I think this method of interpreting the American Dream follows through with Areeb’s idea of the dream being about being better than the next person.
All life is a hierarchy. There is no equilibrium in which we can co-exist as humans, largely due to our competitive natures. We always have the insatiable desire to prove our worth. Whether through materialistic items, or certain skills perhaps, there is always some degree of distinctions within us. Until we can get more money than the richest person in the world, we’ll always be second best. Until we can get better grades than our siblings, we are not satisfied with our result. Thus, we can conclude that the goal of any and every individual is to be at the pinnacle in wherever their pride resides. Unfortunately, if more than one individual is competing for the same ideal, the success of one would result in the failure of the other.
Siddarth, Nilave, and I were discussing the pursuit of happiness after class, when I brought in the idea that the pursuit of one ideal is, in actuality, an escape from an individual’s reality. To which, Siddarth rebutted against. He claimed that there is no such thing as an escape from reality. Rather, there is an escape from the circumstance one is under. This brought me to the conclusion that each individual resides within the same reality. Reality itself is not the concept behind an individual’s failure to reach ideals. That is circumstance. An individual creates ideals to escape from circumstances into a better reality. A higher level on the hierarchy. In terms of the American Dream mentioned by Areeb, however, the transition into a “better” reality would force another into a comparatively “worse” reality.
Such is the flaw of the American Dream. With more than one individual idealizing about one aspect, too many must fall in order for one to stand – which creates a hierarchy. Those on top experience reality in a different way than those on the bottom. During times such as the Great Depression, the vast majority of people are on the bottom end due to the same reasons. And because all of these people are striving for the same things, everyone will be disappointed. Even the minority at the top of the hierarchy must be concerned about their position. Once it is lost, there is very little possibility to regain it. We see this through Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where King Hamlet is unable to restore his honor, which kept him at the top of the pyramid. To decline within the hierarchy is as simple as creating one, yet to climb up is as difficult as dissolving it.
A hierarchy can be created on the basis of many ideologies. Wealth. Power. Status. For example, in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, the hierarchy is based on color. A simple distinction, yet one which separated two major groups. Of course, even within those groups, there is a hierarchy. Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman shows a society where the distinction is largely based off of wealth. However, through Willy, we can infer that each individual creates a hierarchy of their own, and places others in their perspective. Willy feels that he can only be successful when he is well liked and good looking, whereas Atticus feels that he is successful when he can say that he has treated everyone equally. Hence, both these characters would see themselves at a different position in relation to each other. Although these two have different hierarchical classifications, there are also many individuals who have similar ones. Walter Cunningham, who comes from a poor family in To Kill A Mockingbird, and Ben, Willy’s brother, are two people whose hierarchies are mainly based off of financial wealth. In the eyes of both, Walter would be considered very unsuccessful, whereas Ben would be considered very successful. Yet, if they are compared personality-wise, the positions may be reversed, or at least, the discrepancy between the two would greatly diminish.
This difference of hierarchies creates a different “American Dream” for the individuals within different ones, as each individual strives to accomplish their own goals. Therefore, the amount of respect each individual has for each other can be seen through how they view the other in whatever they may take pride in. As an individual goes on through their life, their sense of classification may change, which will also cause the shift in their perceptions of others. Hence, as a character shifts through the plot, their hierarchy must shift as well. However, when an individual is pursuing the American Dream created through the hierarchy of another, they are unable to shift it. As well, in this kind of pursuit, the individual is destined to fail. This is due to the fact that the individual by whom the hierarchy was established will have established it so that they may thrive in comparison to others. Likewise, an individual overwhelmed by greed and desperation to attain a greater position within a hierarchy that isn’t theirs will be unable to succeed. However, as one shifts in this unknown hierarchy, they may be able to adapt, and begin to strive for “success”. However, this success cannot match the success in one’s own hierarchy.