Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 619

A Brit’s Midnight Musings on the American Dream

It’s been so interesting to read everyone’s comments on the American Dream from my previous blog this week. I am so very curious about it. It fascinates me muchly since I never really thought about it in any way shape or form before I arrived in the USA. Honestly, I just heard the phrase back in Blighty and it never really registered with me until I started living with Uncle Sam (note, I have not moved out of the family home and moved in with my ‘uncle’, I am simply referencing the US0fA in one of my favourite ways!).


The concept of it all fascinates me. A discussion I had about it yesterday intrigued me when an American co-worker suggested that ‘it’s a bit like heaven; everyone has different ideas and ideals about it. It doesn’t exist in one form.’

So I wanted to share with you my thoughts, questions and musings about the American Dream that I had last night at midnight. They might not be coherent and they are in no particular order. They’re just comments and questions that popped into my mind, and yes, I wrote them down (as Dr Oz suggested so that they didn’t keep my awake any longer!).

If anyone has any answers or comments or suggestions, feel free to share! None of this reflection or cogitation is meant to offend or criticise; these are simply the bunch of thoughts that whizzed around in my little British head at midnight. You know, as it does.

  • What does it actually mean and how is it defined?
  • How is it different for different races, genders and creeds?
  • Has the American Dream changed over time and does it still exist?
  • How many versions of the dream are there that have been ‘logged’?
  • Is it one dream for everyone or are there a million squillion different versions?
  • How does the American Dream function and impact on individuals and society culturally, socially, psychologically, philosophically, anthropologically and spiritually?
  • How is success defined in the dream?
  • Is there a British dream? Or do we dare not dream for fear or losing our ability to reason and rationalize everything in our very stoic British way?
  • What if you don’t achieve the dream?
  • Is the dream just American or is there a universal dream or has the world adopted a version of the American dream
  • Are those who have achieved their dream content or do they wish for more?
  • When does the dream jeopardize others and the planet and when do we allow our lives to be driven by the quest for the dream.
  • Is it really attainable?
  • Do we set ourselves up to fail?
  • Is one person’s dream is another person’s nightmare?
  • Is real happiness achieved with the dream or does is mask other fears and areas of life
  • Who coined the phrase American Dream?
  • Can we log our dreams and set ourselves goals like in an American Dream Book? 😉

So, that’s what I contemplated last night.

And for the record, I don’t know if I have an American Dream. I just have my dream. Although, to be honest, after this kept me awake last night I don’t think I dreamt at all!


My final note on this is something that I read on the Library of Congress’s website:

‘James Truslow Adams, in his book The Epic of America, which was written in 1931, stated that the American dream is “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. 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 motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each 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.” (p.214-215)

The authors of the United States’ Declaration of Independence held certain 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.” Might this sentiment be considered the foundation of the American Dream?

Were homesteaders who left the big cities of the east to find happiness and their piece of land in the unknown wilderness pursuing these inalienable Rights? Were the immigrants who came to the United States looking for their bit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their Dream? And what did the desire of the veteran of World War II – to settle down, to have a home, a car and a family – tell us about this evolving Dream? Is the American Dream attainable by all Americans?

Some say, that the American Dream has become the pursuit of material prosperity – that people work more hours to get bigger cars, fancier homes, the fruits of prosperity for their families – but have less time to enjoy their prosperity. Others say that the American Dream is beyond the grasp of the working poor who must work two jobs to insure their family’s survival. Yet others look toward a new American Dream with less focus on financial gain and more emphasis on living a simple, fulfilling life.

Thomas Wolfe said, “…to every man, regardless of his birth, his shining, golden opportunity ….the right to live, to work, to be himself, and to become whatever thing his manhood and his vision can combine to make him.”

Is this your American Dream?’


So, that’s it. I just wanted to share that with you so you might want to pootle off and have your own set of musings on it all. You know, like when you’re supposed to be at work and then you drift off and start contemplating the meaning of life and wot not. It appears from this Library of Congress note that the suggestion is that everyone has their own interpretation of the American Dream.

I like this idea and I shall take it away with me for more midnight musings, or perhaps over a nice cup of tea 🙂

Peace! And keep on dreaming!

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9 Responses to Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 619

  1. Sally says:

    Just to add to your midnight musings, I Googled American Dream and have to admit that I alway associated the term with Europeans emigrating to find a better life. However the last sentence makes you think again. What happens if your dream is a disappointment? Is it only for Americans?
    Ah well back to my cuppa and a bit more dreaming and musing !

    noun: American dream
    the ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved.
    “the scapegoating of today’s immigrants makes a mockery of the American dream”

  2. OK, let me dust off my American History degree here. I can tell you that few immigrants returned back to their home countries in the 18th and early 19th centuries because the travel was just too expensive. As time went on, it was very difficult to estimate how many immigrants went back because of poor record keeping. Nevertheless, some historians make a ballpark guess that the number was about 1/3 starting in the latter part of the 18th century. The numbers have a tendency to fluctuate depending on the circumstances. For example, the percentage was much higher during the Great Depression.

    So what does that say about the American Dream? Well, it says that America was a temporary home for a lot of people, just like you, Claire. Many came for economic reasons. Some just wanted the adventure. Some wanted to make this home, but they didn’t like it or had to go back because of familial reasons. It hasn’t really changed.

  3. Pam LeBlanc says:

    Because I’m not from America, I guess my American dream is just happiness with the people surrounding me and even the mundane day to day stuff which to me, is still different from what I’m used to! I like nothing better than seeing my kids running around the neighborhood playing with their friends, while us parents hang out, drink beer and have a laugh! So that’s a Scottish person’s American dream 🙂

  4. Maryjen says:

    This is a much better blog than your previous one which really disappointed me with its sitting around the swimming pool.

  5. Ian says:

    The American Dream is a spacious backyard, a ride-on mower, contempt towards Washington DC – despite not attempting to Hope and Change things. Maybe they have a fucked up political system after all…

  6. Christian says:

    The Suburbs- An American dream:

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