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Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: The American Dream
Transcript of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: The American Dream
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: The American Dream
A new wing looking at the consummate American character through the novels
Wild, To Kill A Mockingbird,
The Great Gatsby
The American Dream: Introduction
America has always been seen as the land of promise, of hope, of opportunity. Many sacrificed their lives so that we could have the freedom we know today. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in the famous Declaration of Independence:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Those three words truly encompass the American Dream, for they are the base upon which our country's entire being was built.
In America, everyone is able to live the life they want. No one is restricted by societal classes, and people are free to make their own decisions and find their own individual identity.
Americans strongly believe in their right to equality and fair treatment. The American attitude is to refuse to back down from what you know to be right, and many came to America in the hopes of such equality, as well as the freedom from oppression and restriction.
Pursuit of Happiness:
This is the quintessential American attitude of going after what you want and seeking things in life that bring you happiness. This attitude has produced the American identity we know today.
Welcome to the new Balter-McFarland wing!
Taken together, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness embody the true American character at its core by revealing the motives that have driven this country forward and shaped its being.
The three novels of
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Great Gatsby
capture these beliefs and together are the perfect representation of the spirit of America.
1. the the animate existence or period of animate existence of an individual, being manifested by growth through metabolism, reproduction, and the power of adaptation to environment through changes originating internally.
The definition of life includes two key aspects: the capacity for growth and change.
Wild exemplifies life. Cheryl, throughout her journey, is constantly changing and growing on the PCT, coming to new realizations and understandings while striving to discover herself and become the person she wants to be.
"Cheryl Strayed reminds us, in her lyrical and courageous memoir Wild, of what it means to be
, even in the face of catastrophe, physical and psychic hardship, and loss"
- Mira Bartok
Just as the Founders of our country decided to pursue their own lives by creating the United States of America, Cheryl pursues her own life and identity in this novel.
Liberty: To Kill A Mockingbird
1. the freedom within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or political views.
2. the power or scope to act as one pleases.
The novel's plot consists of the trial against Tom Robinson, an African American man. The narrator's father, Atticus Finch selflessly dedicates his time to achieve freedom and justice for Tom.
Tom Robinson was persecuted despite the convincing defense in court that proved the Ewell's wrong
"Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men's hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed."
Striving for the equality of man has always been the goal of America. Freedom for all is the basis of American ideals and is what brought the first colonists to the United States. Freedom is a legacy that continues with the immigrants that come to America for equal opportunity.
This idea of equality for African Americans was hard to accept for some Americans during the 1930s
The Pursuit of Happiness: The Great Gatsby
pursuit of happiness
1. the fundamental right to freely seek joy and pleasure and live life in a way that makes you happy
Jay Gatsby's whole world revolved around Daisy, his love, and trying to win her over.
Gatsby pursues this vision of the happiness Daisy would give him by:
Starting a career in bootlegging to gain wealth
Hosting extravagant parties
Moving into a mansion across from Daisy and reorienting his life to revolve around her
Jay Gatsby was simply focused on achieving this sense of happiness, in fact, this idea of happiness is what drove him to become a better man with a higher reputation.
The symbol of the green light also ties into one's desire to find their "pursuit of happiness" in life.
Green light is similar to the light of Lady Liberty's flame; it provides a guiding hope and promise of happiness that one strives to achieve.
The American Dream Throughout History
This idea of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness began when the country declared independence.
The focus then was mostly the idea of liberty from the oppressive ways of the King
After achieving this they moved onto the growth of life through new opportunities in trade, the exploration of the vast land, and the capabilities of Americans as a people.
The American Dream Lives On
Today, many continue to pursue the American Dream, and it continues to shape our culture, our thoughts, our people, and our character.
How does the American Dream shape you? What is your dream?
What do you value? Life? Liberty? Happiness?
Please write down what you want in life, what motivates you, what you strive towards. Or, if you like, represent it in a picture.
Then put your dream on our "Wall of Dreams," which will be shown in our museum exhibit.
"The Gift Outright" by Robert Frost
The land was ours before we were the land’s
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she will become
What does this poem mean to you in terms of the American Dream?
Idea of possibilities and making life your own
shape your own future --> you have the
to live your
however you want and
your own dreams and joys.
The 1920 Compared to the 1930s
Similar to the lifestyle of Jay Gatsby, in the 1920s people were more preoccupied with doing whatever they wanted to find pleasure.
This era was filled with money, luxury and a kind of carelessness that was allowed because there was no need to worry about freedom or life in America.
The concept of liberty continued into the 1800s with the Civil War
Men continued the legacy of the American Dream as they fought for the liberty of African Americans
What is it that you want in life?
In the 1930s, shown more in
To Kill a Mockingbird
, the ideas of freedom and life were more of a focus.
The freedom of African Americans is prevalent because of the continuing prejudice, and Atticus is an example of the men who worked to give them freedom
The Great Depression left everyone in a different mindset from the happiness that they pursued in the 1920s. Americans focused on growth and change to survive the depression.
Late 1900s to the Present
The later years see another chance for Americans to pursue their dreams and live, like in
, because there was more of a focus on the individual and his or her freedom.
Americans are able to try new things; for example, the Vietnam and post-Vietnam years showed how young Americans were able to stand up for what they believed in and help themselves, as well as society, grow (ex. counterculture expanded American views).
Now in modern day, people like Cheryl live to be
because they have achieved that
and have the
to do so
Today's culture also places a huge emphasis on personal liberties and self exploration.
Cannot achieve the American Dream without all three components
By: Lily Clarke, Caroline Forster, and Tiffany Monteiro