Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Madness of the American Dream

Valentina Viscardi
Travel Literature
Dr. Ellis
24 March 2015

The Madness of the American Dream

            The American Dream will have your heart palpitating out of your chest.  Either it’s the dream or the copious amounts of coffee you will need to fulfill those wild imaginative dreams.  That’s the beauty of America.  Your wildest dreams aren’t confined to leather bound books or the class you were born into.  The country from one end to the other is everyone’s own personal canvas.  You can paint yourself however, wherever, and with whoever you desire.  You can be a millionaire, a pauper, a musician, and rags to riches story, a nobody, a somebody.  As the narrator, Sal, in Jack Kerouac’s novel, On the Road, contests, “The one distinct time in my life, the strangers moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was—I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel. . . “ (15).  At this moment in the text, Sal is exposed to the great American canvas and realizes how invigorating travel is.
 The possibilities are endless in the country and this whole American dream jumbles and scrambles every mind to live on impulse.   The crazy thing about America, is that you are allowed to be a maniac. Sal describes that he, “saw God in the sky in the form of huge gold sunburning clouds. . . [he] was more interested in some old rotted covered wagon” (181).  The madness drives your ambition, and your hunger to accomplish all that encompasses the term, “the dream.”    The even crazier thing?  You actually believe you can search for that “it” and find it. 
            Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac’s, On the Road, is the epitome of the American Dream.  He wildly chases careers of all sorts, striving to explore ever centimeter of the United States with unbounded excitement.  This excitement is exemplified when Dean tells Sal, the narrator his aspirations to be like Rollo Greb.  He exclaims:

“ ‘ That Rollo Greb is the greatest, most wonderful of all.  That’s what I was trying to tell you—that’s what I want to be.  I want to be like him.  He’s never hung-up, he goes every direction, he lets it all out, he knows time, he has nothing to do but rock back and forth.  Man, he’s the end!  You see, if you go like him all the time you’ll finally get it.’ “ (127).

But, what is that “it” that Dean yearns for?  It is so vague, much like Dean himself.  Thus, travel for Dean, and Americans as a whole is more of an emotional high, than a matter of making to miles count, or learning about a particular culture.  In America, everyone is connected by this “it.”  Americans don’t have direction, but passion—the “it” The narrator explains that in his first trek across the country.  What is in it for the cars to pick up the hitchhikers?  A story?  A laugh?  The band of brothers that drives the narrator in the back of their pickup have nothing to gain, but rather, share their excitement for travel.  But, where are they going?  Do we ever find out?  American travel is much different than the rest of the world.  Its miles are charted in the ranks of excitement.  There are no boundaries in American travel.  The entire country will use you for a hit off of that manic high that travel elicits.  There are no brakes on the American travel train.  It keeps going on indefinitely, “the mad dream—grabbing, taking, giving, sighing, dying, just so they could be buried in those awful cemetery cities behind Long Island City” (107).  Sal and Dean attempt to live the American dream.  They rough ride the US in every possible attempt to avoid responsibility and the inevitable end.  Only in America, you can do that. 

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