2003 Abstracts Stage 3

Nowhere to Run – Trapped in the American Dream?

Marguerite Heaton, 2003, Stage 3

The Dream. . . .‘Do I have to change my name? Will it get me far? Should I lose some weight? Am I gonna be a star? I’m just living out the American dream and I realized that nothing is what it seems. . .’ These lyrics are taken from Madonna’s recent song ‘American Life’ highlight our society’ pre-occupation with achieving the ‘American dream.’ The car, the house, the family, the job and the respect of friends all constitute our life’s aspirations, what we value and most of all what we fear that we not achieve. In my project I have explored the following objectives and idea of the American dream, highlighting it through Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman, and Louis Begley’s novel About Schmidt and using the lyrics from Madonna’s song American Life. OBJECTIVES: ~ What constitutes the American Dream and how, or if, it has altered over time. ~The relation of its concept to the philosophies of Sartre, such as fear, freedom, emotions and existence ~How these concepts are related to the main character’s in Death of a Salesman and About Schmidt ~Whether we have a choice in our quest to achieve it or whether we have become ‘trapped’ by its rules. ~To what extent do we have any freedom and how this aspiration affects our existence ~Is the American Dream really the most satisfactory state to be in? The humiliation that Willy experiences as a result of not quite achieving this dream drives him to take his own life. With arguments over the importance of attaining the American dream aside, this single incident demonstrates the power and influence of it over today’s society. The question is, are we trapped, is there really ‘nowhere to run’ or is it up to us to change our values?

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