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Review of The Great American Dream Portrayed in Three Novels

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It is an undeniable fact that, character triats, attitude, upbringing, and education will shape an individual perception and mindset towards life. Lennie, Suyuan and Amir each has their own idea of what The American Dream should entail. Happiness as a concept is as ambiguous as it is aspired, the characters are all chasing the elusive happiness. The Great American Dream may not necessarily work for everyone and anyone. “The key to realizing a dream is to focus not on success but significance, and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning.” Oprah Winfrey’s quote rings through for the three characters we are discussing. They may not have ultimately succeeded but the dream itself drove them on.

Lennie was the archetypal simpleton in the novel Of Mice and Men, he lacks education and has limited social skills which restricts his ability to interact effectively. He has a bad memory and is often fixated on simple commands which serves as directions for his actions. He trusts George to a tilt, with George being centre of all his decisions, “George said I ain’t supposed to talk to you.”, “George ain’t gonna let me tend the rabbits now.” It is also George who shapes the ideal American Dream for Lennie. The details of the dream was sketchy and vague yet was sufficient motivation for Lennie to follow George’s instructions, “live off the fat of the land”, this is hardly a dream that inspires yet Lennie was sold. The Ameican Dream in this book can be broken down to its barest, simplest form, one in which the dreamer enjoys peace and stability. A key part of Lennie’s Great American Dreams is the opportunity to care for animals, a dog, a cow and rabbits, all these while leading a simple life of farming and self sustainability. Throughout the book, this vision of his never wavered. Tragically, he never did get to attain his dream due to his physical flaws and arguably his mental deficiency. In some way, Lennie was fortunate to meet this untimely end after George shot him at the back of his head, a mercy kill which was foreshadowed in the book. Lennie would not have to face the consequences of murder leaving the grief for George alone to bear.

Suyuan was born into a wealthy family in China, however circumstances forced her to flee the country after war broke out in China, Kweilin. It is this well to do upbringing which gave her a chance for education and hence breeds in her a desire to organise and lead, evident in her successful establishment of two Joy Luck Clubs, one in China and the other in America after she migrated there. Suyuan is also psychologically torn because of a painful decision she had to make when leaving. This psychological scar is also a contributory factor in her version of the American Dream. “And without looking back, she walked down the road, stumbling and crying, thinking only of this one last hope, that her daughters would be found by a kindhearted person who would care for them. She would not allow herself to imagine anything else.” This painful decision which she made at a young age shaped her American Dream, one borne out of a desire to provide the perfect background from which her child can thrive and be successful. “Only ask you be your best. For you sake. You think I want you be genius? Hnnh! What for! Who ask you!” Her motherly instincts were the basis for her striving to achieve the American Dream despite her strong Chinese roots when establishing the Joy Luck Club, it is more for her daughter than for herself. The Joy Luck Club starts off just when Suyuan Woo died, one could argue that she has been successful with her daughter fully integrated into the American lifestyle, taking over the reins in the Joy Luck Club, and finally appreciating her Asian heritage. The mother daughter pair has successfully achieved the Great American Dream in their own right with Suyuan helping her daughter to embrace the western lifestyle while not forgetting her Asian roots and Jing-Mei truly understanding what her mother wanted from her and striving to push forward her mother’s legacy.

In The Kite Runner, similar to Suyuan Woo, Amir was born into relative comfort, he was educated and even had a boy servant who regarded him highly. The duo also shared an unlikely friendship which would ultimately affect Amir’s psychological state and decision making for a large part of his adult years. Amir was driven by his unfulfilled regret even though he was securely settled into America, his failure to stand up for Hassan when they were boys led to Hassan suffering shame and regret though he never came close to speaking about it to Amir. After he received news about how Hassan have died during the Taliban rule and that his nephew, Sohrab, ironically has fallen victim to the General, Assef, also the one who violated Hassan. Therefore, Amir’s American Dream was finally formulated, it is one of closure, the unbalanced friendship from which Amir benefitted from as a child will now be repaid with Amir making sacrifices to bring Sohrab into sanctuary. America offered safe refuge for Hassan’s child. The American Dream was two-fold, it also represented Amir’s guilt coming full circle. Amir constantly had a weight on his shoulders which he managed to remove after bringing Sohrab to America. When Amir looked at the photo of Baba, Hassan and himself, he realised that he was no longer feeling bitter about Baba’s apparent lack of love for him. “Baba’s other half. The unentitled, unprivileged half. The half who had inherited what had been pure and noble in Baba. The half that, maybe, in the most secret recesses of his heart, Baba had thought of as his true son.” With Sohrab now safely in his care, Amir had found peace with himself, the peace to embrace Baba’s indiscretion, Hassan’s existence and his own expectations. Amir’s Great American Dream may not be attributed to any aspects of American culture, however, Amir has used the safety and security it provides to realign his childhood friendship, reconcile his differences with his late father and motivate himself for the remaining part of his life. “‘For you, a thousand times over,’ I heard myself say.” Sohrab will now be his responsibility.

Going back to Oprah Windfrey’s quote, our protagonists found significance while pursuing their American Dream. Lennie’s childlike enthusiasm whenever the promise of stability was merely a conversation he had with his good friend, George; Suyuan’s many sacrifices which were all for creating a nest from which her daughter could be nurtured; and Amir’s summoning of a commitment towards a friendship in disequilibrium. These characters were essentially aiming for a “greater meaning”.   

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Review Of The Great American Dream Portrayed In Three Novels. (2021, December 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 29, 2022, from
“Review Of The Great American Dream Portrayed In Three Novels.” GradesFixer, 16 Dec. 2021,
Review Of The Great American Dream Portrayed In Three Novels. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Jan. 2022].
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