During the period of the Great Depression in the 1930’s, the American Dream was considered as an opportunity for a better life, a new society, individual wealth by every citizen in the society. In this period of the economic depression, the American Dream affected the whole American people. It implied that every citizen, regardless of their status in the society, could obtain their desires if they worked hard. Especially the working class and the poor in the American society worked more hours under harsh conditions in order to make the dreams come true. Because of the effects of the American Dream, people in America started to want to bigger houses, more beautiful cars, a richer and better life. It can be said that they tried to escape from the economic depression with these dreams. Besides, the American Dream was not only the pursuit of material prosperity but also the pursuit of happiness and independence. However, it is seen that during the period of the Great Depression people could not see the dark side of the American Dream. The American Dream drove people to despair. A lot of people, particularly the poor, had to work two jobs to survive. Thus, contrary to expectations, the American Dream was not a hope for every American citizen, especially the poor and the working class. During this depression period, the most two important writers, Horace McCoy and John Steinbeck showed the dark side of the idea of the American Dream in their works. One of them, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? written by Horace McCoy is a short novel about a dance marathon during the Great Depression. In this novel, Horace McCoy traumatically describes the poverty and desperation of people during the economic depression in the 1930’s. The other important novel about the American Dream is Of Mice and Men written by John Steinbeck. Steinbeck shows the lives of American people, especially the poor in the novel. In these two novels, the writers show the impossibility of the American Dream. In addition, it is said that the American Dream causes the collapse of the characters. The aim of this paper is to analyze the downfall of the characters because of the American Dream and to show the injustice of the idea of the American Dream in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? and Of Mice and Men.
First of all, in the first novel, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They, the title of the novel is very striking. It can be said that this title reveals the reality of the idea of the American Dream because the title states that contrary to the expectations of people the American Dream is not attainable by every American citizen. Because of this crooked order, the working class and the poor have to work hard under difficult conditions in order to achieve their aims. However, the American Dream runs poor people for rich people.When these poor people do not serve the purpose, they are alienated from the circle of the American Dream. Metaphorically, this situation resembles the wounded horses. The wounded horses are shot when they do not serve the purpose anymore. So, the title of They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? implies the dark side of the idea of the American Dream.
Secondly, in the novel, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, it is showed that a dance marathon is actually pleased for people, but this marathon ironically transforms a competitive race. The competitors which join the race rehearse under harsh conditions in order to become a winner. They want to become a star in Hollywood. They think that if they become a winner in this race, they can make their dreams come true. However, actually, they are the small parts of the circle of the American Dream. It can be seen that they are used to entertain rich people. The dance marathon implies that life is suffering. The rich people get pleasure from the other people’s pain. So, it can be said that the American Dream is not fair for every American citizen. The American Dream is a crooked cycle. People in the dance marathon are isolated. It can be seen that the crooked order of the American Dream causes the corruption of the main characters, Robert and Gloria, in the novel. Like the other competitors, they want to become a winner because of their dreams. Gloria wants to be an actress and Robert wants to be a director. They think that they have to become a champion in this race in order to achieve their goals. However, it can be seen that Gloria is a different woman from the other people because the other competitors submit the terrible order of the Amerikan Dream. But, Gloria is unhappy with this order. It can be said that she is aware of the dark side of the American Dream. So, Gloria does not bear this order. She wants to die. At the end of the novel, it is showed that Gloria corrupts the idea of the American Dream. Robert does not bear the pain of his wife and kills her. Both of them do not reach goals because the idea of the American Dream is not equitable for every person.
Thirdly, the other novel Of Mice and Men shows the failure of the American Dream like They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?. In the novel, the two friends George Milton and Lennie Small work at different farms and they want to save money in order to buy a farm. Actually, they want to buy not only a farm, but also their freedom, a home, and family because of the American Dream they lose their independence. Lennie and George have no land but have their dreams, like Robert and Gloria. However, at the end of the novel, George has to kill Lennie, so it can be seen that they cannot reach their dreams because of the terrible cycle of the American Dream.
In conclusion, it is seen that both of the most important novels written during the period of the Great Depression show the failure of the American Dream. The writers want to reveal the dark reality of the American Dream. So, it can be said that the American Dream is not fair for every citizen. The working class and the poor work hard under terrible conditions for rich people. The rich people buy the poor for their entertainment. Although the American Dream defends that all American citizens regardless of their position or heritage are equal, it is not true. Finally, the novels clearly reveal the dark side of the idea of the American Dream. The American Dream causes the dark downfall of the characters.