Migration and the American Dream American seems to refer only to the citizen of the United States and does not include the rest of the people in the continent!
  • American Dream Is Not a Myth The paper is based on the argument, a simplified definition of the American dream: the American dream can be defined as “the achievement of economic and social advancement through hard work and determination”.
  • The Immigrant Experience and the Failure of the American Dream The fates of the heroes of the book amaze with their tragedy, and this is the story of slaves of wage labor.
  • Tycoons and Their American Dream The American Dream as Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan, and others saw it and forged it to be seen by others contributed meaningfully to the values of the American people and the priorities of a nation.
  • Theater Exam: American Dream and Family Legacy To start the discussion on the concept of American Dream, I would like to focus on Willy, the main character of the Death of a Salesman.
  • Is the American Dream Still Alive? The topic of discussion in this setting would be the American dream and the factors associated with the quest. They would talk about the cost of living, the cost of education, and the fact that […]
  • American Dream in Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” The play Death of a salesman is indeed an anatomy of the American dream especially because the plot of the story revolves around some of the basic material gains that individuals in the American society […]
  • “American Dream” of English and Chinese Immigrants My family decided to move to the US from England because of the low wages in our town. My intentions were to explore the new opportunities of the West and to earn more money than […]
  • The American Dream and Working Conditions In fact, it might be said that it is due to their efforts that the American Dream still exists as a piece of reality.
  • American Dream and Equity of Outcome and Opportunity The American dream is one of the most famous declarations of the world and the American subsequent governments have kept the dream alive for the last hundred years.
  • Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream This is one of the drawbacks that should be taken into account by the viewers who want to get a better idea about the causes of the problems described in the movie.
  • American Dream in Hansberry’s and Miller’s Tragedies Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” and Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” tell the stories about how people can perceive and be affected by the idea of the American Dream, how they choose wrong dreams […]
  • Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream – Movie Analysis It can be taken as the national ethos of the citizens of the USA. The basis of the American society is broken and it is not united anymore.
  • Music Talent Shows and the American Dream Talent search shows, like American Idol and The Voice, have suffered a lot of criticism for different reasons. Stanley says the main reason for this cynicism is the failure of such shows to focus on […]
  • Michelle Obama’s Remarks on American Dream She added that the main goal was to secure the blessings of liberty and to bring about the fulfillment of the promise of equality.
  • The American Dream’s Concept The American economy is also likely to improve as a result of realizing the American dream 2013 since most of the residents are likely to indulge in productive activities as stipulated in the American dream […]
  • The Concept of Progress or the Pursuit of the American Dream The concept of progress or the pursuit of the American Dream since 1930s has been a matter of concern for many immigrants who believe that they can achieve much in the US than in their […]
  • The Book American Dream by Jason DeParle From the name of the book, it is clear that the cardinal theme of the book is the American dream. This is contrary to the fact that she was pregnant and in a crack house.
  • The Definition of the Great American Dream: Hearing Opportunity Knock Although the concept of the American Dream is very recognizable, its essence is very hard to nail down, since it incorporates a number of social, economical and financial principles; largely, the American Dream is the […]
  • The American Dream Negative Sides and Benefits The United States is thought of as the land of opportunity and there are many people who want to live “The American Dream”.
  • Role of Money in the American Dream’s Concept Many people lack the meaning of the American dream because they are always looking forward to find opportunity and fail to realize that the opportunity to succeed is always around them in the work they […]
  • The Reality of American Dream The government encouraged the immigration of the population whose labor and skills were required in the United States. The housing in the urban was overcrowded with very unsanitary conditions, and some of the immigrants did […]
  • Social Status Anxiety and the American Dream The pain of a loss and the status anxiety that came with being inferior to other students at Harvard instigated the urge to revenge and brought a desire to achieve success.
  • Francis Scott Fitzgerald & His American Dream In the novel “Tender is the Night,” Fitzgerald describes the society in Riviera where he and his family had moved to live after his misfortune of late inheritance.
  • American Dream: Is It Still There? It is a dream for immigrants from the Middle East to be in America; a country where discrimination is history and where no one will prevent them from achieving their dreams in life.
  • The American Dream: Walt Disney’s Cinderella and Ron Howard’s Cinderella Man This is attributed to the fact that the original ideas and the fundamental principals that founded the dream are quickly fading away given the changing fortunes of the average American.
  • The Death of the American Dream It is the moral decay that leads to the loss of freedom, the very essence of the founding of the American dream.
  • American Dream and Unfulfilling Reality Living the American dream is the ultimate dream for most of the American citizens and those aspiring to acquire American citizenship.
  • Inequality and the American Dream It is only after the poor workers are assured of their jobs that the American model can be said to be successful.
  • A Response to the Article “Inequality and the American Dream” It has drawn my attention that other world countries embrace the “American model” since the super power has enormous wealth and its economic development is marked by up-to-date juggernauts of globalization and technology.
  • In Pursuit of the American Dream: An Analysis of Willa Cather’s O Pioneers The experiences of the characters in the novel portray the endeavors of the early immigrants’ pursuit of the American dream. The instinct to forgo the comforts, which a home country offers by default and then […]
  • Fitzgerald’s American Dream in The Great Gatsby & Winter Dreams To my mind, Winter Dream is a perfect example of the American Dream, since the main hero, Dexter, implemented each point of it, he was persistent and very hard-working, he was a very sensible and […]
  • How Did Ben Franklin Exemplify the American Dream?
  • Does Fitzgerald Condemn the American Dream in “The Great Gatsby”?
  • How Do Benjamin Franklin and Frederick Douglass Represent the American Dream?
  • Has America Lost Its Potential to Achieve the American Dream?
  • How Has Disney’s Social Power Influenced the Vision of the American Dream?
  • Does the American Dream Really Exist?
  • How Does the Great Gatsby Portray the Death of the American Dream?
  • What Does “The Great Gatsby” Have to Say About the Condition of the American Dream in the 1920s?
  • How Does One Achieve the American Dream?
  • What Are the Greatest Obstacles of Full Access to the American Dream?
  • How Has the American Dream Been Translated Into Popular Film?
  • What Does the American Dream Mean to an Immigrant?
  • How Does Arthur Miller Through “Death of a Salesman” Deal With the Theme of the American Dream?
  • What Must Everyone Know About the American Dream?
  • How Has the American Dream Changed Over Time?
  • What Is Infamous About the American Dream?
  • How Does Millar Portray His Views of the American Dream Using Willy Loman?
  • When Did American Dream Start?
  • How Has the Media Changed the American Dream?
  • Who Would Think the American Dream Isn’t Possible?
  • How Does Steinbeck Present the American Dream in “Of Mice and Men”?
  • Why Will Equal Pay Help Women Achieve the American Dream?
  • How Might the Disadvantage of Immigration Affect the Chances of Having That American Dream?
  • Why Is the American Dream Equally Given and Registered To All Citizens?
  • How Does Extreme Inequality Make the American Dream Inaccessible?
  • Why Is the American Dream Still Alive in the United States?
  • How Are Millennials Redefining the American Dream?
  • Why Is the American Dream Unattainable?
  • How Does Society Influence the Idea of the American Dream?
  • Why Must the United States Renew Opportunities to Achieve the American Dream to Reform Immigration Policy?
  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

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Book Guides

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The Great Gatsby is a tragic love story on the surface, but it's most commonly understood as a pessimistic critique of the American Dream. In the novel, Jay Gatsby overcomes his poor past to gain an incredible amount of money and a limited amount of social cache in 1920s NYC, only to be rejected by the "old money" crowd. He then gets killed after being tangled up with them.

Through Gatsby's life, as well as that of the Wilsons', Fitzgerald critiques the idea that America is a meritocracy where anyone can rise to the top with enough hard work. We will explore how this theme plays out in the plot, briefly analyze some key quotes about it, as well as do some character analysis and broader analysis of topics surrounding the American Dream in The Great Gatsby .

What is the American Dream? The American Dream in the Great Gatsby plot Key American Dream quotes Analyzing characters via the American Dream Common discussion and essay topics

Quick Note on Our Citations

Our citation format in this guide is (chapter.paragraph). We're using this system since there are many editions of Gatsby, so using page numbers would only work for students with our copy of the book.

To find a quotation we cite via chapter and paragraph in your book, you can either eyeball it (Paragraph 1-50: beginning of chapter; 50-100: middle of chapter; 100-on: end of chapter), or use the search function if you're using an online or eReader version of the text.

What Exactly Is "The American Dream"?

The American Dream is the belief that anyone, regardless of race, class, gender, or nationality, can be successful in America (read: rich) if they just work hard enough. The American Dream thus presents a pretty rosy view of American society that ignores problems like systemic racism and misogyny, xenophobia, tax evasion or state tax avoidance, and income inequality. It also presumes a myth of class equality, when the reality is America has a pretty well-developed class hierarchy.

The 1920s in particular was a pretty tumultuous time due to increased immigration (and the accompanying xenophobia), changing women's roles (spurred by the right to vote, which was won in 1919), and extraordinary income inequality.

The country was also in the midst of an economic boom, which fueled the belief that anyone could "strike it rich" on Wall Street. However, this rapid economic growth was built on a bubble which popped in 1929. The Great Gatsby was published in 1925, well before the crash, but through its wry descriptions of the ultra-wealthy, it seems to somehow predict that the fantastic wealth on display in 1920s New York was just as ephemeral as one of Gatsby's parties.

In any case, the novel, just by being set in the 1920s, is unlikely to present an optimistic view of the American Dream, or at least a version of the dream that's inclusive to all genders, ethnicities, and incomes. With that background in mind, let's jump into the plot!

The American Dream in The Great Gatsby

Chapter 1 places us in a particular year—1922—and gives us some background about WWI.  This is relevant, since the 1920s is presented as a time of hollow decadence among the wealthy, as evidenced especially by the parties in Chapters 2 and 3. And as we mentioned above, the 1920s were a particularly tense time in America.

We also meet George and Myrtle Wilson in Chapter 2 , both working class people who are working to improve their lot in life, George through his work, and Myrtle through her affair with Tom Buchanan.

We learn about Gatsby's goal in Chapter 4 : to win Daisy back. Despite everything he owns, including fantastic amounts of money and an over-the-top mansion, for Gatsby, Daisy is the ultimate status symbol. So in Chapter 5 , when Daisy and Gatsby reunite and begin an affair, it seems like Gatsby could, in fact, achieve his goal.

In Chapter 6 , we learn about Gatsby's less-than-wealthy past, which not only makes him look like the star of a rags-to-riches story, it makes Gatsby himself seem like someone in pursuit of the American Dream, and for him the personification of that dream is Daisy.

However, in Chapters 7 and 8 , everything comes crashing down: Daisy refuses to leave Tom, Myrtle is killed, and George breaks down and kills Gatsby and then himself, leaving all of the "strivers" dead and the old money crowd safe. Furthermore, we learn in those last chapters that Gatsby didn't even achieve all his wealth through hard work, like the American Dream would stipulate—instead, he earned his money through crime. (He did work hard and honestly under Dan Cody, but lost Dan Cody's inheritance to his ex-wife.)

In short, things do not turn out well for our dreamers in the novel! Thus, the novel ends with Nick's sad meditation on the lost promise of the American Dream. You can read a detailed analysis of these last lines in our summary of the novel's ending .

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Key American Dream Quotes

In this section we analyze some of the most important quotes that relate to the American Dream in the book.

But I didn't call to him for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone--he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward--and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. (1.152)

In our first glimpse of Jay Gatsby, we see him reaching towards something far off, something in sight but definitely out of reach. This famous image of the green light is often understood as part of The Great Gatsby 's meditation on The American Dream—the idea that people are always reaching towards something greater than themselves that is just out of reach . You can read more about this in our post all about the green light .

The fact that this yearning image is our introduction to Gatsby foreshadows his unhappy end and also marks him as a dreamer, rather than people like Tom or Daisy who were born with money and don't need to strive for anything so far off.

Over the great bridge, with the sunlight through the girders making a constant flicker upon the moving cars, with the city rising up across the river in white heaps and sugar lumps all built with a wish out of non-olfactory money. The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.

A dead man passed us in a hearse heaped with blooms, followed by two carriages with drawn blinds and by more cheerful carriages for friends. The friends looked out at us with the tragic eyes and short upper lips of south-eastern Europe, and I was glad that the sight of Gatsby's splendid car was included in their somber holiday. As we crossed Blackwell's Island a limousine passed us, driven by a white chauffeur, in which sat three modish Negroes, two bucks and a girl. I laughed aloud as the yolks of their eyeballs rolled toward us in haughty rivalry.

"Anything can happen now that we've slid over this bridge," I thought; "anything at all. . . ."

Even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder. (4.55-8)

Early in the novel, we get this mostly optimistic illustration of the American Dream—we see people of different races and nationalities racing towards NYC, a city of unfathomable possibility. This moment has all the classic elements of the American Dream—economic possibility, racial and religious diversity, a carefree attitude. At this moment, it does feel like "anything can happen," even a happy ending.

However, this rosy view eventually gets undermined by the tragic events later in the novel. And even at this point, Nick's condescension towards the people in the other cars reinforces America's racial hierarchy that disrupts the idea of the American Dream. There is even a little competition at play, a "haughty rivalry" at play between Gatsby's car and the one bearing the "modish Negroes."

Nick "laughs aloud" at this moment, suggesting he thinks it's amusing that the passengers in this other car see them as equals, or even rivals to be bested. In other words, he seems to firmly believe in the racial hierarchy Tom defends in Chapter 1, even if it doesn't admit it honestly.

His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy's white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips' touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete. (6.134)

This moment explicitly ties Daisy to all of Gatsby's larger dreams for a better life —to his American Dream. This sets the stage for the novel's tragic ending, since Daisy cannot hold up under the weight of the dream Gatsby projects onto her. Instead, she stays with Tom Buchanan, despite her feelings for Gatsby. Thus when Gatsby fails to win over Daisy, he also fails to achieve his version of the American Dream. This is why so many people read the novel as a somber or pessimistic take on the American Dream, rather than an optimistic one.  

...as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes--a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night." (9.151-152)

The closing pages of the novel reflect at length on the American Dream, in an attitude that seems simultaneously mournful, appreciative, and pessimistic. It also ties back to our first glimpse of Gatsby, reaching out over the water towards the Buchanan's green light. Nick notes that Gatsby's dream was "already behind him" then (or in other words, it was impossible to attain). But still, he finds something to admire in how Gatsby still hoped for a better life, and constantly reached out toward that brighter future.

For a full consideration of these last lines and what they could mean, see our analysis of the novel's ending .

Analyzing Characters Through the American Dream

An analysis of the characters in terms of the American Dream usually leads to a pretty cynical take on the American Dream.

Most character analysis centered on the American Dream will necessarily focus on Gatsby, George, or Myrtle (the true strivers in the novel), though as we'll discuss below, the Buchanans can also provide some interesting layers of discussion. For character analysis that incorporates the American Dream, carefully consider your chosen character's motivations and desires, and how the novel does (or doesn't!) provide glimpses of the dream's fulfillment for them.

Gatsby himself is obviously the best candidate for writing about the American Dream—he comes from humble roots (he's the son of poor farmers from North Dakota) and rises to be notoriously wealthy, only for everything to slip away from him in the end. Many people also incorporate Daisy into their analyses as the physical representation of Gatsby's dream.

However, definitely consider the fact that in the traditional American Dream, people achieve their goals through honest hard work, but in Gatsby's case, he very quickly acquires a large amount of money through crime . Gatsby does attempt the hard work approach, through his years of service to Dan Cody, but that doesn't work out since Cody's ex-wife ends up with the entire inheritance. So instead he turns to crime, and only then does he manage to achieve his desired wealth.

So while Gatsby's story arc resembles a traditional rags-to-riches tale, the fact that he gained his money immorally complicates the idea that he is a perfect avatar for the American Dream . Furthermore, his success obviously doesn't last—he still pines for Daisy and loses everything in his attempt to get her back. In other words, Gatsby's huge dreams, all precariously wedded to Daisy  ("He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God" (6.134)) are as flimsy and flight as Daisy herself.

George and Myrtle Wilson

This couple also represents people aiming at the dream— George owns his own shop and is doing his best to get business, though is increasingly worn down by the harsh demands of his life, while Myrtle chases after wealth and status through an affair with Tom.

Both are disempowered due to the lack of money at their own disposal —Myrtle certainly has access to some of the "finer things" through Tom but has to deal with his abuse, while George is unable to leave his current life and move West since he doesn't have the funds available. He even has to make himself servile to Tom in an attempt to get Tom to sell his car, a fact that could even cause him to overlook the evidence of his wife's affair. So neither character is on the upward trajectory that the American Dream promises, at least during the novel.

In the end, everything goes horribly wrong for both George and Myrtle, suggesting that in this world, it's dangerous to strive for more than you're given.

George and Myrtle's deadly fates, along with Gatsby's, help illustrate the novel's pessimistic attitude toward the American Dream. After all, how unfair is it that the couple working to improve their position in society (George and Myrtle) both end up dead, while Tom, who dragged Myrtle into an increasingly dangerous situation, and Daisy, who killed her, don't face any consequences? And on top of that they are fabulously wealthy? The American Dream certainly is not alive and well for the poor Wilsons.

Tom and Daisy as Antagonists to the American Dream

We've talked quite a bit already about Gatsby, George, and Myrtle—the three characters who come from humble roots and try to climb the ranks in 1920s New York. But what about the other major characters, especially the ones born with money? What is their relationship to the American Dream?

Specifically, Tom and Daisy have old money, and thus they don't need the American Dream, since they were born with America already at their feet.

Perhaps because of this, they seem to directly antagonize the dream—Daisy by refusing Gatsby, and Tom by helping to drag the Wilsons into tragedy .

This is especially interesting because unlike Gatsby, Myrtle, and George, who actively hope and dream of a better life, Daisy and Tom are described as bored and "careless," and end up instigating a large amount of tragedy through their own recklessness.

In other words, income inequality and the vastly different starts in life the characters have strongly affected their outcomes. The way they choose to live their lives, their morality (or lack thereof), and how much they dream doesn't seem to matter. This, of course, is tragic and antithetical to the idea of the American Dream, which claims that class should be irrelevant and anyone can rise to the top.

Daisy as a Personification of the American Dream

As we discuss in our post on money and materialism in The Great Gatsby , Daisy's voice is explicitly tied to money by Gatsby:

"Her voice is full of money," he said suddenly.

That was it. I'd never understood before. It was full of money--that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it. . . . High in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl. . . . (7.105-6)

If Daisy's voice promises money, and the American Dream is explicitly linked to wealth, it's not hard to argue that Daisy herself—along with the green light at the end of her dock —stands in for the American Dream. In fact, as Nick goes on to describe Daisy as "High in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl," he also seems to literally describe Daisy as a prize, much like the princess at the end of a fairy tale (or even Princess Peach at the end of a Mario game!).

But Daisy, of course, is only human—flawed, flighty, and ultimately unable to embody the huge fantasy Gatsby projects onto her. So this, in turn, means that the American Dream itself is just a fantasy, a concept too flimsy to actually hold weight, especially in the fast-paced, dog-eat-dog world of 1920s America.

Furthermore, you should definitely consider the tension between the fact that Daisy represents Gatsby's ultimate goal, but at the same time (as we discussed above), her actual life is the opposite of the American Dream : she is born with money and privilege, likely dies with it all intact, and there are no consequences to how she chooses to live her life in between.

Can Female Characters Achieve the American Dream?

Finally, it's interesting to compare and contrast some of the female characters using the lens of the American Dream.

Let's start with Daisy, who is unhappy in her marriage and, despite a brief attempt to leave it, remains with Tom, unwilling to give up the status and security their marriage provides. At first, it may seem like Daisy doesn't dream at all, so of course she ends up unhappy. But consider the fact that Daisy was already born into the highest level of American society. The expectation placed on her, as a wealthy woman, was never to pursue something greater, but simply to maintain her status. She did that by marrying Tom, and it's understandable why she wouldn't risk the uncertainty and loss of status that would come through divorce and marriage to a bootlegger. Again, Daisy seems to typify the "anti-American" dream, in that she was born into a kind of aristocracy and simply has to maintain her position, not fight for something better.

In contrast, Myrtle, aside from Gatsby, seems to be the most ambitiously in pursuit of getting more than she was given in life. She parlays her affair with Tom into an apartment, nice clothes, and parties, and seems to revel in her newfound status. But of course, she is knocked down the hardest, killed for her involvement with the Buchanans, and specifically for wrongfully assuming she had value to them. Considering that Gatsby did have a chance to leave New York and distance himself from the unfolding tragedy, but Myrtle was the first to be killed, you could argue the novel presents an even bleaker view of the American Dream where women are concerned.

Even Jordan Baker , who seems to be living out a kind of dream by playing golf and being relatively independent, is tied to her family's money and insulated from consequences by it , making her a pretty poor representation of the dream. And of course, since her end game also seems to be marriage, she doesn't push the boundaries of women's roles as far as she might wish.

So while the women all push the boundaries of society's expectations of them in certain ways, they either fall in line or are killed, which definitely undermines the rosy of idea that anyone, regardless of gender, can make it in America. The American Dream as shown in Gatsby becomes even more pessimistic through the lens of the female characters.  

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Common Essay Questions/Discussion Topics

Now let's work through some of the more frequently brought up subjects for discussion.

#1: Was Gatsby's dream worth it? Was all the work, time, and patience worth it for him?

Like me, you might immediately think "of course it wasn't worth it! Gatsby lost everything, not to mention the Wilsons got caught up in the tragedy and ended up dead!" So if you want to make the more obvious "the dream wasn't worth it" argument, you could point to the unraveling that happens at the end of the novel (including the deaths of Myrtle, Gatsby and George) and how all Gatsby's achievements are for nothing, as evidenced by the sparse attendance of his funeral.

However, you could definitely take the less obvious route and argue that Gatsby's dream was worth it, despite the tragic end . First of all, consider Jay's unique characterization in the story: "He was a son of God--a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that--and he must be about His Father's Business, the service of a vast, vulgar and meretricious beauty" (6.7). In other words, Gatsby has a larger-than-life persona and he never would have been content to remain in North Dakota to be poor farmers like his parents.

Even if he ends up living a shorter life, he certainly lived a full one full of adventure. His dreams of wealth and status took him all over the world on Dan Cody's yacht, to Louisville where he met and fell in love with Daisy, to the battlefields of WWI, to the halls of Oxford University, and then to the fast-paced world of Manhattan in the early 1920s, when he earned a fortune as a bootlegger. In fact, it seems Jay lived several lives in the space of just half a normal lifespan. In short, to argue that Gatsby's dream was worth it, you should point to his larger-than-life conception of himself and the fact that he could have only sought happiness through striving for something greater than himself, even if that ended up being deadly in the end.

#2: In the Langston Hughes poem "A Dream Deferred," Hughes asks questions about what happens to postponed dreams. How does Fitzgerald examine this issue of deferred dreams? What do you think are the effects of postponing our dreams? How can you apply this lesson to your own life?

If you're thinking about "deferred dreams" in The Great Gatsby , the big one is obviously Gatsby's deferred dream for Daisy—nearly five years pass between his initial infatuation and his attempt in the novel to win her back, an attempt that obviously backfires. You can examine various aspects of Gatsby's dream—the flashbacks to his first memories of Daisy in Chapter 8 , the moment when they reunite in Chapter 5 , or the disastrous consequences of the confrontation of Chapter 7 —to illustrate Gatsby's deferred dream.

You could also look at George Wilson's postponed dream of going West, or Myrtle's dream of marrying a wealthy man of "breeding"—George never gets the funds to go West, and is instead mired in the Valley of Ashes, while Myrtle's attempt to achieve her dream after 12 years of marriage through an affair ends in tragedy. Apparently, dreams deferred are dreams doomed to fail.

As Nick Carraway says, "you can't repeat the past"—the novel seems to imply there is a small window for certain dreams, and when the window closes, they can no longer be attained. This is pretty pessimistic, and for the prompt's personal reflection aspect, I wouldn't say you should necessarily "apply this lesson to your own life" straightforwardly. But it is worth noting that certain opportunities are fleeting, and perhaps it's wiser to seek out newer and/or more attainable ones, rather than pining over a lost chance.

Any prompt like this one which has a section of more personal reflection gives you freedom to tie in your own experiences and point of view, so be thoughtful and think of good examples from your own life!

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#3: Explain how the novel does or does not demonstrate the death of the American Dream. Is the main theme of Gatsby indeed "the withering American Dream"? What does the novel offer about American identity?

In this prompt, another one that zeroes in on the dead or dying American Dream, you could discuss how the destruction of three lives (Gatsby, George, Myrtle) and the cynical portrayal of the old money crowd illustrates a dead, or dying American Dream . After all, if the characters who dream end up dead, and the ones who were born into life with money and privilege get to keep it without consequence, is there any room at all for the idea that less-privileged people can work their way up?

In terms of what the novel says about American identity, there are a few threads you could pick up—one is Nick's comment in Chapter 9 about the novel really being a story about (mid)westerners trying (and failing) to go East : "I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all--Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life" (9.125). This observation suggests an American identity that is determined by birthplace, and that within the American identity there are smaller, inescapable points of identification.

Furthermore, for those in the novel not born into money, the American identity seems to be about striving to end up with more wealth and status. But in terms of the portrayal of the old money set, particularly Daisy, Tom, and Jordan, the novel presents a segment of American society that is essentially aristocratic—you have to be born into it. In that regard, too, the novel presents a fractured American identity, with different lives possible based on how much money you are born with.

In short, I think the novel disrupts the idea of a unified American identity or American dream, by instead presenting a tragic, fractured, and rigid American society, one that is divided based on both geographic location and social class.

#4: Most would consider dreams to be positive motivators to achieve success, but the characters in the novel often take their dreams of ideal lives too far. Explain how characters' American Dreams cause them to have pain when they could have been content with more modest ambitions.

Gatsby is an obvious choice here—his pursuit of money and status, particularly through Daisy, leads him to ruin. There were many points when perhaps Gatsby ;could have been happy with what he achieved (especially after his apparently successful endeavors in the war, if he had remained at Oxford, or even after amassing a great amount of wealth as a bootlegger) but instead he kept striving upward, which ultimately lead to his downfall. You can flesh this argument out with the quotations in Chapters 6 and 8 about Gatsby's past, along with his tragic death.

Myrtle would be another good choice for this type of prompt. In a sense, she seems to be living her ideal life in her affair with Tom—she has a fancy NYC apartment, hosts parties, and gets to act sophisticated—but these pleasures end up gravely hurting George, and of course her association with Tom Buchanan gets her killed.

Nick, too, if he had been happy with his family's respectable fortune and his girlfriend out west, might have avoided the pain of knowing Gatsby and the general sense of despair he was left with.

You might be wondering about George—after all, isn't he someone also dreaming of a better life? However, there aren't many instances of George taking his dreams of an ideal life "too far." In fact, he struggles just to make one car sale so that he can finally move out West with Myrtle. Also, given that his current situation in the Valley of Ashes is quite bleak, it's hard to say that striving upward gave him pain.

#5: The Great Gatsby is, among other things, a sobering and even ominous commentary on the dark side of the American dream. Discuss this theme, incorporating the conflicts of East Egg vs. West Egg and old money vs. new money. What does the American dream mean to Gatsby? What did the American Dream mean to Fitzgerald? How does morality fit into achieving the American dream?

This prompt allows you to consider pretty broadly the novel's attitude toward the American Dream, with emphasis on "sobering and even ominous" commentary. Note that Fitzgerald seems to be specifically mocking the stereotypical rags to riches story here—;especially since he draws the Dan Cody narrative almost note for note from the work of someone like Horatio Alger, whose books were almost universally about rich men schooling young, entrepreneurial boys in the ways of the world. In other words, you should discuss how the Great Gatsby seems to turn the idea of the American Dream as described in the quote on its head: Gatsby does achieve a rags-to-riches rise, but it doesn't last.

All of Gatsby's hard work for Dan Cody, after all, didn't pay off since he lost the inheritance. So instead, Gatsby turned to crime after the war to quickly gain a ton of money. Especially since Gatsby finally achieves his great wealth through dubious means, the novel further undermines the classic image of someone working hard and honestly to go from rags to riches.

If you're addressing this prompt or a similar one, make sure to focus on the darker aspects of the American Dream, including the dark conclusion to the novel and Daisy and Tom's protection from any real consequences . (This would also allow you to considering morality, and how morally bankrupt the characters are.)

#6: What is the current state of the American Dream?

This is a more outward-looking prompt, that allows you to consider current events today to either be generally optimistic (the American dream is alive and well) or pessimistic (it's as dead as it is in The Great Gatsby).

You have dozens of potential current events to use as evidence for either argument, but consider especially immigration and immigration reform, mass incarceration, income inequality, education, and health care in America as good potential examples to use as you argue about the current state of the American Dream. Your writing will be especially powerful if you can point to some specific current events to support your argument.

What's Next?

In this post, we discussed how important money is to the novel's version of the American Dream. You can read even more about money and materialism in The Great Gatsby right here .

Want to indulge in a little materialism of your own? Take a look through these 15 must-have items for any Great Gatsby fan .

Get complete guides to Jay Gatsby , George Wilson and Myrtle Wilson to get even more background on the "dreamers" in the novel.

Like we discussed above, the green light is often seen as a stand-in for the idea of the American Dream. Read more about this crucial symbol here .

Need help getting to grips with other literary works? Take a spin through our analyses of The Crucible , The Cask of Amontillado , and " Do not go gentle into this good night " to see analysis in action. You might also find our explanations of point of view , rhetorical devices , imagery , and literary elements and devices helpful.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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American Dream Essay: Structure, Outline, Sample, and Topics

11 December 2023

last updated

The American Dream is a recurring controversial topic in modern society. Individuals have developed different arguments to deconstruct what is the American Dream essay in the context of day-to-day life. In the academic setting, learners that engage in this discourse hold the weight of the proper expression of their arguments. A structured essay is analyzed with a focus on the introduction, main body, and conclusion of the five-paragraph essay. The process of topic selection, outline development, and structured writing is exemplified using an essay titled, “The Promise of the American Dream.” Recommendations for narrow scoped topics for exploring the concept are provided as a starting point for students.

In contemporary discourse, there is much controversy over the meaning of the American Dream. Basically, people hold different positions on multiple aspects of the concept in their essays and research papers. During the schooling years, it is important to acquire knowledge. Also, young minds benefit significantly from reflecting on the influence of their recently acquired knowledge on their position regarding controversial topics. Upon completing the reflection essay process, the expression of one’s newly defined position is the next step. An essay on the American Dream is presented to introduce the readers to the basic principles behind the concept. Moreover, the structure of a five-paragraph essay is explored with the support of an outline and a sample essay.

American Dream essay

What Is the American Dream Essay?

1. general description.

The American Dream is a widely known concept, but there is no definition that can be identified as a correct, comprehensive, and precise. Basically, freedom and opportunity are the most critical aspects of the essay on the American Dream. In this case, freedoms are essential to the idea of achieving goals. It because these freedoms provide an individual with the space to live freely without any oppression from their peers or the government. Moreover, equal access to opportunity allows each individual to pursue happiness and prosperity regardless of the social class, gender, race, and other social or cultural factors that stratify society. Therefore, this concept may be defined as a set of beliefs that explain the experience of life that many people are expected to have in an ideal situation, where their freedoms are protected, and no opportunity barriers exist.

2. Unique Experiences

People are born into families that provide them with a unique starting point for their pursuit of desired goals. For example, the financial capability, level of education, and cultural beliefs of an individual’s parents define the foundation on which a person begins to achieve desired goals. As a result, all people may be pursuing the same ideas when writing essays. In turn, it is not a level playing field because some individuals may find themselves in better circumstances than others. Furthermore, it is differentiated at a personal level because individuals with relatively similar starting points may have distinct outcomes. Based on this perspective, it is highly unlikely that any two individuals can attest to going through identical experiences when writing an essay.

3. Belief Systems

Besides the circumstances of the starting points, an individual’s belief system plays a significant role in their strategy of achieving desired goals. For instance, happiness and prosperity are broad terms that have contrasting meanings for individuals because there is no standardized scale for measuring happiness or prosperity. Moreover, one person may consider owning a car and house to be a sign of prosperity. In contrast, another person may believe that providing his or her children with a college education to be prosperity. Hence, these beliefs are imposed on desires goals, which results in variations in the meaning of the concept for each individual to be covered in an essay. In turn, desires goals affected to a large extent by an individual’s beliefs regarding the things that make them happy or prosperous.

Topic Selection for American Dream Essays

1. challenges of topic selection.

The American Dream is a concept that people can examine from a variety of perspectives, which makes the selection of an essay topic for an American Dream paper quite challenging. During the selection of an essay topic, it is essential to remember that no point of view is more superior or correct than another. In this case, the weight of the claim proposed in the American Dream argumentative essay is dependent on the writer’s ability to explain a position logically and convincingly. Moreover, in the presentation of the argument in the essay, it is important to adequately consider competing counterarguments that may arise in the audience’s minds when writing essays. In turn, the failure to evaluate counterarguments critically may undercut the authority of the author, especially when writing for an academic audience.

2. Solution

Equally important, writers should select a topic that has a link with their personal experiences. For instance, an argument concerning the essay about the American Dream gains a sense of authenticity when writers discuss an issue that resonates with their beliefs. It is essential because some passion is embedded in the essay. In this case, as a starting point for identifying the essay topic, writers may identify a “main concept” under review, for example, equal opportunity. Based on the main concept, writers can think through their life experiences and single out events that they consider invaluable in the position taken concerning the main concept (see the example of a simple brainstorming template). Finally, writers should settle on the essay topic that is specific and can be argued out entirely within the constraints of the essay requirements.

3. Example of a Simple Brainstorming Template

  • State the main concept.
  • How has it affected you?
  • How has it affected other people in your life?
  • Do you think the events mentioned above are in line with the American Dream?
  • Specify the issue.
  • Describe the ideal situation.
  • Can the situation be improved?

American Dream Essay Outline

Introduction (approximately 10% of the word count).

  • It is the first statement in the introductory paragraph.
  • The statement should capture the attention of the reader, for example, a unique fact about the topic.

2. Overview of the Topic

  • It comprises of two or more sentences.
  • The statements should contain adequate detail for the reader to understand the thesis statement.

3. Thesis Statement

  • It is a single statement that appears at the end of the introductory paragraph.
  • The statement provides an answer to the essay prompt in the form of a single argument, which summarises the main evidence or rationale presented in the main body.

Main Body (Approximately 80% of the Word Count)

The creation of paragraphs in this section is based on the separation of ideas to ensure that each paragraph presents one original idea. In this case, each paragraph in this section must follow the sandwich rule, which dictates the organization of paragraph elements:

  • Topic sentence – States the main idea for that paragraph.
  • Evidence – Provides the information that is crucial to the paragraph’s idea.
  • Evaluation of evidence – Explains the relevance of the evidence and offers an interpretation of the evidence.
  • Transition statement – Summarises the paragraph and links it to the thesis statement or the next paragraph.

Conclusion (Approximately 10% of the Word Count)

1. Restating the Main Argument

  • The first statement in the paragraph should repeat the main argument presented in the thesis statement.
  • It should not contain the same words as the thesis statement, but keywords can be reused.
  • Provide a detailed overview of the main points of the essay logically.
  • Demonstrate the value of the main points in answering the essay prompt.

Five-Paragraph American Dream Essay Outline Sample

Introduction/Paragraph 1

Hook: Besides the differences in the American populations, they are similar because they pursue the same dream.

Overview of the topic: Outline some of the differences in the American population.

Thesis statement: Creating equal opportunities allows individuals to achieve upward mobility.

Paragraph 2 :

Topic sentence: Breaking down social mobility and its quantification.

Evidence: Definition and measures of social mobility.

Evaluation of evidence: Illustrate how upward social mobility is achieved while referring to the measures.

Transition statement: Introduces the need for self-improvement for social mobility to occur.

Paragraph 3 :

Topic sentence: Opportunity is a requirement for social mobility.

Evidence: The role of education in equipping an individual to utilize opportunities.

Evaluation of evidence: Demonstrate the link between education, access to jobs, and the ability to improve an individual’s quality of life.

Transition statement: Recognise that there are socially constructed limitations on the accessibility of opportunities.

Paragraph 4 :

Topic sentence: Discriminative practices affect an individual’s access to opportunities for social mobility.

Evidence: Identify some forms of discrimination and explain the occurrence of discriminative practices.

Evaluation of evidence: Describe the value of government and organization’s role in managing discriminative practices using policies that uphold equality.

Transition statement: Stress the centrality of equality in the argument for opportunity access and upward mobility.

Conclusion/Paragraph 5 :

Restating the main argument: Emphasise the importance of equality in securing opportunities for upward mobility and the attainment of the American Dream.

Summary: Allude to the measures of social mobility, the interaction between discriminative practices and opportunities, and the relief provided by policies on equality.

Sample of Five-Paragraph American Dream Essay

Topic: The Promise of the American Dream

Introduction

Although we are different, we share a single dream. In this case, the American population is composed of people of different genders, races, education levels, religions, and disability statuses. Nonetheless, each American is entitled to the opportunity to make themselves better regardless of the underlying differences. Thus, the American Dream thesis statement is that it is founded on the promise of equal opportunity for upward social mobility.

Social Mobility

Social mobility is a multidimensional concept. It can be assessed using a variety of measures that attempt to quantify the change occurring in an individual’s life. For example, the ability of an individual to move along the social hierarchy may be described as social mobility. In turn, there are different measures of social mobility. However, each one is focused on a specific aspect of average Americans’ livelihood:

  • health status – the susceptibility of an individual to diseases,
  • education – an individual’s highest level of education,
  • homeownership – the capability of an individual to acquire permanent housing.

Upward social mobility implies that an individual can improve their position in the social hierarchy through improving their performance on any of the measures of social mobility. Therefore, upward social mobility is the desired outcome of a successful pursuit of desired goals because it suggests some form of self-improvement.

Opportunity

The opportunity for upward mobility is vital in pursuing the desired goals. Basically, access to opportunity is facilitated by some factors, for example, access to quality education. In this case, an individual that has attended school and acquired the necessary skills has a higher likelihood of securing a job. If individuals acquire jobs, it becomes easier to secure health insurance, buy homes, and improve the quality of life for their families. Moreover, individuals can only attain what they want if they are provided access to basic education, which prepares them to maximize any opportunities. However, it is difficult for an average individual to pursue opportunities without the government’s efforts to increase the ease of access to basic needs.

Equality Policies

Many barriers affect an average American’s ability to access positive opportunities, and it manifests in the form of discriminative practices in society. In this case, discrimination in society may occur based on a variety of issues, for example, gender, disability, religion, and race. Basically, personal biases create ideological differences regarding superiority in the social hierarchy. It pushes individuals to deny others access to opportunities and the necessary skills to exploit those opportunities. Moreover, state and organizational policies against discrimination are created and enforced to maintain equality among Americans. These laws serve to eliminate the barriers that exist between hardworking people and the American Dream. Consequently, equality among individuals ensures that all individuals can take advantage of opportunities regardless of their gender, disability status, religion, race, and other social differences that tend to create boundaries between social groups.

Equality is crucial in the pursuit of the American Dream because it provides each individual with the opportunity to move up the social hierarchy. In this case, people can access upward social mobility by using various measures, which quantify an individual’s quality of life. Moreover, opportunities may exist, but individuals need to be assisted in developing themselves to a level where they can utilize the available opportunities. Hence, equality policies are useful in curtailing the power of discriminative practices in reinforcing social mobility barriers.

American Dream Essay Topics

  • The origin of the American Dream.
  • Intergenerational differences in the definition of the American Dream.
  • The American Dream in contemporary music.
  • Does society still believe in the American Dream?
  • Defining the American Dream through the racial lens.
  • Individualism and the American Dream.
  • The influence of unrestricted surveillance on the American Dream.
  • Health care policies and the American Dream.
  • The impacts of globalization on the American Dream.
  • The rise of right-wing populism and the future of the American Dream.

Summing up on the American Dream Essay

The capacity of a person to participate in the discourse on the controversial essay topic nurtured through the continuous practice of structured essay writing. Basically, the concept may be approached from a different perspective, depending on the individual’s beliefs and personal experiences. Nonetheless, the written presentation of these points of view is achieved through the use of structured essays. The five-paragraph American Dream essay examined in this paper is a useful tool for the expression of any argument on the topic.

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what is the american dream to you essay

The American dream is the belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success in a society in which upward mobility is possible for everyone.

The American dream is believed to be achieved through sacrifice, risk-taking, and hard work, rather than by chance.

Key Takeaways

  • The term "American dream" was coined in a best-selling book in 1931 titled Epic of America.  
  • James Truslow Adams described it as "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement."
  • The American dream was aided by a number of factors that gave the United States a competitive advantage over other countries.
  • Homeownership and education are often seen as paths to achieving the American dream.
  • Though the definition of the American Dream has changed to mean different things to different generations, it's undoubtedly part of the American ethos, and likely always will be.

Investopedia / Alex Dos Diaz

The term was coined by writer and historian James Truslow Adams in his best-selling 1931 book Epic of America . He described it as "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement."

Adams went on to explain, "It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motorcars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position."

The idea of the American dream has much deeper roots. Its tenets can be found in the Declaration of Independence, which states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In a society based on these principles, an individual can live life to its fullest as they define it. America also grew mostly as a nation of immigrants who created a nation where becoming an American—and passing that citizenship to your children—didn't require being the child of an American.

The American Dream now costs $3,455,305 —that's the estimated lifetime cost of common milestones including marriage, two children, homes, health care, cars, and education.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the American Dream

Achieving the American dream requires political and economic freedom, as well as rules of law and private property rights . Without them, individuals cannot make the choices that will permit them to attain success, nor can they have confidence that their achievements will not be taken away from them through arbitrary force.

The American dream promises freedom and equality. It offers the freedom to make both the large and small decisions that affect one’s life, the freedom to aspire to bigger and better things and the possibility of achieving them, the freedom to accumulate wealth, the opportunity to lead a dignified life, and the freedom to live in accordance with one’s values—even if those values are not widely held or accepted.

The books of post-Civil War writer Horatio Alger, in which impoverished but hardworking teenage boys rise to success through pluck, determination, and good fortune , came to personify realizing the Dream.

The American dream also offers the promise that the circumstances of someone's birth—including whether they were born American citizens or immigrants—do not completely determine their future.

Disadvantages

Terming it a "dream" also carries with it the notion that these ideals aren't necessarily what has played out in the lives of many actual Americans and those who hope to become Americans. The criticism that reality falls short of the American dream is at least as old as the idea itself. The spread of settlers into Native American lands, slavery, the limitation of the vote (originally) to white male landowners, and a long list of other injustices and challenges have undermined the realization of the dream for many who live in the United States.

As income inequality has increased substantially since the 1970s, the American dream has begun to seem less attainable for those who aren't already affluent or born into affluence. According to U.S. Census family income data, real family income began to grow much more among the top income group than among other segments of American society.

These realities, however, do not diminish the luster of the American dream as an ideal and a beacon to all nations.

The American dream promises freedom and equality.

The ideals of the American dream are motivating, including the freedom to be in charge of one's own life.

The reality of the American dream often falls short of the idea itself.

As income inequality has increased, the American dream has seemed less attainable.

Today, homeownership is frequently cited as an example of attaining the American dream. It is a symbol of financial success and independence, and it means the ability to control one’s own dwelling place instead of being subject to the whims of a landlord. Owning a business and being one’s own boss also represents the American dream fulfillment. In addition, access to education and healthcare have been cited as elements of the Dream.

Homeownership has steadily increased over time in the U.S., reflecting a key aspect of owning your own property as a sign of achieving the American Dream. For example, the homeownership rate at the end of the third quarter 2023 was 66%, same as the previous year. Entrepreneurship has always been important to the U.S. economy too. From 1995 to 2021, small businesses created 17.3 million net jobs alone.

Owning property, one's own business, and carving a life of one's own making is all part of the American dream, and the U.S. as a first-world country also offers the benefits of pursuing these passions, without having to worry about basics such as accessing good education and healthcare.

In her book Spreading the American Dream: American Economic and Cultural Expansion, 1890-1945 , sociologist Emily S. Rosenberg identifies five components of the American dream that have shown up in countries around the world. These include the following:

  • The belief that other nations should replicate America's development
  • Faith in a free market economy
  • Support for free trade agreements and foreign direct investment
  • Promotion of a free flow of information and culture
  • Acceptance of government protection of private enterprise

The American dream was aided by a number of factors that gave the United States a competitive advantage over other countries. For starters, it is relatively isolated geographically, compared to many other countries, and enjoys a temperate climate. It has a culturally diverse population that businesses use to foster innovation in a global landscape. Abundant natural resources—including oil, arable land, and long coastlines—generate food and income for the country and its residents.

“The American Dream” has always been about the prospect of success, but 100 years ago, the phrase meant the opposite of what it does now. The original “American Dream” was not a dream of individual wealth; it was a dream of equality, justice, and democracy for the nation used in the early 1900s The phrase was repurposed by each generation, until the Cold War, when it became an argument for a consumer capitalist version of democracy. Our ideas about the “American Dream” froze in the 1950s. Today, it doesn’t occur to anybody that it could mean anything else.

What Is the Original American Dream?

The phrase “American dream” was often used by Progressive-era reformers of the 1900s. Rather than exalting the pursuit of wealth, they sought to tame monopoly capitalism and protect workers and communities from robber barons. This concept was popularized by writer and historian James Truslow Adams in his best-selling 1931 book Epic of America.  He described it as "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement."

What Are Examples of the American Dream?

Examples of the American Dream include owning your own house, starting a family, and having a stable job or owning your own business.

Is the American Dream Still Achievable?

It's widely debated if the American Dream is still achievable, and what that achievement even entails. Indeed, today, many people wonder if they can keep up with rising housing costs and interest payments on loans needed to purchase things like homes and cars. Moreover, American's need to save for their own retirement and pay large out-of-pocket costs for healthcare and higher education, which can leave families saddled with high-interest debt that is hard to crawl back from.

What Is the American Dream in Dr. Martin Luther King's Speech?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous speech referenced the concept of the American dream by stating: "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.'" Since the early 1960s, Dr. King had pondered and preached about how African Americans didn't get a chance to access the reality of the American dream because they were not truly equal to white men and women. Ultimately, Dr. King's "American dream" was equality.

How Has the American Dream Changed?

Over time, the American dream has shifted from an ethos of equality and solidarity to one of individualistic competition to succeed materialistically, fueled by consumption. In the 1990s and early 2000s, mortgage company Fannie Mae began promulgating the notion that buying a home was a cornerstone of the American Dream, and use the term prominently in ads selling home loans. This ideology led to the housing boom and ultimate bubble that popped ultimately, leading to the 2008-09 financial crisis.

The concept of the American dream is still one of the most uniquely "American" ideals—the ultimate idea that any individual should be able to pursue their dreams and build the life they want if they put in the hard work. This motivating drive influences the economy with entrepreneurship and individual ambition, infusing a romantic notion to anyone trying to be successful in the United States. Though the definition of the American Dream has changed to mean different things to different generations , it's undoubtedly part of the American ethos, and always will be.

James Truslow Adams. " The Epic of America ." Page 404. Taylor & Francis Group, 2017.

National Archives. " Declaration of Independence: A Transcription ."

Constitution Annotated. " Amdt14.S1.1.2 Citizenship Clause Doctrine ."

United States Census Bureau. " Real Household Income at Selected Percentiles: 1967 - 2014 ."

U.S. Census Bureau. " Quarterly Residential Vacancies and Homeownership, Fourth Quarter 2023 ." Page 5.

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Frequently Asked Questions About Small Business 2023 ."

Emily S. Rosenberg. " Spreading the American Dream, American Economic and Cultural Expansion, 1890-1945 ." Chapter 1: Introduction to the American Dream. Hill & Wang, 2011.

Greene, Maxine. " On the American Dream: Equality, Ambiguity, and The Persistence of Rage ."  Curriculum Inquiry, vol. 13, no. 2, Summer 1983, pp. 179-193.

Sarah Churchwell. " Behold, America, The Entangled History of 'America First' and 'the American Dream' ." Hachette Book Group, 2018.

Ad Forum. " Fannie Mae - 'American Dream' ."

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Descriptive Essay – What is the American Dream?

The American dream has always been a staple of American culture. When people speak of it, they often refer back to the first half of the 20th century. Despite this, the American Dream is just as relevant to American culture today as it was in the last century. In this essay, we will explore the American dream and just what it is.

Firstly, it’s important to mention the American dream isn’t measured based on what an individual has. It has to be measured on its principles and how they apply to society. Although the American dream isn’t as distinct from the rest of the world as it once was, it still makes America what it is today.

The first part of the American dream is the dream of abundance. The dream of abundance is the ability of America to have a country filled with material goods. It remains the envy of the world today as a nation of producers and consumers. Few countries can match the sheer range of goods America has.

Next, we have the dream of a democracy of goods. This is the ability of everyone to purchase the goods of America, regardless of where they come from and who they are. It links back to the constitutional right of everyone to be free and equal. To fulfil this part of the constitution, the dream of a democracy of goods has to exist.

The dream of freedom of choice is the third part of the American dream and, again, ties back in to the American constitution. It allows people to fashion their own lifestyles using the goods on offer. People have the freedom to be who they want to be, and they aren’t restricted by the supply of goods on offer.

Finally, we have the dream of novelty. This represents a broadening of consumer choice. Fashions are allowed to change at will. It has a deep impact on American society. It means the current skills in demand are forever changing. The people don’t have to specialise in specific areas just to get along in life. They can be sure there will always be a demand for niche skills, which allows them more freedom of choice.

One can say the American dream has been born out of the constitution. It’s the constitution that allows it to exist. Without the rights enshrined in this document, the American dream wouldn’t be able to persevere.

Today, the American dream is still relevant. How people achieve this dream has changed, but the basic principles of it haven’t. The difference today is young people may go to college instead of an apprenticeship to go about their pursuit of the American dream.

In conclusion, the American dream is about both choice in the consumer industry and unlimited freedom of choice. These are principles Americans demand in everything they do. In many ways, the American dream has grown to symbolise more than just the consumer industry. The American dream is a symbol of a strong America as a whole.

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American Dream - Essay Examples And Topic Ideas For Free

The American Dream, a widely held cultural ideal in the United States, suggests that through hard work and determination, individuals can achieve a prosperous and fulfilling life. Essays on this topic might discuss its evolution, its representation in literature and media, and its relevance and attainability in modern society. Additionally, discussions could explore how the American Dream reflects or contradicts societal values and the experiences of different demographic groups. A vast selection of complimentary essay illustrations pertaining to American Dream you can find in Papersowl database. You can use our samples for inspiration to write your own essay, research paper, or just to explore a new topic for yourself.

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The American Dream in USA

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After World War II ended, men and women all over America chased after The American Dream. A three-bedroom home. A backyard for the kids and the dog. A white-picket fence. Maybe a detached garage for grandma and grandpa when they get too old to take care of themselves. Far out in the suburbs, they'd be safe from the noise, danger, and filth of the city. However, the dream quickly turned into a nightmare as highways were built, the cities emptied, […]

The Death of the American Dreams

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "you become what you think about all day long", and with James Gatz from Francis Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, that is completely true. James Gatz spent his days obsessing over following the American Dream and becoming a wealthy and prosperous man, and from James' imagination manifested a man named Jay Gatsby. Just as Jay Gatsby spent his life vying for Daisy Buchanan's love, and obsessing over her as mimicked through several love poems, he […]

Role of the American Dream

The American dream made it so people were raised to believe that anyone could fulfill their wishes.  It began in the 1900s and now is torn between whether it is still possible to achieve.  There are many definitions to this so called American Dream, everyone has their own belief on what it meant and even what it means now.  Many have looked at it as becoming wealthy with lots of money, so they could spend buying high quality materials to […]

American Dream and the Great Gatsby

The American Dream has changed since Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby. Now, most people think the American Dream means happiness through money and what it can buy. Whereas Fitzgerald thought it meant happiness in any way possible. If you asked me what I believed the American Dream was before reading this book I would have said that I did not know what the American Dream was but after looking it up I would have thought it meant happiness through money. […]

Poor Education is a Social Issue

Poor education is feasibly at the top of many great American social issues. Because I believe it is the main root that leads the American citizens astray from the path of achieving the American Dream I am addressing it in this paper. James Adams said “the American Dream is the social order in which both, man and woman, are able to attain the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, […]

The Crisis and Contradictions of the American Dream

What are the crisis and contradictions of the American Dream?. In the first article Unequal Opportunity: Race and Education, the author explains how students are segregated in the U.S educational system. At the beginning of the article Darling-Hammond talks about the educatioanl gap between white and minority students.In the middle of the article Darling-Hammond futher explains how minority students are at a disadvantage because of the  schools unfair system .Darling-Hammong concludes that well education resources  make the difference.In the second […]

What is American Dream for me

Kenny Guinn once said, "There is something permanent, and something extremely profound, in owning a home," and I could not agree more. Owning a home brings a sense of fulfillment, permanence, privacy, and security, something that is less available when renting. It also imparts a sense of pride as it is an indication of success and achievement. There are also the economic advantages of owning a home. Equity, collateral, and appreciation of your home's value are just a few. Both […]

‘The American Dream’

Harlem was written in 1951 amid when numerous blacks felt constrained in their capacity to accomplish 'The American Dream.' Even though the Civil War was long finished and blacks actually reserved the option to cast a ballot, schools were still isolated and numerous blacks could just secure essential positions that did not furnish them with a future. In this way, a significant number of them had little expectation that their prospects could be extraordinary; many believed that their fantasies would […]

The Quest to Achieve the American Dream

Education is the constant distinguisher between white and black Americans in the quest to achieve the "American Dream". Educational disparity is defined as the pervasive difference in the academic achievement of the races.  African Americans have achieved at lower rates than their white counterparts for decades. According to The Journal of Blacks in Education,  white Americans graduate at a rate that is 24.7 % higher than that of African Americans.  In order to narrow this gap, we must first understand […]

How Coming to America Changed my Life

Moving from Nigeria to the United States permanently feels great, but at the same time, it is sad leaving some loved ones and family behind. Most people have several events or things that have changed their life or their way of thinking. One of the major changes that occurred in my life was when I moved from Africa to America. This change has entirely affected my personality positively. Why? Many foreigners want to come to America mostly in search of […]

No Access in the American Dream of Hope

The American Dream of Hope has been failing since history and people have been fighting it for it all the time to reach their goals. The 3 sources that give examples of unequal access in the American dream of hope is the bool Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, How to Tame a Wild Tongue by Gloria Anzaldua, and The Problem We All Live with by Nikole Hannah-Jones. The American Dream of Hope has unequal access because of […]

Feeding the Destruction of the American Dream

The bad habits we create directly extended into the food industry as do our uncontrollable economic circumstances. Our purchase and consumption of certain types of foods demand the production of them, creating an endless cycle. When you don’t know how to cook, you don’t what’s in your food, you don’t know what’s healthy versus unhealthy, and/or you don’t have money you turn to cheap food. The sad thing is that today cheap food directly correlates to unhealthy food; they are […]

An Idea of American Dream

Have you ever looked at the weather through the eyes of someone else? Depending on who that person is, the perspective maybe very different from the house. Best, their ideas and opinions may differ as well. And exact representation found when comparing what Whitman's I hear America singing langston Hughes I too. The two pumps being considered reveals others attitudes of pride women rights I hear America singing singing with open mouth stay strong melodious songs lines 128 through 29. […]

Additional Example Essays

  • My Personal American Dream
  • Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race
  • The American Dream: Is It Achievable
  • 3 Reasons Why the American Dream Is Still Alive
  • Failures and success in business
  • How do Video Games affect the Mental Health of Young Adults
  • The Effect of Alcohol on College Students
  • Leadership and the Army Profession
  • Why College Should Not Be Free
  • Shakespeare's Hamlet Character Analysis
  • A Raisin in the Sun Theme
  • Why Abortion Should be Illegal

How To Write an Essay About American Dream

Understanding the concept of the american dream.

Before diving into an essay about the American Dream, it's important to understand its concept and evolution. The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals that includes democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity, and equality. It promises the chance for prosperity and success achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers. Begin your essay by discussing the historical origins of the American Dream, including how it has been represented in literature, politics, and culture. Address how the perception of this dream has changed over time, considering factors such as economic conditions, social movements, and immigration.

Developing a Thesis Statement

A strong essay on the American Dream should be centered around a clear, concise thesis statement. This statement should present a specific viewpoint or argument about the American Dream. For instance, you might discuss how the American Dream is relevant in today's society, analyze its portrayal in a specific piece of literature, or argue that the American Dream is only accessible to certain groups of people. Your thesis will guide the direction of your essay and provide a structured approach to your analysis.

Gathering Supporting Evidence

Support your thesis with relevant evidence and examples. This might include historical documents, literary texts, sociological research, or current events. For example, if you're examining the accessibility of the American Dream, you might include statistics on income inequality or social mobility. Use this evidence to build your argument and provide depth to your analysis.

Analyzing Different Perspectives

Your essay should also consider different perspectives on the American Dream. This could involve looking at how the dream is experienced by various social, ethnic, and economic groups. Discussing the critiques and affirmations of the American Dream from these different viewpoints can provide a more nuanced understanding of the topic. Acknowledge the complexities and contradictions that surround the American Dream, and how it can be both a source of inspiration and disillusionment.

Concluding the Essay

Conclude your essay by summarizing the main points of your discussion and restating your thesis in light of the evidence provided. Your conclusion should tie together your analysis and emphasize the significance of the American Dream in American culture and identity. You might also want to reflect on the future of the American Dream, considering current trends and societal changes.

Reviewing and Refining Your Essay

After completing your essay, review and refine it for clarity and coherence. Ensure that your arguments are well-structured and supported by evidence. Check for grammatical accuracy and ensure that your essay flows logically from one point to the next. Consider seeking feedback from peers or instructors to further improve your essay. A well-written essay on the American Dream will not only demonstrate your understanding of this iconic concept but also your ability to critically engage with cultural and societal issues.

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The American Dream Essay – Free Example, with Outline

Published by gudwriter on May 25, 2018 May 25, 2018

The American Dream Essay 

Write a historical analysis of the factors you see as leading to the development of the American dream as a concept. Try to show how the American dream grew out of specific aspects of American history and if you have any difficulties grasping the concept do my history homework for me is here to help out at an affordable price.

Elevate Your Writing with Our Free Writing Tools!

Did you know that we provide a free essay and speech generator, plagiarism checker, summarizer, paraphraser, and other writing tools for free?

Here is a sample essay that tries to answer the above question.

Essay on the American Dream Outline

Introduction

Thesis: The American dream grew out of specific aspects of the American history defined by the fore-founding fathers and America’s greatest leaders.

Paragraph 1:

In 1931, there was the first public definition of the phrase in the book the Epic of America authored by James Truslow.

  • In his description, he maintained that the Dream is characterized by a situation where every individual desires his or her life to be more vibrant and fuller.
  • There are five major pillars of the American dream including, the idea of a free market economy, embracing free trade agreements, embracing government protection of companies, and the idea that countries should replicate America’s development.

Paragraph 2:

Upon its inception, the American Dream only applied to white property owners.

  • As people began embracing the idea of equal rights to every American despite their color or origin, the laws were extended to include other individuals including non-property owners and women.
  • In the 20’s, the American Dream started acquiring a more profound definition characterized by obtaining material items.
  • In the new definition, there were elements of greed that finally led to woes in the stock market and the Great Depression.

Paragraph 3: 

Prominent American politicians have continuously defined the American Dream.

  • One of the greatest supporters of the Dream was President Lincoln who upon becoming president was quick to accord equal opportunities to slaves.
  • Another champion was President Wilson who maintained and pushed forward for accordance with voting rights for women leading to the 19 th Amendment in 1918.
  • President Johnson pushed forward for the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that led to an end of segregation in many Public schools.
  • President Obama promoted the accordance of equal rights to married people regardless of their sexual orientation giving a voice to the LGBT community

Paragraph 4:

President Roosevelt pushed for the idea that attainment of individual freedom requires maximum economic security and independence.

  • Roosevelt protected the US from different elements such as communism, socialism, and Nazism.
  • Through the Second Bill of Rights that the issue of domestic security was addressed and later pushed forward by Truman’s administration.
  • President Obama is the most recent president that redefined the American Dream to include affordable health care, employment opportunities, student loans and government aid.

Paragraph 5: 

In the American society of today, The American Dream may be taken to mean being able to exist in a free and equal society.

  • This is a society where an American is hesitant to impose their cultural values on others but always ready to join fellow Americans in pushing for their common socioeconomic interests.
  • They are concerned about protecting the right of another person and not on the cultural background of that individual.

American history has continuously shaped the American Dream. Although there has been a disagreement on what constitutes the Dream, the founding fathers and the American Presidents have made efforts to define the American Dream as equal opportunities for all.

What is the American Dream Essay Outline

Thesis:  The American Dream is based on the argument that every American citizen regardless of where they are born, their color, their religion, their sexual orientation or their political affiliations can become successful in life by taking risks and working hard and not by chance.

The first American to coin the term American Dream was James Truslow in his book the  Epic of America  in 1931.

  • Therein, he argues that the Dream is not merely a dream of high wages and cars but a dream of social order.
  • The American Dream is more of a charm of anticipated success as put across by a French Historian Alexis de Tocqueville.
  • The charm and the desire has attracted thousands of immigrants to the American shores and set a high bat for other nations across the world.

Ever since the inception of the American Dram, it has acted as a guideline to help Americans pursue their dreams, happiness and attain their maximum potential.

  • In essence, it is all about helping individuals shape their destiny.
  • The basic concept of the American Dream is that success is not guaranteed but rather offers Americans a chance to overcome obstacles to achieve their inner most desires.

Paragraph 3:

The Dream supports commitment to a common set of values and ideals.

  • It makes people acknowledge that a person can be American irrespective of their linguistic, cultural, religious, or ethnic background.
  • All a person has to do so as to be considered an American is to show true commitment to the political ideologies of equality, republicanism, and liberty.

The elusive and difficult nature of the American Dream makes many Americans skeptical on the prospect of achieving it.

  • In a statement made by George Carlin , he posited that it is referred to as the American Dream since one has to be asleep to believe it.
  • Although Carlin interpreted the concept of the American Dream in a loose sense, it is without a doubt that it offers salvation for those who achieve it or damnation for those who fail to achieve it.
  • Those who record success bear a legacy of positive influence while those that fail to achieve it bear a legacy of failure.

Paragraph 5:

The concept of the American Dream highlights the importance of optimism in succeeding in life but it offers no guarantees.

  • As many Americans succeed due to their hard work, optimism and determination, others fail despite having put a lot of hard work towards achieving their dreams.
  • The American Dream is crucial when it comes to fulfilling the American culture.
  • The American culture is one that embraces the concept of success and working towards full potential.
  • The beauty of the entire concept is that it guarantees nothing other than hope.
  • While many are damned towards the course of its fulfillment, many have walked down the path of success and fulfilled the American Dream.

The American Dream is not about a destination but rather a journey towards success. Every American or individual within the borders of the United States has equal opportunities and chances to work his or her way up towards fulfillment of the Dream. It is a guiding light that has helped many attain their dreams.

What is the American Dream Essay Sample 2, with Outline

The beauty of every nation lies with its people’s ability to maintain universal ideals and philosophies. In the United States, there is the standard American Dream concept that guides every right-minded citizen. It is an ideology or a set of ethos that govern American citizens as they go through life or as they build the nation. The American Dream is based on the argument that every American citizen, regardless of where they are born, their color, their religion, their sexual orientation, or their political affiliations, can become successful in life by taking risks and working hard and not by chance.

The first American to coin the term “American Dream” was James Truslow in 1931. Therein, he argues that the Dream is not merely a dream of an extremely expensive life and cars but a dream of social order where every American can become successful regardless of their origin or color. It is more of a charm of anticipated success as put across by a French Historian known as Alexis de Tocqueville. The charm and the desire have attracted thousands of immigrants to the United States and set a high bar for other nations across the world.

Ever since the inception of the concept, it has acted as a guideline to help Americans pursue their dreams and happiness, and attain their maximum potential. In essence, it is all about assisting individuals to shape their destiny. It is important to highlight the fact that the basic idea behind the American Dream concept is that success is not guaranteed but that each American has a chance to overcome obstacles and achieve their innermost desires.

The Dream supports commitment to a common set of values and ideals. It makes people acknowledge that a person can be American irrespective of their linguistic, cultural, religious, or ethnic background. All a person has to do so as to be considered an American is to show true commitment to the political ideologies of equality, republicanism, and liberty. It is through this commitment that one can play their part towards ensuring that the American society exists in a free atmosphere where individuals can pursue their businesses and life dreams without fearing being sanctioned by anybody. However, the manner in which a person pursues their life dreams should not infringe into the rights of another person.

The elusive and challenging nature of the American Dream makes many Americans skeptical about the prospect of achieving it. In a statement made by George Carlin, he posited that it is referred to as the American Dream since one has to be asleep to believe it. Although Carlin interpreted the concept in a loose sense, it is without a doubt that it offers salvation for those who achieve it or damnation for those who fail to realize it. Those who record success bear a legacy of positive influence while those that fail to realize it bear a legacy of failure.

The concept of the American Dream highlights the importance of optimism in succeeding in life, but it offers no guarantees. Therefore, even as many Americans succeed due to their hard work, confidence, and determination, others fail despite having put a lot of hard work towards achieving their dreams. It is without a doubt that the American Dream is crucial when it comes to fulfilling the American culture. The American culture is one that embraces the concept of success and working towards full potential. The beauty of the entire idea is that it guarantees nothing other than hope. Therefore, while many are damned towards the course of its fulfillment, many others have walked down the path of success and fulfilled the American Dream.

In summary, the American Dream is not about a destination but rather a journey towards success. Every American or individual within the borders of the United States have equal opportunities and chances to work his or her way up towards the fulfillment of the Dream. Although there is a lot of disagreement over the definition of the term, one thing is for sure: the American Dream is a guiding light that has helped many Americans realize their dreams.

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what is the american dream to you essay

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what is the american dream to you essay

Ever since I came of age, I’ve been preparing to leave behind the turmoil of Lebanon for the promises of the American Dream. Before I was born in the United States in 1996 — only to be whisked right back to Lebanon in my infancy — numerous relatives from both sides of my extended family had made a home for themselves there across generations. I was certain I would one day follow in their footsteps and find similar success.

Like other Lebanese born after the country’s civil war (1975-1990), migration for better prospects in the Persian Gulf and the West was expected — especially after the situation in our country took a seemingly permanent turn for the worse. Circumstances, however, conspired that I would find myself back in Beirut after an unsuccessful stint in Doha, Qatar. 

Graduate education took priority for the next few years until I lost my life savings in Lebanon’s liquidity crisis of 2019 . Skirting by on a mix of cash on hand and freelance work on the side was manageable until local establishments began accepting only dollars, leaving me unable to cover bills. By 2023, I had to leave Beirut again. This time, Pittsburgh would be my destination.

Years earlier, my sister left Lebanon to attend Carnegie Mellon University, and we decided I would join her in Pittsburgh so that she could help me resettle. It was not an easy trip, taking three flights, the longest of which had me stuffed in a 10-person row for over 10 hours. I was then driven to an old house in Squirrel Hill, where I would stay until I could get on my feet. My sister and her college friends had rented the ground floor, but it didn’t seem to have been renovated once in the hundred years it had stood there. Stepping inside, the floorboards creaked, and as I made my way to the living room, I noticed nails sticking out everywhere. A deflating inflatable mattress became my bed.

Things only got worse. Due to the water damage in the ceiling, I was startled awake whenever our upstairs neighbors walked around, worried that the entire floor would collapse. If I could sleep through that, I would choke from the strep throat I caught on one of the planes but didn’t discover until months later. To get up every morning, I had to roll off the mattress, stiff and sick, hoping not to land on the nails, and then call someone to help me stand up.

Even with the outages and shortages in Lebanon, life was somehow more comfortable in Beirut. This Beirut, however, only existed in my memory by that point. Pittsburgh was the new normal, and I knew I needed to be as tough as those nails to stick it out in this city.

A Downtown unfit for even McDonald’s

Bettering my circumstances with government assistance proved laborious. Applying for food stamps and health insurance took days, and it would be weeks before I could secure them. Until then, I was unsure if I had followed the procedure properly, and even after word arrived by mail, I could barely wrap my head around the Kafkaesque processes needed to take advantage of these benefits.

Eventually, once I had worn out my welcome in my sister’s residence, she told me to move out. For that, I needed to find a job. However, I had no professional contacts in the States nor the STEM education to secure work quickly with a respectable salary. 

what is the american dream to you essay

Initially, I wasn’t worried. I had read up extensively on the situation. Pittsburgh, the Steel City, was being lauded for its miraculous economic revival decades following its collapse. Aware of what other Rust Belt cities were going through, I felt reinvigorated by the durability on display in the online articles. I figured something was bound to come up if I just looked hard enough. 

But running around Pittsburgh for interviews wasn’t feasible. Unlike Beirut, the sloping landscape in the city made walking long distances impossible, and public transportation was time-consuming and expensive. Considering what I saw on the streets of the city, it was hard to understand how the economy was considered to be in good shape. Regardless, after the prior couple of years, I wanted to be hopeful; I needed to be. It was not until we visited Downtown that I realized how bad the socioeconomic situation in Pittsburgh actually was.

what is the american dream to you essay

The financial hub of this major city was deserted. The infrastructure was aging, with potholes everywhere and buildings that looked in poor shape. Barely any customers could be spotted inside the shops or restaurants, with uncharacteristically vacant fast food joints littering every corner. I heard that even the last McDonald’s in Downtown had closed down.

what is the american dream to you essay

A driver bringing me back to Squirrel Hill explained that the economic momentum Pittsburgh had been building in recent years had come to a sharp halt with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because Pittsburgh isn’t as widely discussed in international media as other major American cities like New York or Los Angeles, it wasn’t as clear how much it suffered. Jobs were now scarce , wages had stagnated , and expenses were at an all-time high . 

Even though I had already completed a master’s degree in international relations from the Queen Mary University of London and had years of marketing experience under my belt, I realized he was right when I couldn’t find work in anything but low-income service jobs. 

Arabs need not apply?

Worse yet, all the corporate positions I was interviewed for were for placements outside of the city, requiring a handful of calls with employers who, on hearing my accent, probed me about my background and were seemingly unsettled by the fact that I was from the Middle East. 

Realizing that my origin was why I was given the cold shoulder shocked me. None of my relatives in America seemed to have encountered this resistance in their time. After all, Lebanese have been migrating to the Americas since the 19th century, with a significant diaspora in Pennsylvania that had integrated seamlessly into the mainstream culture. A lifetime ago, my grandfather’s cousin, George A. Kasem, was the first Arab elected to Congress representing California; now, I wasn’t even invited into an office in Pennsylvania.

In post-9/11 America, the perception of Arabs had changed, and this discomfort with my origins wasn’t limited to professional circles. Friendly locals asked me where I was from, only to stop dealing with me when I answered them. For the first time, I was aware of my race as I interacted with others. Slowly, it became uncomfortably clear that economic class was divided along racial lines in Pittsburgh, with BIPOC minorities occupying low-income jobs, and any sort of affluence largely limited to European Americans. Like anyone who follows international news, I was aware of the racial problems that America deals with. And yet, I never realized how prominently race loomed over the country until I encountered it firsthand.

Pittsburgh — like Beirut and Doha before it — was to be a stopgap for better prospects elsewhere. But, even after months of trying to stick it out, I could only hold out for so long. Even though I was an American citizen, this was not my city. It wouldn’t let itself be. 

Through all the hurdles I had to overcome, I could never imagine spending the rest of my life in Pittsburgh. I chose to continue my education at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Once I finish my doctorate, Lebanon’s economy will still be in shambles, with no job prospects. I have few options but to return to Pittsburgh for work, but I hope to eventually find a permanent home in Europe, where, ironically, I expect the culture shock not to be as severe. After what I’ve been through, it can only go up from here. 

J.D. Harlock is a SWANA American academic pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of St. Andrews, whose writing has been featured in The Cincinnati Review, Strange Horizons, Nightmare Magazine, The Griffith Review, Queen’s Quarterly and New York University’s Library of Arabic Literature. He can be reached at LinkedIn .

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what is the american dream to you essay

Blue and red colors in a graphic

Stanislaus State’s 2024 Champions of the American Dream Honoree to Share Inspirational Insights

Ask entrepreneur Ann Endsley her definition of achieving the American Dream, and you’ll hear an answer that might surprise you.

“I don’t think it has to do with work or jobs,” she said. “To me, the American Dream is having inner peace despite your struggles, and I think that comes through fulfilling work, helping others and not just focusing on yourself.

Ann Endsley

“When you have inner peace, when you can look in the mirror and feel good about yourself, to me that’s the dream. It’s when you can walk through your day knowing that you did something to help others and that you made the world a better place.”

For more than three decades, Endsley has worked tirelessly doing just that: striving to make the world a better place through both mindful entrepreneurship and intentional philanthropy. To shine a light on the impact of her work, Stanislaus State and the College of Business Administration, as part of the Warrior Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program and in partnership with the Porges Family Foundation, have selected her as the 2024 Champion of the American Dream honoree.

Endsley will talk about her journey as a businessperson and engaged community member during a fireside chat honoring her achievements during the University’s annual Champions of the American Dream event on Wednesday, May 1, in Main Dining.

The festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. The discussion will be moderated by 2022 honoree Marian Kaanon, president and chief executive officer of the Stanislaus Community Foundation.

Register Today

Champions of the American Dream recognizes individuals in the Central Valley who have distinguished themselves by their professional success and have made exceptional contributions to communities in the Central Valley.

“It’s very humbling to be recognized for doing something positive in the community,” Endsley said.

As far as her being selected as this year’s Champion, she doesn’t always see herself in that light.

“Some days, we are champions. But there are many days when we don’t feel that way. We’re just out there trying to make the right decision and do the best we can with every challenge, every win and every loss.”

Bradon Hoover

This year, a new component has been added to Champions of the American Dream, one that recognizes a student. Bradon Hoover, a third-year art major, is the inaugural Emerging Student honoree. Hoover is vice president and treasurer of Stan State’s Art Club and chief marketing officer for the Warrior Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group student organization. Hoover is using the experience he gained from launching his high school’s maker space, and from hands-on experiences in Stan State’s Fab Lab, to start a similar venture in the Turlock area. 

In addition to recognizing the entrepreneurial and community spirit of the honorees, the Champions of the American Dream event offers students and community members an opportunity to interact with regional business leaders who serve as dynamic role models while giving back.

“I think the American Dream is to be able to have the freedom to make our best decisions and do our best work each day.”

   Ann Endsley, 2024 Champion of the American Dream Honoree

Endsley has built a multifaceted career and an extensive and diverse business portfolio over three decades. In the 1980s, she founded Integrated Syndication Systems, Inc., offering consulting in real estate syndication. She expanded into agriculture in 2007 with Four Seasons Farms in Modesto, followed by establishing Greens Market in 2010, a specialty food market highlighting local, organic produce. In 2019, she further diversified by opening Gather, an event venue with a large demonstration kitchen for various educational programs for adults and children.

She will share her insights, inspiration and advice with students and community members in attendance. Reflecting on the core values guiding her, she is excited to share her experiences and nuggets of wisdom with attendees.

“I think the American Dream is to be able to have the freedom to make our best decisions and do our best work each day. It also means giving oneself grace, so when you fall, you get up and keep going. That’s really the American Dream, because let’s face it, not every day is a blue-ribbon day.”

She also has a plethora of good advice to share, including not giving up when things get tough.

“There’s always a way,” she said. “If you hit a brick wall, you might have to climb over it. You might have to get a ladder to get over it; you might have to run around it or break through it. Don’t let anything stop you from pursuing it, no matter how daunting or hopeless it seems. Everyone who has achieved success just kept running, just kept going.”

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Guest Essay

What Sentencing Could Look Like if Trump Is Found Guilty

A black-and-white photo of Donald Trump, standing behind a metal barricade.

By Norman L. Eisen

Mr. Eisen is the author of “Trying Trump: A Guide to His First Election Interference Criminal Trial.”

For all the attention to and debate over the unfolding trial of Donald Trump in Manhattan, there has been surprisingly little of it paid to a key element: its possible outcome and, specifically, the prospect that a former and potentially future president could be sentenced to prison time.

The case — brought by Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, against Mr. Trump — represents the first time in our nation’s history that a former president is a defendant in a criminal trial. As such, it has generated lots of debate about the case’s legal strength and integrity, as well as its potential impact on Mr. Trump’s efforts to win back the White House.

A review of thousands of cases in New York that charged the same felony suggests something striking: If Mr. Trump is found guilty, incarceration is an actual possibility. It’s not certain, of course, but it is plausible.

Jury selection has begun, and it’s not too soon to talk about what the possibility of a sentence, including a prison sentence, would look like for Mr. Trump, for the election and for the country — including what would happen if he is re-elected.

The case focuses on alleged interference in the 2016 election, which consisted of a hush-money payment Michael Cohen, the former president’s fixer at the time, made in 2016 to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump. Mr. Bragg is arguing that the cover-up cheated voters of the chance to fully assess Mr. Trump’s candidacy.

This may be the first criminal trial of a former president in American history, but if convicted, Mr. Trump’s fate is likely to be determined by the same core factors that guide the sentencing of every criminal defendant in New York State Court.

Comparable cases. The first factor is the base line against which judges measure all sentences: how other defendants have been treated for similar offenses. My research encompassed almost 10,000 cases of felony falsifying business records that have been prosecuted across the state of New York since 2015. Over a similar period, the Manhattan D.A. has charged over 400 of these cases . In roughly the first year of Mr. Bragg’s tenure, his team alone filed 166 felony counts for falsifying business records against 34 people or companies.

Contrary to claims that there will be no sentence of incarceration for falsifying business records, when a felony conviction involves serious misconduct, defendants can be sentenced to some prison time. My analysis of the most recent data indicates that approximately one in 10 cases in which the most serious charge at arraignment is falsifying business records in the first degree and in which the court ultimately imposes a sentence, results in a term of imprisonment.

To be clear, these cases generally differ from Mr. Trump’s case in one important respect: They typically involve additional charges besides just falsifying records. That clearly complicates what we might expect if Mr. Trump is convicted.

Nevertheless, there are many previous cases involving falsifying business records along with other charges where the conduct was less serious than is alleged against Mr. Trump and prison time was imposed. For instance, Richard Luthmann was accused of attempting to deceive voters — in his case, impersonating New York political figures on social media in an attempt to influence campaigns. He pleaded guilty to three counts of falsifying business records in the first degree (as well as to other charges). He received a sentence of incarceration on the felony falsification counts (although the sentence was not solely attributable to the plea).

A defendant in another case was accused of stealing in excess of $50,000 from her employer and, like in this case, falsifying one or more invoices as part of the scheme. She was indicted on a single grand larceny charge and ultimately pleaded guilty to one felony count of business record falsification for a false invoice of just under $10,000. She received 364 days in prison.

To be sure, for a typical first-time offender charged only with run-of-the-mill business record falsification, a prison sentence would be unlikely. On the other hand, Mr. Trump is being prosecuted for 34 counts of conduct that might have changed the course of American history.

Seriousness of the crime. Mr. Bragg alleges that Mr. Trump concealed critical information from voters (paying hush money to suppress an extramarital relationship) that could have harmed his campaign, particularly if it came to light after the revelation of another scandal — the “Access Hollywood” tape . If proved, that could be seen not just as unfortunate personal judgment but also, as Justice Juan Merchan has described it, an attempt “to unlawfully influence the 2016 presidential election.”

History and character. To date, Mr. Trump has been unrepentant about the events alleged in this case. There is every reason to believe that will not change even if he is convicted, and lack of remorse is a negative at sentencing. Justice Merchan’s evaluation of Mr. Trump’s history and character may also be informed by the other judgments against him, including Justice Arthur Engoron’s ruling that Mr. Trump engaged in repeated and persistent business fraud, a jury finding that he sexually abused and defamed E. Jean Carroll and a related defamation verdict by a second jury.

Justice Merchan may also weigh the fact that Mr. Trump has been repeatedly held in contempt , warned , fined and gagged by state and federal judges. That includes for statements he made that exposed witnesses, individuals in the judicial system and their families to danger. More recently, Mr. Trump made personal attacks on Justice Merchan’s daughter, resulting in an extension of the gag order in the case. He now stands accused of violating it again by commenting on witnesses.

What this all suggests is that a term of imprisonment for Mr. Trump, while far from certain for a former president, is not off the table. If he receives a sentence of incarceration, perhaps the likeliest term is six months, although he could face up to four years, particularly if Mr. Trump chooses to testify, as he said he intends to do , and the judge believes he lied on the stand . Probation is also available, as are more flexible approaches like a sentence of spending every weekend in jail for a year.

We will probably know what the judge will do within 30 to 60 days of the end of the trial, which could run into mid-June. If there is a conviction, that would mean a late summer or early fall sentencing.

Justice Merchan would have to wrestle in the middle of an election year with the potential impact of sentencing a former president and current candidate.

If Mr. Trump is sentenced to a period of incarceration, the reaction of the American public will probably be as polarized as our divided electorate itself. Yet as some polls suggest — with the caveat that we should always be cautious of polls early in the race posing hypothetical questions — many key swing state voters said they would not vote for a felon.

If Mr. Trump is convicted and then loses the presidential election, he will probably be granted bail, pending an appeal, which will take about a year. That means if any appeals are unsuccessful, he will most likely have to serve any sentence starting sometime next year. He will be sequestered with his Secret Service protection; if it is less than a year, probably in Rikers Island. His protective detail will probably be his main company, since Mr. Trump will surely be isolated from other inmates for his safety.

If Mr. Trump wins the presidential election, he can’t pardon himself because it is a state case. He will be likely to order the Justice Department to challenge his sentence, and department opinions have concluded that a sitting president could not be imprisoned, since that would prevent the president from fulfilling the constitutional duties of the office. The courts have never had to address the question, but they could well agree with the Justice Department.

So if Mr. Trump is convicted and sentenced to a period of incarceration, its ultimate significance is probably this: When the American people go to the polls in November, they will be voting on whether Mr. Trump should be held accountable for his original election interference.

What questions do you have about Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial so far?

Please submit them below. Our trial experts will respond to a selection of readers in a future piece.

Norman L. Eisen investigated the 2016 voter deception allegations as counsel for the first impeachment and trial of Donald Trump and is the author of “Trying Trump: A Guide to His First Election Interference Criminal Trial.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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The New Rules of Political Journalism

In this election, the reporting strategies of the past will not be enough.

Screens prepared to broadcast at a caucus night watch party with former US President Donald Trump in Des Moines, Iowa

This is an edition of The Atlantic Daily, a newsletter that guides you through the biggest stories of the day, helps you discover new ideas, and recommends the best in culture. Sign up for it here.

In our digitally chaotic world, relying on the election-reporting strategies of the past is like bringing the rules of chess to the Thunderdome.

First, here are three new stories from The Atlantic :

  • The October 7 rape denialists
  • Finding justice in Palestine
  • Biden’s safe, polite campaign stop in Scranton

This past weekend, I was on a panel at the annual conference of the International Symposium on Online Journalism, in beautiful downtown Austin. Several journalists discussed the question: Are we going to get it right this time? Have the media learned their lessons, and are journalists ready for the vertiginous slog of the 2024 campaign?

My answer: only if we realize how profoundly the rules of the game have changed.

Lest we need reminding, this year’s election features a candidate who incited an insurrection, called for terminating sections of the Constitution, was found liable for what a federal judge says was “rape” as it is commonly understood, faces 88 felony charges, and—I’m tempted to add “etcetera” here, but that’s the problem, isn’t it? The volume and enormity of it all is impossible to take in.

The man is neither a riddle nor an enigma. He lays it all out there: his fawning over the world’s authoritarians, his threats to abandon our allies, his contempt for the rule of law, his intention to use the federal government as an instrument of retribution . Journalists must be careful not to give in to what Brian Klaas has called the “ Banality of Crazy .” As I’ve written in the past, there have been so many outrages and so many assaults on decency that it’s easy to become numbed by the cascade of awfulness.

The former White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer points out a recent example in his newsletter: On a radio show earlier this month, Donald Trump bizarrely suggested that Joe Biden was high on cocaine when he delivered his energetic State of the Union address. It was a startling moment, yet several major national media outlets did not cover the story.

And when Trump called for the execution of General Mark Milley, it didn’t have nearly the explosive effect it should have. “I had expected every website and all the cable news shows to lead with a story about Trump demanding the execution of the highest military officer in the country,” this magazine’s editor in chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, told The Washington Post . “If Barack Obama or George W. Bush had done so, I’m sure [the news media] would have been all over it.” (Trump’s threats against Milley came after The Atlantic published a profile of Milley by Goldberg.)

In our digitally chaotic world, relying on the reporting strategies of the past is like bringing the rules of chess to the Thunderdome. There has, of course, been some progress. The major cable networks no longer carry Trump’s rallies live without context, but they still broadcast town-hall meetings and interviews with the former president, which boost ratings. NBC’s abortive decision to hire Ronna McDaniel, a former chair of the Republican National Committee, as a contributor, despite her role in spreading lies about the 2020 election, highlighted the disconnect between this moment and much of the national media.

And then there is the internet. It is certainly possible that richer, more insightful media will emerge from the digital revolution, but we’re obviously not there now. Back in 2016, we worried that social media had become a vector for disinformation and bigotry, but since then, we’ve seen Elon Musk’s extraordinary enshittification of X. In 2016, we worried (too late) about foreign interference and bots. In 2024, we are going to have to contend with deepfakes created by AI.

This year will see some of the best journalism of our lifetime. (You’ll find much of it here in The Atlantic .) But because both the media and their audiences are badly fractured, much of that reporting is siloed off from the voters who need it most. Because millions of Americans are locked in information bubbles, half of the country either won’t see important journalism about the dangers of a second Trump term or won’t believe it.

As Paul Farhi notes in The Atlantic , MAGA-friendly websites have experienced massive drops in traffic, but social media continues to thrive on negativity and providing dopamine hits of anger and fear. And of distraction—last week, the most-liked videos on TikTok about the presidential race included a video of a man singing to Biden and Trump’s visit to a Chick-fil-A .

To put it mildly, the arc of social media does not bend toward Edward R. Murrow–style journalism.

So what’s to be done? I don’t have any easy answers, because I don’t think they exist. Getting it right this time does not mean that journalists need to pull their punches in covering Biden or become slavish defenders of his administration’s policies. In fact, that would only make matters worse. But perhaps we could start with some modest proposals.

First, we should redefine newsworthy . Klaas argues that journalists need to emphasize the magnitude rather than simply the novelty of political events. Trump’s ongoing attacks on democracy may not be new, but they define the stakes of 2024. So although live coverage of Trump rallies without any accompanying analysis remains a spectacularly bad idea, it’s important to neither ignore nor mute the dark message that Trump delivers at every event. As a recent headline in The Guardian put it, “Trump’s Bizarre, Vindictive Incoherence Has to Be Heard in Full to Be Believed.”

Why not relentlessly emphasize the truth, and publish more fact-checked transcripts that highlight his wilder and more unhinged rants? (Emphasizing magnitude is, of course, a tremendous challenge for journalists when the amplification mechanisms of the modern web—that is, social-media algorithms—are set by companies that have proved to be hostile to the distribution of information from reputable news outlets.)

The media challenge will be to emphasize the abnormality of Donald Trump without succumbing to a reactionary ideological tribalism, which would simply drive audiences further into their silos. Put another way: Media outlets will need all the credibility they can muster when they try to sound the alarm that none of this is normal . And it is far more important to get it right than to get it fast, because every lapse will be weaponized.

The commitment to “fairness” should not, however, mean creating false equivalencies or fake balance. (An exaggerated report about Biden’s memory lapses , for example, should not be a bigger story than Trump’s invitation to Vladimir Putin to invade European countries .)

In the age of Trump, it is also important that members of the media not be distracted by theatrics generally. (This includes Trump’s trial drama, the party conventions, and even— as David Frum points out in The Atlantic —the debates.) Relatedly, the stakes are simply too high to wallow in vibes, memes, or an obsessive focus on within-the-margin-of-error polls. Democracy can indeed be crushed by authoritarianism. But it can also be suffocated by the sort of trivia that often dominates social media.

And, finally, the Prime Directive of 2024: Never, ever become numbed by the endless drumbeat of outrages.

  • Political analysis needs more witchcraft.
  • Right-wing media are in trouble.

Today’s News

  • The Senate dismissed the articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and ruled that they were unconstitutional, ending his trial before it got under way.
  • House Speaker Mike Johnson will proceed with a plan, backed by President Joe Biden, to vote on separate bills to provide aid to Ukraine, Israel, and U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific. The proposed move has raised criticism from some conservative representatives.
  • Four Columbia University officials, including the president, Nemat Shafik, testified in a congressional committee hearing about student safety, free speech, and anti-Semitism on campus.
  • The Trump Trials : The first days of the criminal case against Donald Trump have been mundane, even boring—and that’s remarkable, George T. Conway III writes.
  • The Weekly Planet : The cocoa shortage could make chocolate more expensive forever, Yasmin Tayag writes.

Explore all of our newsletters here.

Evening Read

Something Weird Is Happening With Caesar Salads

By Ellen Cushing

On a November evening in Brooklyn, in 2023, I was in trouble (hungry). I ordered a kale Caesar at a place I like. Instead, I got: a tangle of kale, pickled red onion, and “sweet and spicy almonds,” dressed in a thinnish, vaguely savory liquid and topped with a glob of crème fraîche roughly the size and vibe of a golf ball. It was a pretty weird food. We are living through an age of unchecked Caesar-salad fraud. Putative Caesars are dressed with yogurt or miso or tequila or lemongrass; they are served with zucchini, orange zest, pig ear, kimchi, poached duck egg, roasted fennel, fried chickpeas, buffalo-cauliflower fritters, tōgarashi -dusted rice crackers. They are missing anchovies, or croutons, or even lettuce … Molly Baz is a chef, a cookbook author, and a bit of a Caesar obsessive—she owns a pair of sneakers with “CAE” on one tongue and “SAL” on the other—and she put it succinctly when she told me, “There’s been a lot of liberties taken, for better or for worse.”

Read the full article.

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Stephanie Bai contributed to this newsletter.

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The Last Thing This Supreme Court Could Do to Shock Us

There will be no more self-soothing after this..

For three long years, Supreme Court watchers mollified themselves (and others) with vague promises that when the rubber hit the road, even the ultraconservative Federalist Society justices of the Roberts court would put democracy before party whenever they were finally confronted with the legal effort to hold Donald Trump accountable for Jan. 6. There were promising signs: They had, after all, refused to wade into the Trumpian efforts to set aside the election results in 2020. They had, after all, hewed to a kind of sanity in batting away Trumpist claims about presidential records (with the lone exception of Clarence Thomas, too long marinated in the Ginni-scented Kool-Aid to be capable of surprising us, but he was just one vote). We promised ourselves that there would be cool heads and grand bargains and that even though the court might sometimes help Trump in small ways, it would privilege the country in the end. We kept thinking that at least for Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts , the voice of reasoned never-Trumpers might still penetrate the Fox News fog. We told ourselves that at least six justices, and maybe even seven, of the most MAGA-friendly court in history would still want to ensure that this November’s elections would not be the last in history. Political hacks they may be, but they were not lawless ones.

On Thursday, during oral arguments in Trump v. United States , the Republican-appointed justices shattered those illusions. This was the case we had been waiting for, and all was made clear—brutally so. These justices donned the attitude of cynical partisans, repeatedly lending legitimacy to the former president’s outrageous claims of immunity from criminal prosecution. To at least five of the conservatives, the real threat to democracy wasn’t Trump’s attempt to overturn the election—but the Justice Department’s efforts to prosecute him for the act. These justices fear that it is Trump’s prosecution for election subversion that will “destabilize” democracy, requiring them to read a brand-new principle of presidential immunity into a Constitution that guarantees nothing of the sort. They evinced virtually no concern for our ability to continue holding free and fair elections that culminate in a peaceful transfer of power. They instead offered endless solicitude for the former president who fought that transfer of power.

However the court disposes of Trump v. U.S. , the result will almost certainly be precisely what the former president craves: more delays, more hearings, more appeals—more of everything but justice . This was not a legitimate claim from the start, but a wild attempt by Trump’s attorneys to use his former role as chief executive of the United States to shield himself from the consequences of trying to turn the presidency into a dictatorship. After so much speculation that these reasonable, rational jurists would surely dispose of this ridiculous case quickly and easily, Thursday delivered a morass of bad-faith hand-wringing on the right about the apparently unbearable possibility that a president might no longer be allowed to wield his powers of office in pursuit of illegal ends. Just as bad, we heard a constant minimization of Jan. 6, for the second week in a row , as if the insurrection were ancient history, and history that has since been dramatically overblown, presumably for Democrats’ partisan aims.

We got an early taste of this minimization in Trump v. Anderson , the Colorado case about removing Trump from the ballot. The court didn’t have the stomach to discuss the violence at the Capitol in its sharply divided decision, which found for Trump ; indeed, the majority barely mentioned the events of Jan. 6 at all when rejecting Colorado’s effort to bar from the ballot an insurrectionist who tried to steal our democracy. But we let that one be, because we figured special counsel Jack Smith would ride to the rescue. Smith has indicted Trump on election subversion charges related to Jan. 6, and the biggest obstacle standing between the special counsel and a trial has been the former president’s outlandish claim that he has absolute immunity from criminal charges as a result of his having been president at the time. Specifically, Trump alleges that his crusade to overturn the election constituted “official acts” that are immune from criminal liability under a heretofore unknown constitutional principle that the chief executive is quite literally above the law.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held in February that the president does not have blanket or absolute immunity for all actions taken in office, including “official” acts performed under the guise of executing the law (for example, Trump’s attempt to weaponize the DOJ against election results under the pretense of investigating fraud). The D.C. Circuit’s emphatic, cross-ideological decision should have been summarily affirmed by SCOTUS within days. Instead, the justices set it for arguments two months down the road—a bad omen, to put it mildly . Even then, many court watchers held out hope that Thursday morning’s oral arguments were to be the moment for the nine justices of the Supreme Court to finally indicate their readiness to take on Trump, Trumpism, illiberalism, and slouching fascism.

It was not to be. Justice Samuel Alito best captured the spirit of arguments when he asked gravely “what is required for the functioning of a stable democratic society” (good start!), then answered his own question: total immunity for criminal presidents (oh, dear). Indeed, anything but immunity would, he suggested, encourage presidents to commit more crimes to stay in office: “Now, if an incumbent who loses a very close, hotly contested election knows that a real possibility after leaving office is not that the president is going to be able to go off into a peaceful retirement but that the president may be criminally prosecuted by a bitter political opponent, will that not lead us into a cycle that destabilizes the functioning of our country as a democracy?” Never mind that the president in question did not leave office peacefully and is not sitting quietly in retirement but is instead running for presidential office once again. No, if we want criminal presidents to leave office when they lose, we have to let them commit crimes scot-free. If ever a better articulation of the legal principle “Don’t make me hit you again” has been proffered at an oral argument, it’s hard to imagine it.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke to this absurdity when she responded in what could only be heard as a cri de coeur: “Stable democratic society needs good faith of public officials,” she said. “That good faith assumes that they will follow the law.” The justice noted that despite all the protections in place, a democracy can sometimes “potentially fail.” She concluded: “In the end, if it fails completely, it’s because we destroyed our democracy on our own, isn’t it?”

But it was probably too late to make this plea, because by that point we had heard both Alito and Gorsuch opine that presidents must be protected at all costs from the whims of overzealous deep state prosecutors brandishing “vague” criminal statutes. We heard Kavanaugh opine mindlessly on the independent counsel statute and how mean it is to presidents, reading extensively from Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in a case arguing that independent counsels are unconstitutional. (Yes, Kavanaugh worked for Ken Starr , the independent counsel.) If you’re clocking a trend here, it’s gender. Just as was the case in Anderson , it’s the women justices doing the second-shift work here: both probing the thorny constitutional and criminal questions and signaling a refusal to tank democracy over abstractions and deflections. As was the case in the EMTALA arguments, it’s the women who understand what it looks like to cheat death.

Is the president, Sotomayor asked, immune from prosecution if he orders the military to assassinate a political rival? Yes, said John Sauer, who represented Trump—though it “depends on the circumstances.” Could the president, Justice Elena Kagan asked, order the military to stage a coup? Yes, Sauer said again, depending on the circumstances. To which Kagan tartly replied that Sauer’s insistence on specifying the “circumstances” boiled down to “Under my test, it’s an official act, but that sure sounds bad, doesn’t it?” (Cue polite laughter in the chamber.)

This shameless, maximalist approach should have drawn anger from the conservative justices—indignation, at least, that Sauer took them for such easy marks. But it turns out that he calibrated his terrible arguments just right. The cynicism on display was truly breathtaking: Alito winkingly implied to Michael Dreeben, representing Smith, that we all know that Justice Department lawyers are political hacks, right? Roberts mocked Dreeben for saying “There’s no reason to worry because the prosecutor will act in good faith.”

The conservative justices are so in love with their own voices and so convinced of their own rectitude that they monologued about how improper it was for Dreeben to keep talking about the facts of this case, as opposed to the “abstract” principles at play. “I’m talking about the future!” Kavanaugh declared at one point to Dreeben, pitching himself not as Trump’s human shield but as a principled defender of the treasured constitutional right of all presidents to do crime. (We’re sure whatever rule he cooks up will apply equally to Democratic presidents, right?) Kavanaugh eventually landed on the proposition that prosecutors may charge presidents only under criminal statutes that explicitly state they can be applied to the president. Which, as Sotomayor pointed out, would mean no charges everywhere, because just a tiny handful of statutes are stamped with the label “CAN BE APPLIED TO PRESIDENT.”

The words bold and fearless action were repeated on a loop today, as a kind of mantra of how effective presidents must be free to act quickly and decisively to save democracy from the many unanticipated threats it faces. And yet the court—which has been asked to take bold and fearless action to deter the person who called Georgia’s secretary of state to demand that he alter the vote count, and threatened to fire DOJ officials who would not help steal an election—is backing away from its own duty. The prospect of a criminal trial for a criminal president shocked and appalled five men: Thomas, Alito, Kavanaugh, and Gorsuch suggested that Smith’s entire prosecution is unconstitutional; meanwhile, Roberts sounded eager at times to handle the case just a hair more gracefully: by cutting out its heart by preventing the jury from hearing about “official acts” (which lie at the center of the alleged conspiracy). Justice Amy Coney Barrett was far more measured, teasing out a compromise with Dreeben that would compel the trial court to tell the jury it could not impose criminal liability for these “official” acts, only “private ones.” Remember, drawing that line would require months of hearings and appeals, pushing any trial into 2025 or beyond. The president who tried to steal the most recent election is running in the next one, which is happening in mere months.

The liberal justices tried their best to make the case that justice required denying Trump’s sweeping immunity claim, permitting the trial to move forward, and sorting out lingering constitutional issues afterward, as virtually all other criminal defendants must do. They got little traction. Everyone on that bench was well aware that the entire nation was listening to arguments; that the whole nation wants to understand whether Trump’s refusal to concede the 2020 election was an existential threat to democracy or a lark. Five justices sent the message, loud and clear, that they are far more worried about Trump’s prosecution at the hands of the deep-state DOJ than about his alleged crimes, which were barely mentioned. This trial will almost certainly face yet more delays. These delays might mean that its subject could win back the presidency in the meantime and render the trial moot. But the court has now signaled that nothing he did was all that serious and that the danger he may pose is not worth reining in. The real threats they see are the ones Trump himself shouts from the rooftops: witch hunts and partisan Biden prosecutors. These men have picked their team. The rest hardly matters.

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Discrimination Experiences Shape Most Asian Americans’ Lives

4. asian americans and discrimination during the covid-19 pandemic, table of contents.

  • Key findings from the survey
  • Most Asian Americans have been treated as foreigners in some way, no matter where they were born
  • Most Asian Americans have been subjected to ‘model minority’ stereotypes, but many haven’t heard of the term
  • Experiences with other daily and race-based discrimination incidents
  • In their own words: Key findings from qualitative research on Asian Americans and discrimination experiences
  • Discrimination in interpersonal encounters with strangers
  • Racial discrimination at security checkpoints
  • Encounters with police because of race or ethnicity
  • Racial discrimination in the workplace
  • Quality of service in restaurants and stores
  • Discrimination in neighborhoods
  • Experiences with name mispronunciation
  • Discrimination experiences of being treated as foreigners
  • In their own words: How Asian Americans would react if their friend was told to ‘go back to their home country’
  • Awareness of the term ‘model minority’
  • Views of the term ‘model minority’
  • How knowledge of Asian American history impacts awareness and views of the ‘model minority’ label
  • Most Asian Americans have experienced ‘model minority’ stereotypes
  • In their own words: Asian Americans’ experiences with the ‘model minority’ stereotype
  • Asian adults who personally know an Asian person who has been threatened or attacked since COVID-19
  • In their own words: Asian Americans’ experiences with discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Experiences with talking about racial discrimination while growing up
  • Is enough attention being paid to anti-Asian racism in the U.S.?
  • Acknowledgments
  • Sample design
  • Data collection
  • Weighting and variance estimation
  • Methodology: 2021 focus groups of Asian Americans
  • Appendix: Supplemental tables

Following the coronavirus outbreak, reports of discrimination and violence toward Asian Americans increased. A previous Pew Research Center survey of English-speaking Asian adults showed that as of 2021, one-third said they feared someone might threaten or physically attack them. English-speaking Asian adults in 2022 were also more likely than other racial or ethnic groups to say they had changed their daily routines due to concerns they might be threatened or attacked. 19

In this new 2022-23 survey, Asian adults were asked if they personally know another Asian person in the U.S. who had been attacked since the pandemic began.

A bar chart showing the share of Asian adults who say they personally know an Asian person in the U.S. who has been threatened or attacked because of their race or ethnicity since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, by ethnic and regional origin. 32% of U.S. Asians overall personally know someone with this experience. Across regional origin groups, 36% of East Asian adults, 33% of Southeast Asian adults, and 24% of South Asian adults say this.

About one-third of Asian adults (32%) say they personally know an Asian person in the U.S. who has been threatened or attacked because of their race or ethnicity since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.

Whether Asian adults know someone with this experience varies across Asian ethnic origin groups:

  • About four-in-ten Chinese adults (39%) say they personally know another Asian person who has been threatened or attacked since the coronavirus outbreak. Similar shares of Korean adults (35%) and those who belong to less populous Asian origin groups (39%) – those categorized as “other” in this report – say the same.
  • About three-in-ten Vietnamese (31%), Japanese (28%) and Filipino (28%) Americans and about two-in-ten Indian adults (21%) say they know another Asian person in the U.S. who has been the victim of a racially motivated threat or attack. 

Additionally, there are some differences by regional origin groups:

  • Overall, similar shares of East and Southeast Asian adults say they know another Asian person who’s been threatened or attacked because of their race or ethnicity (36% and 33%, respectively).
  • A somewhat smaller share of South Asian adults say the same (24%).

A bar chart showing the share of Asian adults who personally know an Asian person in the U.S. who has been threatened or attacked because of their race or ethnicity since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, by other demographic groups. 44% of second-generation Asian adults and 37% of 1.5-generation Asian adults say they know someone with this experience, higher than the shares among other generations. 44% of Asian adults under 30 also say they know someone with this experience.

There are also differences across nativity and immigrant generations:

  • U.S.-born Asian adults are more likely than Asian immigrants to say they know another Asian person who has been threatened or attacked during the COVID-19 pandemic  (40% vs. 28%, respectively).
  • Among immigrants, those who are 1.5 generation – those who came to the U.S. as children – are more likely than the first generation – those who immigrated as adults – to say they know someone with this experience (37% vs. 25%).
  • And among U.S.-born Asian Americans, 44% of second-generation adults say this, compared with 28% of third- or higher-generation Asian adults.

Whether Asian Americans personally know another Asian person who was threatened or attacked because of their race or ethnicity since the beginning of the pandemic also varies across other demographic groups:

  • Age: 44% of Asian adults under 30 years old say they know someone who has been threatened or attacked during the pandemic, compared with 18% of those 65 and older.
  • Gender: Asian women are somewhat more likely than men to say they know an Asian person in the U.S. who has been threatened or attacked during the COVID-19 pandemic (35% vs. 28%, respectively).
  • Party: 36% of Asian Democrats and Democratic leaners say they know another Asian person who has been threatened or attacked because of their race or ethnicity, higher than the share among Republicans and Republican leaners (25%).

Heightened anti-Asian discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic

These survey findings follow a spike in reports of discrimination against Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of federally recognized hate crime incidents of anti-Asian bias increased from 158 in 2019 to 279 in 2020 and 746 in 2021, according to hate crime statistics published by the FBI . In 2022, the number of anti-Asian hate crimes decreased for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak, to 499 incidents. Between March 2020 and May 2023, the organization Stop AAPI Hate received more than 11,000 self-reported incidents of anti-Asian bias, the vast majority of which involved harassment, bullying, shunning and other discrimination incidents.

Additionally, previous research found that calling COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus,” “Asian Virus” or other names that attach location or ethnicity to the disease was associated with anti-Asian sentiment in online discourse. Use of these phrases by politicians or other prominent public officials, such as by former President Donald Trump , coincided with greater use among the general public and more frequent instances of bias against Asian Americans.

In the 2021 Pew Research Center focus groups of Asian Americans, participants discussed their experiences of being discriminated against because of their race or ethnicity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Participants talked about being shamed in both public and private spaces. Some Asian immigrant participants talked about being afraid to speak out because of how it might impact their immigration status:

“I was walking in [the city where I live], and a White old woman was poking me in the face saying, ‘You are disgusting,’ and she was trying to hit me. I ran away crying. … At the time, I was with my boyfriend, but he also just came to the U.S., so we ran away together thinking that if we cause trouble, we could be deported.”

–Immigrant woman of Korean origin in late 20s (translated from Korean)

“[A very close friend of mine] lived at [a] school dormitory, and when the pandemic just happened … his room was directly pasted with the adhesive tape saying things like ‘Chinese virus quarantine.’”

–Immigrant man of Chinese origin in early 30s (translated from Mandarin)

Many participants talked about being targeted because others perceive them as Chinese , regardless of their ethnicity:

“I think the crimes [that happened] against other Asian people can happen to me while going through COVID-19. When I see a White person, I don’t know if their ancestors are Scottish or German, so they will look at me and think the same. It seems that they can’t distinguish between Korean and Chinese and think that we are from Asia and the onset of COVID-19 is our fault. This is something that can happen to all of us. So I think Asian Americans should come together and let people know that we are also human and we have rights. I came to think about Asian Americans that they shouldn’t stay still even if they’re trampled on.”

–Immigrant woman of Korean origin in early 50s (translated from Korean)

“Even when I was just getting on the bus, [people acted] as if I was carrying the virus. People would not sit with me, they would sit a bit far. It was because I look Chinese.”

–Immigrant woman of Bhutanese origin in early 30s (translated from Dzongkha)

Amid these incidents, some participants talked about feeling in community and kinship with other Asian people:

“[When I hear stories about Asian people in the news,] I feel like automatically you just have a sense of connection to someone that’s Asian. … [I]t makes me and my family and everyone else that I know that is Asian super mad and upset that this is happening. [For example,] the subway attacks where there was a mother who got dragged down the stairs for absolutely no reason. It just kind of makes you scared because you are Asian, and I would tell my mom, ‘You’re not going anywhere without me.’ We got pepper spray and all of that. But there is definitely a difference because you just feel a connection with them no matter if you don’t know them.”

–U.S.-born woman of Taiwanese origin in early 20s

“[A]s a result of the pandemic, I think we saw an increase in Asian hate in the media. I think that was one time where I realized as an Asian person, I felt a lot of pain. I felt a lot of fear, I felt a lot of anger and frustration for my community. … I think it was just at that specific moment when I saw the Asian hate, Asian hate crimes, and I realized, ‘Oh, they’re targeting my people.’  I don’t know how to explain it exactly. I never really referred to myself just plainly as an Asian American, but when I saw it in that media and I saw people who looked like me or people who I related with getting hurt and mistreated, I felt anger for that community, for my community.””

–U.S.-born woman of Korean origin in late teens

Some connected discrimination during the pandemic to other times of heightened anti-Asian discrimination . For example, one woman connected anti-Asian discrimination during COVID-19 to the period after Sept. 11:

“[T]he hate crimes I’m reading about now are towards Chinese [people] because of COVID, but I remember after 9/11, that was – I remember the looks that people would give me on the subway but also reading the violent acts committed towards Indians of all types, just the confusion – I mean, I say confusion but I mean really they wanted to attack Muslims, but they didn’t care, they were just looking for a brown person to attack. So there’s always something that happens that then suddenly falls on one community or another.”

–U.S.-born man of Indian origin in late 40s

  • Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel surveys of Asian adults were conducted only in English and are representative of the English-speaking Asian adult population. In 2021, 70% of Asian adults spoke only English or said they speak English “very well,” according to a Pew Research Center analysis of the 2021 American Community Survey. By contrast, the Center’s 2022-23 survey of Asian Americans was conducted in six languages, including Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), English, Hindi, Korean, Tagalog and Vietnamese. ↩

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Key facts about Asian Americans living in poverty

Methodology: 2023 focus groups of asian americans, 1 in 10: redefining the asian american dream (short film), the hardships and dreams of asian americans living in poverty, key facts about asian american eligible voters in 2024, most popular, report materials.

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