Example term paper on American Dream:
In T. Coraghessan Boyle’s The Tortilla Curtain the lives of two people, an illegal Mexican immigrant and a well-off white American from an exclusive community in Los Angeles, are interlocked. It starts when a white American, Delaney Mossbacher, is out driving in the canyon and all of a sudden an illegal immigrant, Candido Rincуn, appears on the road. Delaney does not have time to react and Candido get hit. From there on we get to know the story of Delaney, Candido, and their families and friends. The “liberal humanist” Delaney and his wife Kyra, a career woman who never seems to be satisfied with what she have, and focus a lot on material things like a bigger house, even though they already live in a nice house (3). Then there is the “unfortunate” Candido and his 17 year old wife America; an innocent girl who follows her nearly twice as old husband to America in order to live out the American dream that she have heard so much about, mainly from Candido. The American dream that everyone have the possibility to make a lot of money just by doing hard work has been a nightmare for many. For Candido and America, who where living an OK life in Mexico, it will be a dream that never comes true. And for Kyra the dream of more material things and an even better life, than the seemingly good life she already has – much like the Rincуns had in Mexico – keeps her from enjoying what she have and being happy. The American dream may come true for some, but it is probably safe to say that it have kept more people from enjoying what they have – like Kyra – and even destroyed the life of many – like the Rincуns – that leave what they have and take a chance at the American dream.
One of the points that Boyle makes is that for many people, no matter how much they have, will always crave for more, and being too greedy prevents us from being happy or even make us become unhappy, if not already. As we get to know the characters we learn their different definitions of what the American dream means to them.
For Candido – the one with the strongest faith in the American dream – the dream is to make money so that he can provide a good life for himself and America. That is perhaps a typical male feature, especially for those coming from high a context culture like Mexico.
He is never really satisfied with what Mexico can offer him in Tepoztlan, what he wanted: “A house, a yard, maybe a TV and a car too,” was just not possible for him to get in Tepoztlan (29). Although he had been in America once before a couple of years ago, of which he had bad memories, he decides to go there again, this time with his beautiful, young, innocent wife with him. The first time he was in America working he was never really happy, even if he for a short period made money. He was working up in the north – where there was snow – and he was always freezing. He was not use to cold weather, and he did not like it. When he went to Los Angeles, where he could earn more money, his luck got even worse. After a tip to La Migra, Candido ends up running away, along with two other illegal immigrants. The other two – young boys – ends up being killed on the highway as they were following Candidos lead. Candido could never “forgive himself for what happened” (173). After that he goes back to Mexico. But despite the bad things he experienced in America he still wants to go there again, chasing the American dream. When he goes there a second time, with America, he is faced with even more bad luck, both for him and his wife. But even though he is faced with the unfortunate incident after another, both on the part of himself and his wife, the dream keeps his hope up. In Mexico he lived a much better life, even though he and America did not have any of the gringos luxury. America was not exposed with the danger that she was in America, they did not have to run from La Migra, they had friends, and they did not have to live an unworthy life as they do in America. When Candido’s mother is laying on her deathbed Candido says to her: “Mama, I want you to take me with you, I don’t want to stay here without you, I want to die and go to the angels too” (21). His mother answers him: “go to the devil” (21). This can be looked at as his mother is telling him that he should go back to Los Angeles (the city of angels) since that seems to be the only way he can achieve happiness again, even though it is obvious what she thinks of America and Los Angeles, and probably thinks that it would be best if he settled down in Tepoztlan. But Candido is willing to risk many things by going back to Los Angeles, this time with his beautiful young wife. Since they live in the canyons among other illegal immigrants, most of them single or having left their wives back home and trying to send home money, he exposes her for great danger of being raped, and she is. That would probably never have happened back in Tepoztlan, but it happens as a result of Candidoґs selfish decision to bring America with him. If he had been less selfish he would have returned with America when he was seeing that things did not go as he had planed, that time either. The only thing keeping them there is the hope that the American dream will come true and save them, but all it does is giving them false hope and keeping them miserable.
For the innocent America, the American dream is just what Candido glorified it of being, even though neither him nor anyone he knows have achieved it. Being young and naпve, she follows her older husband to the country where everyone can become rich. As time goes by she gets more and more sceptical. As she is out looking for job she sees a gabacho beggar on the sidewalk and thinks: “if he [has] to beg in his own country, what chance [is] there for her” (19). That makes it obvious that she had the idea of that everyone, at least all the natives, had or could get a job. As time passes by she realize more and more about the truth, the truth that Candido had not spoke of before they went. When they are fleeing from a big fire, caused by Candido, he asks her: “You want to die?” and she answers “Yes, I do” (277). And later during that same fire she has to give birth to their baby behind some house, where there is no water, no electricity, and no one qualified to help her. That is when she has enough, and she “wanted to cry for her mother, for Tepoztlan, for everything she’d left behind” (282). She realize that the American dream is something that is not so easy to achieve, at least not as an illegal immigrant, and she did not want to live on food that other people had thrown away, begging, or living like an animal in the canyons. She could live a much more worthy life than that in Tepoztlan. The young and innocent America is a victim of the glorified fairytales about America, told to her by her husband. She learns the hard way that it is not a fairytail.
For Kyra the American dream might seem greedy – at least compared to the Rincуns – but it is hardly unusual that Americans of that status have those sorts of dreams. Kyra seems to be obsessed by one of the houses that she is suppose to sell. And her constant craving for that house keeps her from appreciate what she have; a nice house in a nice in an exclusive community and a good husband and a son.
In conclusion, the American dream will remain a dream for most people. And if you are unlucky, like the Rincуns, it is even less likely to fall true. Candido’s selfish decision to go to America again, with his wife, destroyed both of their lives. The best thing would have been either to go there alone and trying to make money first, or go home when he noticed that he was still a victim of bad luck. But the dream was too strong. On part of the rich natives, like Kyra, the dream may destroy lives in a different way. The result is the same, unhappiness, just in a totally different way. Having dreams is not anything negative, on the contrary, but to live only for that dream will mean that you may risk losing what you have, or not appreciating it, and become less happy.
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