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The American Dream in John Steinbeck’s East of Ede

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    n East Eden EssaysThe American Dream in East of Eden It is what every American strives for in life, but no one ever seems to achieve fully; it is the hopes and aspirations of every American, yet rarely are these goals ever met. It is the American Dream. In East of Eden, John Steinbeck displays different aspects of the American Dream through the desires and wishes of each character. Though each character in East of Eden may have a slightly different idea of what the American Dream is, becoming rich and wanting a better life for one’s children seem to be a common thread in the lives of Faye and Cathy, Adam, and Cyrus. Becoming rich and financially stable is arguably the most important part of the American Dream. Every character seems to think it important, even those who do not have a lot of money. Faye obtains her wealth by running a successful whore house. When adopting Cathy as her daughter, Faye tells her, “I–no, we–have cash and securities in excess of sixty thousand dollars. In my desk are notations of accounts and safe-deposit boxes. I sold the place in Sacramento for a very good price” (233). Upon hearing this news, Cathy knows that her act of being daughterly has worked and she will inherit a lot of money. Being financially secure is important to both of them and they think it is the only way for them to enjoy the pleasures of life. Adam Trask is also a strong believer that money is the only way for one to live a life of luxury. When inheriting the money form his father, Cyrus, Adam is anxious to spend the money to build a better life for his brother and himself. While his brother is skeptical, Adam decides that he should move west in order to buy a nice farm to raise a family on. Upon his arrival at Salinas, Adam is willing to pay whatever it takes to buy the best plot of land. Only with money would this have been possible and would he be happy. Cyrus Trask believes that money makes a better life, too. If he did not think this, he would not have thought it important to leave his large sum of money to his sons. With his job and the money he earned, he is able to enjoy a high-class life as a military private. Cyrus Trask believes that his children, Adam and Charles, would live a better life than he had if he could provide them with the right training. He teaches them how to defend themselves and to be soldiers and with this knowledge he believes they can only do honorable things. Because Cyrus has the knowledge of a soldier, he is able to do noteworthy things that got him a lot of recognition and prestige. When he passes away, he leaves what was in his name to his two sons, and in turn provides them with a better life. This wanting of a better life for one’s children is an overpowering force in the American Dream. Like his father wanted for him, Adam also wants a better life for his two sons. He provides for them and tries to allow them to do things that his father would not allow him to do like be a gardener or have a rabbit farm. With his love and care, he too, hopes to provide a better life for his sons, Cal and Aron. Faye feels this wanting of a better life for her “daughter” Cathy. When Cathy insists on working, Faye is upset because she wants to spend time with her. She doesn’t want Cathy to work as a prostitute, but Cathy feels she must work. Even though Cathy is not her real daughter, Faye feels the that being a whore is not a better life for a woman from a rich family. The American Dream is not evident in any one person, but parts of it can be seen in everyone in the novel. No one person is able to live the true meaning of the American Dream, no matter how hard he or she tries. Faye and Cathy, Adam, and Cyrus are examples of characters who posses the dreams of wanting to be rich and wanting a better life for one’s children. In his essay, America ; Americans: Is the American dream even possible?, Steinbeck points out, “The fact that we have this dream at all is perhaps an indication of its possibility” (3).

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