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The American dream in "Them", by Joyce Carol Oates

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  1. The dreams and expectations of the main characters
  2. The characters' wishes linked to the American dream
  3. How does Oates confront their reality to their dreams?

"Them", written by Joyce Carol Oates in 1969, is a naturalistic novel which depicts the life of the Wendalls, a working class family. Even if it is a fiction, it has been written thanks to Wendall's account of her life. The story starts in 1930's with the Great Depression and ends in 1960's with the race riots ; most of it takes place in Detroit. It tells us about the everyday life and struggles of three main characters : Loretta and her children Maureen and Jules who are trying to live The American Dream.

[...] For Maureen money is also a way to leave her family who oppresses her. She helps her mother a lot and is always tired because of the unceasing noise at home. She starts to prostitute herself in order to have enough money to leave. In fact, all these dreams and expectations are linked to many aspects of The American Dream : the hope of a well-off financial situation, of an independency which could make them discover new horizons. In other words they all want live The American Dream and escape their social condition. [...]


[...] We can quote in chapter one of the sentences looking into the mirror was like looking into the future; everything was there, waiting and the world divides in two: those who were hopeless, losers, a big pack of them, and those headed for somewhere We can also find the sentence what would happen? and its equivalent what was going to happen? which is repeated twice. This repetition intensifies the importance of the question and the fact that it's a significant questioning for Loretta. As a teenager, Jules is also full of dreams and expectations about his future. [...]


[...] We can find the ethos of the American Dream in some famous American novels. For example in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn written by Mark Twain, or in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which mocks the materialism that can be linked to the pursuit of the American Dream Is it the case for Them as well? p.214-215 in The Epic of America by James Truslow Adams In this essay we will ask ourselves the following question : what is the place of The American Dream in Them? [...]

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