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America and Americans

            America and Americans' first essay, after a brief foreword, examines perhaps the most prominent American teleology, from which the essay takes its title: "E Pluribus Unum." But even as Steinbeck explains his belief in the factuality of this American motto, he also highlights those discrepancies or paradoxes which make this teleology ironic. The second essay, "Paradox and Dream," continues this theme and attempts to explain both the necessity and the irony of the mythic "American Way of Life." Much like Wallace Stevens' Supreme Fictions, these national myths, according to Steinbeck, aid the individual and the nation, not so much by any actuality, but by their potentiality: "These dreams describe our vague yearnings toward what we wish were and hope we may be: wise, just, compassionate, and noble. The fact that we have this dream at all is perhaps an indication of its posibility(34). The Dream of the American Dream John Steinbeck, in his essay America and Americans, uses many contradictions to explain his views on the American Dream. I have witnessed and experienced many of these contradictions in my life. Through my experiences, I have learned to believe that the American dream is no more than just a dream. One of the first contradictions Steinbeck uses that I have personally experienced is, We are alert, curious, hopeful, and we take more drugs designed to make us unaware than any other people. This quote almost perfectly describes one of my cousins. She at one time was very bright and intelligent. In fact, she had over a 4.0 grade point average through her fist two years of high school. However, she began taking drugs and progressively followed a downhill track until she was barely even able to think at all. I do not think that a girl almost killing herself and ending up as a vegetable is part of the American Dream. Another example of a contradiction Steinbeck uses in his essay that I have personally witnessed is, We spend our lives in motor cars, yet most of us - a great many of us at least - do not know enough about a car to look in the gas tank when the motor fails.

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