A Comparison of the Theme of the American Dream in Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser and the Pearl by John Steinbeck

The Nightmare of the American Dream Many people strive to pursue the American Dream for they believe that through hard work and effort, [everyone] can achieve success, can be rich, famous and happy (Willett 1). However, the pursuit of the American Dream will ultimately destroy every individual. In Sister Carrie and The Pearl, both authors demonstrate the many obstacles in this pursuit and show how the pursuit consumes those aspiring to attain the dream. Specifically these obstacles can be shown through the difficulties of the protagonists and their families, the protagonists changing personalities, and their loss of personal freedom.

The family lives of the characters in Sister Carrie and The Pearl are consumed by pursuit of the American Dream. In Sister Carrie, the protagonist, Carrie Meeber, dreams of wealth and fame. In order for Carrie to pursue the American Dream, she is forced to leave her family and hometown in Columbia city. When Carrie leaves she is alone, away from home, rushing into a great sea of life and endeavor (Dreiser 8).

Carrie moves to Chicago for she saw the city offering more of loveliness than she had ever known (Dreiser 428). In Chicago, Carrie moves in with her sister Minnie and her husband Sven, to save her some money. Soon, Carrie finds a job but unfortunately loses it due to illness and Sven thinks that it might be best for the winter to go home if she doesnt find another job(Dreiser 49). Carrie soon realizes that Minnie and Sven only invite her to live with them because they expect to use the bulk of her pay for their household expenses (Lehan 70).

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Minnie and Sven only want Carries money, even if it means taking away from Carries dream for their own financial gain.

Tenkula 2 Later, Carrie comes closer to living her dream when she becomes involved in unloving relationships with two men. On Carries way to Chicago, she meets Drouet and is attracted to his wealth. He is a friendly man, and wants to help Carrie out in the big city. He provides her with the many things that Carrie desires, so she decides to move in with him. From this instant, Drouet attempts to win [Carries] love through money and wealth(Gatsby 2), which is a corruption of the American Dream. However, this relationship does not endure as Carrie is soon attracted to Hurstwood because he has more money than Drouet. Carrie has an affair with Hurstwood for he seemingly offered her the better way (Dreiser 428). Carries relationship with each of these men is that of a prostitute to a client, for she desires the money these men offer her, rather than their love. When Hurstwood cannot live up to Carries expectations, she realizes she can do better on her own and decides, No man should buy her (out of] false protestations or favor.

She (then) propose[s] to earn her living honestly(Dreiser 211). Soon Carrie is hired as an actress that allows her to make enough money to support herself, she then decides to leave Hurstwood for she feels he is only bringing her down. Now for the first time Carrie begins to live her dream.

Also, in The Pearl, the protagonist, Kino, tries to pursue the American Dream, after obtaining the greatest pearl in the world(Steinbeck 30). Kino thinks that this pearl will bring his family great happiness for it will provide an education for [his son] Coyotito(Lisca 219), and he can have the opportunity to marry Juana in the church(Steinbeck 36). Kino believes all of his dreams are now going to come true. However, in Kinos attempt to keep the pearl, he sacrifices his relationship with his wife and son.

Tenkula 3 The pearl disrupts the marital relationship between Kino and Juana, for Kino physically abuses his wife when she tries to throw the pearl back into the sea. Juana believes the pearl is going to cause misery to their family. When Juana is about to get rid of the pearl, Kino wretched the pearl from her. He struck her in the face with his clenched fist and she fell among the boulders, and he kicked her in the side(Steinbeck 80). Obviously, the pearl that is suppose to bring Kino great fortune, has become more important to him than his own wife. Also, Kinos son, Coyotito, suffers when Kino has the pearl in his possession. When the trackers search for Kinos great pearl, Coyotito is shot. One of the trackers shot up toward the cave where Coyotito and Juana were hiding.

Kino knew the sound, the keening, moaning, rising hysterical cry from the little cave in the side of the mountain, the cry of death (Steinbeck 119). Kino knew that the trackers hit and killed Coyotito. Now in the surface of the pearl he saw Coyotito lying in the little cave with the top of his head shot way(Steinbeck 121). The pearl which Kino dreamed of bringing him and his family great happiness, now in fact brings them great hardship and sorrow.

In addition to hurting theyre families, the characters in Sister Carrie and The Pearl, morally and ethically degenerate as human beings, in their pursuit of the American Dream. In Sister Carrie, Carrie Meeber begins as poor [and] unsophisticated(Dreiser 428). When Carrie becomes an actress in New York, her position in the theatre projects the anomalies of her place in American Society even as it appears to be a fulfillment of the American Dream, for now her dreams of wealth and fame has come true. Carrie now lives a wealthy and famous lifestyle, but with her new lifestyle also comes a new Tenkula 4 personality.

The American Dream consumes Carrie for she is self-absorbed. As Carrie moves upward in the Broadway show, she requires new clothes, so she takes a room with Lola to save money, when her husband Hurstwood begins to have money troubles (Sloan 57).

Carrie thinks, it isnt right that (she] should support him, even though he supports her when she has no money (Dreiser 341). Carries greed is overwhelming for she abandons Hurstwood when he needs her the most. Without Hurstwood, she can spend her money the way she wants, but is still never satisfied with what she has, and is always wanting more. Carrie is described as one of the soulless people obsessed by image and wealth, a corruption of the American dream(Gatsby 1). This corruption is the reason Carrie never lives her dream, and is never happy.

Similarly, in The Pearl, Kinos pursuit of the American Dream and his vision of great prospects has a negative effect on his personality for he becomes greedy and violent. First, when Kino gets the pearl assessed by the pearl dealers, he believes that he is being cheated. However, the neighbors think, it would have been much better if Kino took the one thousand pesos. That is a great deal of money, more than [Kino] has ever seen(Steinbeck 72). It is obvious that Kino is only thinking of himself, for if he truly loved his family, he would have sold the pearl to the buyers for any reasonable price.

Ultimately, because of his greed, he does not sell the pearl. He does not get the money, or the happiness that the pearl is supposed to bring for himself and his family. Kino also becomes very violent in his pursuit. He has to depend on violence in order to keep the pearl, and he becomes a murderer when he kills one of the trackers.

When the trackers search for Kinos pearl, Kino sneaks up behind one of them and Tenkula 5 struck the head of the seated man like a melon (Steinbeck 118). At this moment, Kinos violent nature has consumed him, and he has now become a ruthless individual to keep the pearl.

As Kino and Carries personalities change, they are more intent on the pursuit of the American Dream and this causes them lose their personal freedom. When Carrie resides with Hurstwood she does not have to worry about the prices of things, but begins to feel as if she must be free(Dreiser 369), for she is surrounded by intense isolation.

Carrie realizes her loss of freedom is due to her dependence on Hurstwoods money, and comes to the conclusion that she cannot depend on men for freedom. Once Carrie gets an acting job, she goes from a kept women to amateur and professional actress (Zender 65). Carrie fulfills her dream and believes she will have all of the freedom that she has always wanted, but she soon learns that her own present state, [is] not happiness(Dreiser 429). Even though she has attained her dream, and still ends up sitting alone (Dreiser 429) in her rocking chair wishing to have her old life back.

Carrie is not the only one without any personal freedom. In The Pearl, while the pearl is in Kinos possession, it becomes the center of his life, thus taking away his freedom. Kino knows that he has something of great value, and is afraid that the towns people will harm him or his family in order to steal the pearl. He has no peace, for his life revolves around keeping the pearl safe. He believes if he gives it up [he] shall lose [his] soul(Steinbeck 60). Kino chooses to keep the pearl even if it means making his familys life miserable. Had he sold the pearl he would not only be a free man, but a rich one too.

Tenkula 6 Unfortunately, Kino loses all of his freedom for he commits murder in order to protect the pearl. Now that Kino is a murderer, Juana knows that (their) old life [is] gone forever, [for now they] must go away.(Steinbeck 84). Kino and his family are forced to flee into the mountains in order to escape. They are now fugitives, and are always on the run. Consequently, in pursuit of financial freedom for his family, Kino takes away all the freedom his family has ever had. After all of the heartache he has to suffer, he finally realizes that happiness and peace is not to be purchased. However, the realization comes too late for [the pearl] has brought strife between husband and wife, destroys their home, and [causes) the death of their son(Lisca 221) Inevitably, in Sister Carrie and The Pearl, the protagonists are consumed and become ultimately destroyed by their dreams. The characters realize that their dreams are no more than just an illusion and learn that money cannot bring about happiness(Zender 71). It is too bad that the characters realize this when its too late for they never achieve happiness because of the many misguided choices they made in pursuit of their dream.

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A Comparison of the Theme of the American Dream in Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser and the Pearl by John Steinbeck. (2022, May 13). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/a-comparison-of-the-theme-of-the-american-dream-in-sister-carrie-by-theodore-dreiser-and-the-pearl-by-john-steinbeck/

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