Елена Гомзина. «American Dream VS American Dreamers»

Версия для печати

Chapter III «Literary Path of the Conception»

3.1 From the American Dream to the American Tragedy

The notion of the American Dream is of great interest in literary groups. It has been investigated and analysed actively in several approaches since it is considered to be a broad but complete phenomenon participating in building of the American nation and playing an important role in social life.

The researchers and critics affirm that the literary American dream is inseparable from the «American tragedy». The latter is a result of the ancient conflict between the desirable and real; it began to develop in works of T. Jefferson and B. Franklin. The first authors who noticed and comprehended the discrepancy between the dream and the reality of social development, which paved the way to «American tragedy» and engendered doubts about the verity of the dream itself, were the romanticists of the first quarter of nineteenth century, such as H. Melville and N. Hawthorn. Hence, the American dream and the «American tragedy» are found to be interrelated in overviews of those writers who are concerned to be Founding Fathers of American literature on the whole.

Despite such a long literary discussion of the Dream we would like to concentrate on the first quarter of the twentieth century when on the one hand the idea was at the height of its fame and on the other hand, literature had already predicted and shown its collapse. Among the prophets of the failure of the ideology were three outstanding writers T. Dreiser, F. Scott Fitzgerald and J. London who unwittingly formed a certain kind of a creative tandem. Each of them made an important contribution to the gallery of literary images and development of different subjects but their resembling views on destiny of the «national treasure» are no less valuable and unique. All of them proceeded from American reality itself and personal experience: the former explains the similarity of the plot composition and characters’ development whereas the latter clarifies existing originality of every separate work.

It is nonrandom that Martin Eden, An American Tragedy and Great Gatsby became the summit of creative development of their authors. In our opinion, it proves once again that they may be examined as the aggregate of the similar content.

At first sight the protagonists of Dreiser, Fitzgerald and London have nothing in common. What unites them? Eden is a gifted painter with a lofty and sincere soul and steadfast character that promote him the most candid sympathy and compassion. Gatsby’s image is much less attractive: we see a vulgar swindler unexpectedly capable of chivalrous love and devotion; he combines triviality and reverie, money-grubbing and unselfishness. Clyde Griffiths seems to be the most unpleasant person: no mind, or soul, no strong will, or talent. Even committing his horrible crime, even in the face of the death penalty he remains the same, small-minded and bromide. Notwithstanding, all the three of them, despite the striking diversity, walk basically the same path of social law.

Each of them grew up in poverty, among people of the same level sharing the same problems of the poor. Each of men albeit for various reasons, feels deeply discontent about his status and determined to change it. The strongest aspiration to break free from the miserable, hated surroundings and occupy a better place is motivated by affection towards young lady from haut monde (Ruth Morse, Daisy Buchanan and Sondra Finchley) in each case. All the heroes surmount the obstacles more or less successfully and are at one step away from their goal: only one tiny effort remains to be made. And then, at the very last moment, out of a sudden, an unforeseen fortuity ruins all the plans, mirage disappears and the hero perishes.

Every time the direct reason of collapse is some disappointing misunderstanding which as though might not have happened. However, in each case all incidents seeming casual and nonsensical create an impression of something fatal and inevitable. In fact, the final disappointments and minute obstacles signify further important and qualitative changes in the conscious or life of characters. London, Dreiser and Fitzgerald demonstrated regularity through fortuity, common rule of social machinery through individual fate and did it brilliantly.

Young men’s anxiety for riches and high life is manifold. Eden, for instance, entering Morse’s parlour, does not feel the envious esteem towards possible price of all the luxury. It is the beauty and aesthetic influence upon mind and perception that he sees in all those things. «There was beauty, and it drew him irresistibly» (London 1967: 6). The paintings and books grabbed his attention immediately. Yet there was something more impressive for him. A tiny episode stunned him completely: Mrs. Morse enters the room, and her daughter stands up and they exchange a kiss full of tenderness and frank attachment. Martin was overwhelmed by such devotion:

«Not in his world were such displays of affection between parents and children made. It was a revelation of the heights of existence that were attained in the world above. It was the finest thing yet that he had seen in this small glimpse of that world. He was moved deeply by appreciation of it, and his heart was melting with sympathetic tenderness. He had starved for love all his life. His nature craved love. It was an organic demand of his being. Yet he had gone without, and hardened himself in the process. He had not known that he needed love. Nor did he know it now. He merely saw it in operation, and thrilled to it, and thought it fine, and high, and splendid» (London 1967: 20).

Thus the high class has become the citadel of lofty feelings and spiritual unity. His aspiration to the top is dictated not by the strive for enrichment, but by curiosity, need of culture and education and the dream about beauty of relationships between humans.

Jay Gatsby, born James Gatz, as well as Martin, begins with refusal to accept his poverty, misery, dull vegetation in present and absence of hopes for future. «His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people—his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all» (Fitzgerald 1994: 105). He wants to escape the common lot of such-likes but his motives are only of practical character, they lack romantic elevation. Gatsby is a child of his time that is why there is a strong inner belief that he lives in the country of equal opportunities. Although Jay follows B. Franklin’s conception of the upward mobility, Fitzgerald deliberately reduces the degree of execution of each Franklin’s precept. The list of general resolves is a mirror which Fitzgerald uses in order to show the ugly degeneration of once pure ideals and consequently, some implicit weakness of these ideals as such. What makes Gatsby’s Dream to be even more American is the fear of poverty that is much stronger than the fear of punishment. He defies laws and resorts to illegal methods on the path to prosperity. Notwithstanding, Gatsby, saving all his vulgarity, still has something attractive inside. A certain verve, generosity and breadth of nature are felt in him. This is not a thrifty grabber but rather a careless urchin who is keen on his fantasies; he is playing a captivating game. As soon as he meets Daisy enrichment ceases to be an end in itself. From the very moment he has discovered his own capacity to love he treats money as a means to put the whole world at the feet of his Paramour. He wants to be worthy of Daisy’s love which means firstly to be equal and absolutely uninterested in her untold wealth.

Passing on to the third «lonely conqueror» Clyde Griffith, we are as if going a few steps down. Dreiser refuses from any attempts to romanticise his protagonist and depicts him with the nearest approach to reality. Although Griffith yields to Eden and Gatsby in all respects he also feels being in the wrong box. He is persuaded that he was born for something better than the present surroundings; and the American Dream pursues him but this time it finally takes the form of a parody. Clyde’s reveries are ridiculous and childish, shallow and selfish. «And yet, before he had ever earned any money at all, he had always told himself that if only he had a better collar, a nicer shirt, finer shoes, a good suit, a swell overcoat like some boys had! Oh, the fine clothes, the handsome homes, the watches, rings, pins…» (Dreiser 1949: 17) Throughout his life he has felt wretched passion and his heart sinking at the thought of shoes, suits, studs, cars and talks about «such interesting things — parties, dances, dinners (…)» (Dreiser 1949: 17). Griffith’s character was formed particularly in this way despite the fact that his parents taught him quite the opposite things and virtues. He hearkens to the pragmatism and philosophy of his time which says that the only true things are the ones carrying forward. Rectitude is not among them. Thus Clyde disregards morality and gets inspired with sheer indifference to the nature of good. This is the most vivid example of what the bright promises of the American Dream may do to one with a weak will.

3.2 From Common to Personal, From Nation to Individual

As t. Morozova, a historian and co-author of several books dedicated to the world literature, states, each country has its own national Dream. (Morozova 1984: 366) A nation’s unity is formed not only by the commonality of language, territory, culture, economics etc. It is also formed by the identity of people’s imagination about Perfect life and Perfect human being. This is a Dream. In this regard we may talk about Japanese, Russian, Italian, British or any other country’s dream and not just about the American one. Admitting the right of every separate state to have its own general Dream is based on the belief that no nation can exist without a uniting idea.

It is the art of word that helps see and comprehend the Dream of any nation. Meeting literary masterpieces of different genres lets readers form their own view of the conception, values or priorities of this or that group of people. It is true that a lot of new information gathered from books may be strange for a reader from a different country and culture. It is no wonder that foreign traditions and views seem to be bizarre, incorrect and even preposterous for others. Cultures of all countries are separated and determined by differences in historical, social and economic experience.

That is how the rest of the world gained its rough idea about the American Dream — basing upon plot’s varieties, characters’ words and doings and their relationships with reality.

However we should not forget that the nation is formed by separate people, meaning, by unique individuals. Different as all the people may be the basic anatomy of human «inner space» is similar. Within this space there are places for beloved, dear and gone people, caskets with bright or obscure remembrances, corners for sorrow, grief, fear and also the small worlds of daydreams where the person is not afraid to look ridiculous, silly, na?ve and so on. On the whole, in our opinion, such worlds reveal all the virtues of a character. To dream without looking at practical value but following candid impulses of a soul is an integral and incontestable right of every personality.

In traditional literature discrediting the American Dream such worlds are omitted by authors, whether deliberately or by accident. Thus the characters seem to be alien to a reader. It happens because the latter does not see the correspondence of inner worlds. The lone heroes have nothing there whereon average people have the most vivid and splendid dreams blooming. This emptiness and nihility scares and even alienates not only from the protagonist himself. It also applies to all the representatives of the American nation as a stereotype. That is how we may explain the unpleasant image of the Americans and certain hostility towards the American Dream expressed by people of other nations.

Nonetheless, the American literature, being a full-fledged phenomenon, does not let us consider Americans to be hollow inside. There is a galaxy of writers who filled the vast expanses of the souls of people living in the USA. One of them is Ray Bradbury. The pages of his books have become home for a new type of Americans in whom foreigners see the personality first and forget about their national belonging.

In one of his out-standing novels, Dandelion Wine, Bradbury says not a word about the notion of the American Dream but half-unveils the dream of an American. This book fills the great gap reminding everyone that America still has people living beyond the influence of the national Dream, preserving and improving their inner world, living in the society in harmony and finally, being devoted to eternal spiritual values.

3.3 Dandelion Wine: Matter-of-fact Information

Strictly speaking, the novel Dandelion Wine, first published in 1957, is semi-autobiographical writing. The events of the novel take place in a small town of Green Town, Illinois — an imaginary name for the writer’s home of Waukegan.

The novel is titled with a sort of wine received from dandelions’ petals and some other components that in the story is produced by the main protagonist’s grandfather, one of the characters of the story. This is a symbol of «packing all the joys of summer into a single bottle» (Dandelion Wine: para.2), meaning, trying to preserve all the bright recollections of that time.

The lens of the narration is focused on the quiet routine life of a small American town and the events that constitute its history, its past, present and future. This is a totally non-scientific book, albeit written by the great master of science fiction, fantasy and mystery. Most part of the novel’s chapters appeared in print as separate short stories united by some threads of the plot. Together with the mystic novel Something Wicked This Way Comes and the unpublished work Farewell Summer Dandelion Wine forms a Green Town trilogy.

The novel is classified as a highly autobiographical narration about a boy and the beginning of his maturing. Nevertheless the genius of the author prohibits us to emphasise the one and only topic of the book. We believe there are as many topics as many readers. We may suggest that this is a novel of one town, Green Town, Illinois. It is small, calm and familiar — so many of us have come from such a place. This is also a novel of one childhood, to be more exact, of its final transitional stage when you are to comprehend the nature of many things, to discover incredible truths about existence and as a final point to enter a new, more adult stage of life. This is a novel of one summer, fascinating like new tennis shoes, bright like dandelion wine and enigmatic and calling like the ravine. This is also a novel of a human soul where an attentive reader will see not only childish fears and doubts but also a clear and stunning world of dreams common to all of us and all of the characters of the book.

We are convinced that examination of the text at this original angle will give the variations on the topic of private dreams of Americans that do not confess the American Dream.

In general, the novel has only one protagonist — Douglas Spaulding. Consequently, his psychological portrait will be the most irrefragable, full and precise. As far as the rest of the characters are concerned, their role is of certain importance as well since they do not only fill the book’s reality but also have certain influence upon Douglas. The chapters of the novel remind of a film-strip with episodes of life of almost each dweller of Green Town, Illinois. These help to judge people who surround maturing Doug. Their doings, thoughts and experience give a notion about their inward life. We would like to analyse it, too, and try to guess the Dream of such heroes like Leo and Lena Auffmann, Ms Helen Loomis, Miss Bentley and Colonel Freeleigh. These characters vary in age, destiny, and attitude towards life although the uniting feature is that all of them are somehow related to young Douglas Spaulding.

3.4 A Boy Who Governs the World

Douglas Spaulding, aged twelve, lives in Green Town, Illinois together with his elder brother and numerous «folks». He is showered with a lively imagination, caring nature, ability to think and see as well as some other important talents. At this age other «bookish» children are already inspired with the American Dream. Clyde Griffith watches the riches around him and concludes that money is the most precious thing which also makes life interesting and manifold. Jay Gatz has already met his «mentor»-millionaire and chosen the path to prosperity. What is Doug doing? How does he spend his time? He makes his first paramount discovery that he is alive. This is the key and starting point of adulthood. Who else of his literary peers has spent time thinking about it? None of them has; whereas Douglas is stunned with this revelation of life. At the age of twelve he became as rich as no businessman of Dreiser ever dreamt of. The boy rates this discovery so highly that decides to note down everything happening to him from now on.

What may happen to the boy of his age in such a small and peaceful place like Green Town? His bookish peers unconsciously disliked the provinces wishing to leave hometown and settle somewhere in a megapolis in order to live interesting life. Doug does not dream of city lights, for Green Town, Illinois is enough for him. There is the trolley that scatters «hot blue sparks» (Bradbury 1979: 2) and sails the never-ending rivers of scorching concrete. There is an army of fruit trees waiting for children to rope swings and pick harvest. There is the mysterious ravine which evokes thoughts about school or winter on the hottest day of summer. Douglas’s life is full here, in a tiny place of Illinois. Hence, from the early years he is convinced there are no boring places but there are lack of fantasy and laziness. His joys and interests may seem childish to somebody, especially to those who already make plans about rosy future and are incredibly grown-up. Do dreams of money and prosperity mean being an adult, being mature? No, they do not. Instead, they show that the person has become callous and his soul has shrunk. «List of emotions» of such individuals gets smaller every day. They are happy only when they are buying something. They enjoy spending money and affording things that are believed to be stylish and luxurious. Things themselves and their usage do not arouse any additional emotions. Douglas is quite another matter. We cannot consider him to be a little boy as he has definitely passed the age of carefree childhood. The idea of money is broached in the novel more than once but somehow naturally and insensibly. The question «Where to get money from?» appears in the protagonist’s head for just one time when he sees tennis shoes in the shop window. The parents do not understand the boy’s strong desire to have new shoes in the middle of summer. It is not because they cannot afford buying them but because they have forgotten their own childhood. Father surely used to know, albeit he no longer remembers what the new tennis shoes mean. Doug is not lead by the maniac desire of possession, cult of new thing or wish to boast. He believes in magic of these shoes. Such a simple ordinary detail reveals uncommon philosophy of the boy and certain singularity of his inward life and yearnings. Having found the legal way to purchase Litefoot sneakers Doug persuades Mr. Sanderson, the Shoe Emporium owner, to sell him the shoes on trust with the power of belief and burst. He knows for sure that these shoes will let him be as fast as summer and do twelve things in one minute. They will carry him forward, competing in speed with the wind. Every time when lacing the shoes Doug would feel as if he was walking barefoot on the grass, putting his feet in eternal coolness and liveliness of the stream and quietness of summer forest. Is it not a wonderful dream?

It is no less alluring and captivating than the dream of preserving the whole summer in bottles of dandelion wine. Grandfather is corking clear twinkling liquid but for Douglas this is a part of summer, sun, leaves’ rustle and rattle of cricket. There, «in this dank twilight» (Bradbury 1979: 13), «row upon row, with the soft gleam of flowers opened at morning» (Bradbury 1979: 13) would stand this summer of 1928. On a wintry day or in the foul November evening butterflies would dance there; myriads of leaves would quiver; birds would return and grasses would sprout towards sun. In every single bottle there is one day which you can go back to later, when the fall takes all the rich colours of summer and waters the world with crimson of agony. Is it not a splendid dream? The reader himself is charmed by the passionate faith of the boy and his strongest desire to remember each day of life.

Douglas’s dreamland is a storehouse of childhood. This is the place where the spirit and maturing mind of a child may have a rest from the cruelty of revelations of the adult life. This is also a kind of temple for the only living God «that Douglas Spaulding knew of» (Bradbury 1979: 102). Who else of literary protagonists was able to see, love and admire his neighbour that much and so sincerely? It is important to notice that Doug’s God is not a successful patron or stronger companion whose ascendancy might be useful. This is an ordinary boy named John Huff. Despite the fact that he is only 12 years old he has succeeded in many things: being under water for two minutes, pathfinding more trails than any Cherokee, jumping six-foot walls etc. Although all these are childish amusements and games they are also necessary and important for a personality. Childhood and carelessness are the stages that give people sense of peace and calmness in the course of rest life. Having learned to be puzzled and to meditate it is vital not to forget how to relax, to rest and to let soul into the world of infancy. None of typical lone heroes has this stronghold. As well as no one has a son living inside that would remember the taste of all sweets or the rules of «kick-the-can». Though, such lad is a regular and essential resident, master and heir of the dreamland: Douglas Spaulding — ingenious, free from conventionalities and hang-ups.

Stunning or worrying discoveries not only form his personality but also help Doug improve his inner life and build spiritual sanctuary inside which is basically the copy of Green Town, Illinois. Let it be so that one day he will leave the geographical place. He would keep coming back there and derive strength, consolation and wisdom. His town may be regarded as continuation of his home. Both of them are quiet, «modest», «elderly» even though beloved. The absence of a splendid decoration, fine garden and other attributes of so called «welfare’ does not trouble young Douglas at all. The old interior, being emphasised many a time, has its own meaning: this is a part of spirit of the house and custodian of traditions and recollections of the family. For Americans such as Frank Cowperwood, Carrie Meeber or Jay Gatsby the old automatically meant wretched, miserable or shameful. Douglas has never treated his house and things this way just as he was never ashamed of his relatives. The masculine part of family in the persons of Douglas’s father and grandfather is busy at work, often till midnight. It is unlikely that they hold high posts and collect dividends from half-legal frauds. They seem to be workers who deal with what they are able to do. Probably they work with their hands, which is not disgraceful in the small town since people there are judged not by purse, position or connections.

Thus, we may conclude that everything that matters to stereotypical «world-conquerors» does not move Douglas. This immunity is the result of the environment’s upbringing. It is highly probable that Doug will not turn to the path of money-grubbing, gains and cupidity. He knows a lot more than those grown-ups in golden cages. He knows and appreciates the taste of real natural freedom, not the freedom of buying or wasting. He remembers and loves people around him. He is not oppressed by Green Town where everything is simple, without glare and crotchets. He does not long for shooting ahead because then, he knows it subconsciously, loneliness would be expecting him. Douglas is like the central point of universal harmony converted into spiritual and personal one. A great number of readers, We believe, recognises their own early days in Douglas and his summer.

It is generally accepted that all the Americans have been «inoculated» with the American Dream from the cradle. This is a stereotype. For instance, no one tries to inculcate faith or craving for it in Douglas. The enormously popular idea of «making oneself» is expressed only once, by the amazed shoe seller: «Anything you want to be, son, you will be. No one will ever stop you» (Bradbury 1979: 24). These words are the compliment to the boy’s spirit, faith and passion although they are not urged the thirst for success and fame in Spaulding’s soul. For his dreams are stillness of evening on the porch, freshness of vanilla ice cream with chocolate and warmth of bed in hours of the approaching dawn. They are prompted by Colonel Freeleigh’s unbelievable stories about the past, suffused with «clear, faintly blue silk» (Bradbury 1979: 14) of rainy waters and embellished by incomparable feeling of being alive. All the rest, necessary, useful, practical and due things would never meddle with the boy’s bright special dreams waiting outside the world of fantasies, summer and dandelion wine.

3.5 Leo Auffmann, Happiness Machine inventor, and Lena Auffmann

In Green Town, Illinois there lives an average family of infinitively kind-hearted and witty mother Lena, sensitive and loving father Leo and six charming children. We may only guess what the dream of this couple is because the novel shows only one episode of their life. To the contrary, being very revealing, it defines these people well.

Leo is the town jeweler and somewhat eccentric and a little bit absent-minded self-taught inventor. He is a completely extraordinary and unique person for Green Town’s reality. He organised his «inward space» long time ago however he has been dealing with its modernisation, perfection or addition up to the present day. Leo is a dreamer in pure form. He enjoys observing life and feels highly content with what he sees around. Nonetheless, unfortunately the essence of scientist hinders him from contemplation to a small extent. He is like a child who watches the world with open eyes and asks endless «whys». Usually this period of child’s development is over of its own accord but some people, for instance, Leo, linger on this stage and spend further life trying to comprehend all its manifestations and being unable to resign themselves to some mysteries and miracles.

Leo’s mind is in constant search for answers to millions of questions. He defines life as the most wonderful and precious gift and possession. That is why his dream is to remove the so called depressing components from the formula of life. It is so unwise and pitiful that we have to lose people we love and care or to leave this world ourselves! Are there any ways to struggle against this injustice? And what about the time spent worrying, missing, crying or losing one’s heart? Something must be done about it! How can we get rid of negative emotions?

Leo has a strong faith in the power of human thought and ingenuity. Harmony of people and machines is also a part of his inmost dreams. Machins are perfect and unique by nature as they avail, enlighten, entertain and rejoice us. Unfortunately, in Leo’s opinion, people are too stubborn and narrow-minded to use them only for the good: «How have we used machines so far, to make people cry? Yes! Every time man and the machine look like they will get on all right — boom! Someone adds a cog, airplanes drop bombs on us, cars run us off cliffs» (Bradbury 1979: 33). The request of Douglas to invent a Happiness Machine amuses and inspires Leo but he decides to try. Such generator of pleasant emotions is impossible to turn into aggressive or dangerous machine for it would not have the reverse effect.

Mr Auffmann’s idea is a quintessence of all his dreams. This would be the apparatus «that in spite of wet feet, sinus trouble, rumpled beds, and those three-in-the-morning hours when monsters ate your soul, would manufacture happiness, like that magic salt mill that, thrown in the ocean, made salt forever and turned the sea to brine» (Bradbury 1979: 46). This is going to be tear and sadness remedy to the whole humankind! There is no doubt that such generosity and frankness of his aspiration touch readers’ hearts.

Only a man of outstanding imagination could put this project into practice. He worked on his Machine for two weeks adding more and more new details and recollecting various phenomena that have ever made someone happier. Such creativeness demands remarkable delicacy to others. Leo knows very well what a girl, a boy, a young mother or a senior gentleman need. Therefore he tries to place as many things evoking interest and pleasant emotions into his Machine as possible. Finally his creation is ready but something is wrong in the very way people around see it. Namely, his wife is cross with him: «Lee Auffmann (…) has lost fifteen pounds. He hasn’t talked to his children in two weeks, they are nervous, they fight, listen! His wife is nervous, she's gained ten pounds, she’ll need new clothes, look! Sure — the machine is ready. But happy? Who can say?» (Bradbury 1979: 54) Why is Lena so upset and even angry? Leo’s sincere confusion grows when she calls his revolutionary invention a Sadness Machine. It turns out to be impossible to fix or waken happiness. Great many of the readers regard his disappointment as their own one. This is the collapse of our dreams, too. In fact who would refuse to live happily, without any pain or tears? Leo’s example is a proof that such life is impossible.

The inventor can not comprehend why it is so and where the rub is. His wife saves him from his painful disenchantment:

«Lee, the mistake you made is you forgot some hour, some day, we all got to climb out of that thing and go back to dirty dishes and the beds not made. While you're in that thing, sure, a sunset lasts forever almost, the air smells good, the temperature is fine. All the things you want to last, last. But outside, the children wait on lunch, the clothes need buttons. And then let's be frank, Lee, how long can you look at a sunset? Who wants a sunset to last? Who wants perfect temperature? Who wants air smelling good always? So after awhile, who would notice? Better, for a minute or two, a sunset. After that, let's have something else. People are like that, Lee. How could you forget?» (Bradbury 1979: 60)

Worldly wisdom of this woman, mother and person is correct and elementary. We can not be happy all the time locking ourselves up in the box with coloured pictures, pleasant smells and tuneful sounds. Having developed this thought we would reveal the truth of being: for every joy we must feel a piece of regret. That is the law of life. Everything in it exists in the given proportions; by taking one element we would not be able to receive the full product so to say. As Lena notices, we are nobody to interfere with this process.

After Lena burst into tears in Happiness Machine the experiment fails and the falseness of the invention becomes obvious. However, she does not only open his eyes and helps him cope with disappointment but also prompts where to look for real happiness. Finally, he makes his great discovery and finds the essential answer. «In one hour, I've done a lot of thinking. I thought, Leo Auffmann is blind!… You want to see the real Happiness Machine? The one they patented a couple thousand years ago, it still runs, not good all the time, no! but it runs. It's been here all along. (Bradbury 1979: 62). He manages to find real Happiness Machine inside his own house:

«(…) there, in small warm pools of lamplight, you could see what Leo Auffmann wanted you to see. There sat Saul and Marshall, playing chess at the coffee table. In the dining room Rebecca was laying out the silver. Naomi was cutting paper-doll dresses. Ruth was painting water colours. Joseph was running his electric train. Through the kitchen door, Lena Auffmann was sliding a pot roast from the steaming oven. Every hand, every head, every mouth made a big or little motion. You could hear their faraway voices under glass. You could hear someone singing in a high sweet voice. You could smell bread baking, too, and you knew it was real bread that would soon be covered with real butter. Everything was there and it was working. (…) There it is." And he watched with now — gentle sorrow and now — quick delight, and at last quiet acceptance as all the bits and pieces of this house mixed, stirred, settled, poised, and ran steadily again. "The Happiness Machine," he said. "The Happiness Machine» (Bradbury 1979: 63).

Thus, Leo’s dream comes true and while walking this way he gains a lot more than just the comprehension of happiness. Lena shows him an alternative way of watching and enjoying life by her own example. It turns out that we do not need to know every single answer as Mr. Auffmann aspired to. Life and people are like parents and children. The former are witty and know everything whereas the latter are curious and unreasonable. Nevertheless there comes a point when a person has to realize that one cannot ask and have constant answers and explanations. Some things must be taken simply for granted; and the time for understanding the process and phenomena will come. That is the way one gains wisdom. Leo’s dreams, restless and demanding like a child’s, are balanced by the patience of Lena. From now on Leo can share his discovery with every single person looking for happiness.

3.6 Senior dwellers of Green Town, Illinois, who «never were children», and the final Dream

Miss Helen Loomis, Colonel Freeleigh, Miss Bentley bear certain resemblance to each other. They cherish the reminiscences enjoying events that they lived through long time ago. It is worth emphasising that in each case it is the younger generation who appeal to their memories. Colonel Freeleigh counts beads of his life on a curious boys’ request. Mrs Bentley goes back to the past in order to prove children she was a little girl once. Miss Loomis also travels through her life because of a young man, Bill Forester.

Colonel Freeleigh has lived adventurous life crammed with events, meetings and feelings like a Thanksgiving turkey. All that he wants now is to live the rest of his time in its fullest, not sparing the weak heart and feeble body and letting the world rock all his senses as much as possible. As for Mrs. Loomis she regrets about her past true and only love which she did not pay enough attention to. Providence sends her a young journalist, Bill Forester, and along with him, a new feeling and dream about the reunion of their hearts someday, at a suitable time and place. Mrs. Bentley’s dearest wish, we believe, is rooted in her husband’s death: «That was the huge regret of her life, in a way. The one thing she had most enjoyed touching and listening to and looking at she hadn't saved» (Bradbury 1979: 68). Therefore, her dream might be to have Mr. Bentley by her side.

All the stories are edifying and significant for adolescence although they have certain meaning for the old age as well. We can see that these people are keen on life, what suggests that this is exactly what they dream about. It has been so exciting and astonishing to live that now they do not want to stop. In the meantime, the reality makes it clear that the end is approaching. By telling their stories old people as if leave small pieces of them here, on Earth. Let it be they are lonely and their life is almost over but henceforth memory about them would stay in the hearts of children for at least one more generation. They would smoulder and thus they would live. This is the only dream which remains when life goes by. The dream to live is a revelation for children; it conceals in adults; old people realise it. This strongest feeling is like air for human beings. We do not feel it. This is altogether a kind of soil, water and sunlight for splendid flowers of our reverie. Thanks to the dream of life we are able to dream about all the other things and events. We think that this is what every Green Town dweller has inside. It is also true that at every age different ambitions and yearnings cover and frame this dream like moss. Ageing exhausts this base inevitably, albeit gradually. And then comes the moment when one realises that the dream of all and each is life. This thought is a supreme wisdom, perfect, complete and unbelievable. Where does it come from? When does it appear? It is the first dream of a baby not born yet. Moreover this is the dream that keeps coming true every single moment of our life, until the very end.

3.7 Dandelion Wine: alter ego of the American Dream

The American Dream is not only a romantic legend about freedom and equality or a guiding conception that has been leading people through centuries. We consider the Dream to be a kind of powerful God. People believe in it, make sacrifices when refusing from different things in the name of achieving this glittering goal. Thus, it makes people move forward, work at self-improvement, live for something important. The Dream contains some superior power that overrides many. The features of an idol or cult notion are available from both literature and daily life. However, if traditionally the reality provides us with one-sided stereotypes that are far from positive then literary space acquaints readers with versatile information and much more detailed view of these or other phenomena. In case of the Dream the ambiguity exposes itself during the analysis of traditional works dedicated entirely to the question of the Dream and non-traditional works that usually are not regarded in connection with this particular topic.

On the one hand, the readers are familiar with the gallery of the so called knights or even slaves of the American Dream. These are notorious Eden, Griffith, Cowperwood, Carrie etc. They form the image of the average American citizen with his usual way of thinking. This is a machine for making money, establishing one’s capital or carving one’s way; an abstract shell with no remarkable filling — that is how we used to think of the whole nation basing on literary characters. On the other hand, though, due to Bradbury we have acquainted ourselves with other representatives of this nation. It no longer seems to be a herd of horses with blinders on their eyes that rush at full speed to the one and only goal.

Dwellers of Green Town, Illinois remind readers that while being a united homogeneous fusion the American nation consists of individual people. And now in the crowd of Cowperwoods, Carries, Edens and Gatsbies we can discern faces similar to the ones of Douglas, Colonel Freeleigh, Leo Auffmann, Ms Bentley and so forth. In other words, Bradbury provided the whole world with a new type of American, free from the American Dream, but Dreaming one. Even if there are lots of them in the society, so be it. All these people are strange, dissimilar to each other and mysterious as well as bright, magnetic and unique. Being a part of the nation, not contradicting its canons the Dreamers stand out by not practicing the common religion. Nonetheless, this distinction is mild, natural, completely unobtrusive and devoid of any rebel and aggressive elements. Bradbury’s characters living in real life do not cut themselves off the society but co-exist with it in the absolute harmony and peace. They also help verify, supplement and thereby improve it.


I have now come to the final part of the thesis dedicated to the American Dream and its image in literature. We have examined what this notion nowadays represents in general. We hope that with the help of Cullen’s theory we managed to clarify not only the history of the conception’s development but also the origins of its basic sides and principles, such as equal possibilities, complete freedom of action and confidence in ones strength while achieving goals. We have admitted that the mirage of the American Dream is still luring many people in the USA and outside it, in foreign countries. We have also agreed with numerous critics that the influence of the Dream upon individual and nation’s mind is dangerous, harmful or even destructive. The same conclusion was made by many writers in XIX century. Their literary works depict the ruin of protagonist captivated by the American Dream in detail.

Thus, we have found answers to a number of questions put at the beginning of the present work. The view of the American Dream we have is not quite correct. It is believed to be shallow idea looped at enrichment whereas it was born for much more lofty aims. As it can be seen from Cullen’s book, the Dream had been reflecting momentary needs of society very precisely: the Puritanical dream of freedom, aspiration to equality, self perfection (Dream of Upward Mobility), confidence in future of children and so on. All the ideals supported by this Dream, were definitely close and clear to people all over world and worth of worshiping. Therefore, it is obvious that the American Dream primordially existed rather as a uniting idea or national conception, than the product of mental activity of every separate human being. Consequently, in theory Americans are not bound to strive for only this particular idea. Presumably they have their own personal dreams and wishes that reveal their individuality and differ from the list of desirable of an average successful citizen.

Appealing to very untraditional literary material, namely to the novel Dandelion Wine of Ray Bradbury, has helped us prove our hypothesis at its every point. Firstly, not all Americans are preoccupied with achieving American Dream. Secondly, in the hearts of USA citizens there are other dreams besides the great national idea based on history of the country; and these other dreams look more like dreams of foreign readers. Judging from the novel, people in America are still capable of demonstrating sincere compassion and concern, enjoying simple things and not meditating on fortune, luxury and high life. Dwellers of Green Town do not dream of leaving their surroundings as other literary characters do. Flight of their fancy is also immeasurably beautiful and high.

In such a way, in America there are both followers of the American Dream and Free Dreamers. We will not try to evaluate and discuss which is better. What we would like to say instead is that the American Dream apparently is not so black as it is painted and it is beautiful and worth of attention in itself. However, it is one for the whole nation and its multiple variants do not change its essence. The Free Dreamer is a successful and necessary addition to the national idea. The American Dream and dreams of Americans melt in each other forming a perfect tandem. When there is the «list of desirable», meaning a fulfilled common Dream, it is so nice to have something out of reach, nonmaterial, but still very precious — one’s own Dream.


Adams, James. 1971. The Epic of America. Boston: Little.

    Atlee, Tom. 1990. The Conversion of the American Dream. Breaking out of Robotic Patterns of Consumption Reengages us with Life and Brings High Adventure. Available at http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC26/Atlee.htm, accessed February 3, 2006.

    Boorstin, Daniel. 1962. The image: or What Happened to the American Dream. New York: Atheneum.

Bradbury, Ray. 1979. Dandelion Wine. New York: Bantam Books.

    Cullen, Jim. 2004. The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea That Shaped a Nation. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.

Dreiser, Theodore. 1949. An American Tragedy. New York: Signet Books.

Fitzgerald, Frank. 1994. The Great Gatsby. London: Penguin Books.

    Gray, Muriel. 2005. Why the American Dream is one of the Biggest Lies.

London, Jack. 1967. Martin Eden. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

    About Ray Bradbury. Biography. The official site of Ray Bradbury. Available at

    Tom Atlee: A Brief Biography. 2003. The Co-Intelligence Institute. Available at

    Urofsky, Melvin (ed). 1994. Basic Readings in U.S. Democrasy. Washington: United States Information Agency.

    American Dream. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Available at

    Dandelion Wine. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.Available at

    Морозова, Татьяна. 1984. Поражение одинокого завоевателя: американский Жюльен Сорель. In Ясен Засурский (ed.). Литература США XX века. Опыт типологического исследования, 361-391. Москва: Наука.