"The Grapes of Wrath" and "The Crucible": Deconstructing the American Dream

Essay by ashley279High School, 11th gradeA, August 2006

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Today, America is considered to be the most powerful and influential nation on Earth in terms of its cultural and political dominance. Its self-promotion as a 'Land of Opportunity' continues to attract migrants from all over the world wishing to pursue what's known as the American Dream. This ideological way of living, concerned with monetary wealth, family values, equality and individual liberty, is fostered by American society and publicized through the media and other forms of literature. John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath and Arthur Miller's play The Crucible are two distinguished pieces of literature which resist the common beliefs of the American Dream and outline its flaws. The texts not only deconstruct the Dream but also question some of the cultural aspects of American society.

Literature is often reflective of society, which is evident in John Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath". The novel set in the Great Depression, captures the tribulation of the 1930's Dust Bowl and the devastating impacts felt by the farmers.

Through one faith-filled family forced out of their homes, the Joad's are a demonstration of the struggles involved in achieving the American Dream. For them and many other 'Okies'- refugee farmers and sharecroppers fleeing the dustbowl of Oklahoma - their dream of unlimited work in the fields and orchards of California is shattered when they begin to realize the American Dream is not a dream that can be shared by all.

Starting off towards the bottom of the social ladder as they do, things only get worse for the Joad's in their struggle to achieve their dream. They do not own nor want much - just the opportunity to get on with their business of living in their own manner. But ironically, America the 'Land of Opportunity', deprives the Joad family...