The American Dream

Le rêve américain

employment, freedom, wealth

access, freedom, opportunity, sometimes just a dream

ambition, individual potential, self-worth

childhood, inspiration, accomplished

cliché, immigrant, opportunity

dogs, suburbs, macy's, waffles

Family, Stability, Monotonous

hamburgers, TV, money

happiness, meaningful life, ability, work ethic

important, dislike


Money, fame, Glitter

money, fortune, success, family

money,fame, excessiveness

parents, money, success

polo shirts, khakis, crew cuts


poverty, jails, projects

rags to riches, immigrants, New York

Rags to riches, Money, Promise for success if you work hard

rags to riches, winning from behind, self-made man, choosing your own path

Success, rags to riches, family

undefined, imprecise, unfulfilled

work, money, success, happiness

american dream, bonheur, utopie, inégalités mondiales

Argent, Grande Maison, Travail, Homme d'affaire

Argent, liberté, puissance

argent, pouvoir, célébrité


Curiosité, Réussite, Espérance

entreprendre, individuel, argent, réussite

grande maison, famille, travail

La folie des grandeurs, voyager, être libre, argent, pouvoir

la richesse, ascension sociale, bonheur

mythe, Amérique, réussite

Pavillon, voiture, fortune

prospérité, concept

richesse, ascension sociale, bonheur

travail, courage, réussite, détermination,

travail, réussite, rêve




Both the French and the American students seem to associate the American dream with money and success.  I guess this makes sense; I was raised to believe that money and success were part of a life that everyone wanted, and I think America's reputation abroad probably emphasizes the accumulation of wealth and power.  However, I never thought that those two words embodied the heart of the American dream.  A phrase frequently used by the Americans nails it in my opinion: "rags to riches".  However, it is interesting to note that only 4 Americans used this phrase, and none of the French responses seem to parallel it.  Is it possible that America, once believed to be the land of ultimate opportunity, has completely lost that reputation?  Such a loss might be indicated by the use of the words "irreel" and "mythe" by the French students and "unfulfilled" and "meaningless" by the American students. 

Diana's observation about the phrase "rags to riches" is very interesting. I am one of the students who did not associate that phrase with the American Dream. The idea of "succeeding if you work hard" was in the back of my mind, but I only wrote down the tangible products of the American Dream. I put down the things that can be measured and counted. I don't think the United States has completely lost its reputation of being the land of ultimate opportunity (i.e. immigration issues). However, I do think the American Dream is an unrealistic one for most Americans.

I concur with Grafton's response.  The true American Dream historically is in fact rags to riches. Our historic "individualism" where the individual chooses his own destiny.  As I responded in that forum however, the meaning of these words (American Dream and Individualism) have been corrupted over time as our world image has changed.  It seems both the French and American students seem to realize this notion of a "dream" being just that-a dream.  It's better for people to immerse themselves in their reality and face the facts rather than chasing after an elusive dream.  Individualism is about what makes the individual happy-not chasing a collective notion of an American Dream.

C'est vrai que nous Français nous associons la notion ' american dream ' à la liberté, la richesse,le pouvoir mais nous ne savons pas vraiment en réalité de quoi il s'agit. Je suis donc d'accord avec ce que Aaron vient de dire, Nous sommes en train de réaliser que ' le rêve américain' n'est qu'un concept et que celui ci n'est pas réel. Cependant je me pose une question sur le sujet, connaissez vous des personnes qui ont réussi, qui sont parti de la pauvreté pour atteindre la richesse comme le dit votre expression ?

Il est vrai que le rêve américain reste un rêve, nous l'associons en général à un idéal à atteindre, la vie parfaite que tout le monde veut avoir. Quelqu'un a d'ailleurs utilisé le mot "mythe" comme quelque chose qu'on ne pourra jamais atteindre. Nous utilisons une expression qui résume bien cette idée de rêve américain qui est "L'espoir fait vivre", le fait de s'accrocher à quelque chose, un objectif à atteindre dans la vie et qui nous donne envie de nous lever le matin.

Je suis d'accord pour dire que c'est irréaliste mais sans un rêve auquel s'accrocher nous n'avons pas beaucoup d'interet à travailler dur pour réussir si on ne sais pas dans quoi réussir.

I agree with the above posts that the American dream is an unrealistic dream, however something that Americans have lived by since the founding of the country. We believe in "rags to riches" stories and that fame and wealth can be acquired by hard work. John Winthrop's "City upon a Hill" marks an example of how colonialists strived to live by the American dream and the popular fiction novel "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald also illustrates this concept quite vividly through the protagonist, Gatsby, who acquires wealth quickly but is unable to adjust to his new social surroundings.

Although cases of succeeding to live by the American Dream are rare, and true rags to riches stories (in media, notably the Jacksons) are one in a million. The general idea that there is freedom and the opportunity to go from rags to riches and to develop oneself by how hard you work is something that most Americans still believe to this day.

The discussion of the American Dream inevitably brings up the notion of social class in America. How regardless of if one can go from rags to riches, one's social class cannot necessarily be changed? This can most prominantly be illustrated by looking at the lives of rap artists who may have lived in the streets of Brooklyn and then gained fame and wealth to live in Beverly Hills, yet they still cannot be fully integrated into the rich, upper class. So, although social mobility may appear existant, it is almost difficult to change the social class one is born into.

Do you think the American Dream is something that is still present in our society today? To what extent?

For French students, do French people believe in working hard to "gain wealth and fame" as well?

I agree with Jamie in that the "rags to riches" dream is something that most Americans still believe in.  I know in my family, it is a story frequently told and frequently lived.  For example, when my mom was my age, she was homeless on the streets of Brooklyn.  Similarly my father had to come home from college (which he attended for free at the time) to work at a factory to help support his family.  Perhaps it is only my family's history that causes me to feel that "rags to riches" is still very present in American society, but I would argue that every American family has at least one member who's made that dream a reality. 

Additionally, I think a huge part of the American dream is the possibility of "rags to riches" becoming a reality.  In many societies around the world, it is completely impossible to defeat abject poverty, regardless of talent or work ethic.  Here, with either of those traits and a bit of luck, a huge shift in economic and social status can be accomplished.  It is the hope that this opportunity is available regardless of background, ethnicity, religion or whatever else in America.  Of course we are far from perfect, but I think that this idea of opportunity is essential to the American dream.

Does the phrase "L'espoir fait vivre" connote a similar sense of opportunity?


De mon point de vue, le rêve Américain existe encore aujourd'hui, mais il devient de plus en plus dur à réaliser. Au début, ceux qui partaient en Amérique y partaient avec l'espoir de se construire une meilleure vie. Comme peu de choses existaient sur le continent, beaucoup de personnes ont réussi à accomplir leur rêve, créant le mythe du rêve Américain. Cependant, aujourd'hui, je pense que les posibilités sont moindres.

La suite du rêve Américain se passe peut-être en Asie ou en Amérique latine, où, aujourd'hui, beaucoup d'Européens (et d'Américains?) s'installent pour réaliser leur rêve de richesse. Ce n'est pas la même chose que le rêve Américain, mais c'en est, pour moi, la version moderne.

Pour répondre à ta 2ème question, Jamie, je ne sais pas pour les Français en général, mais, personnellement, je ne pense pas au travail pour devenir riche et célèbre. Je vois le travail comme quelque chose de nécessaire pour vivre, utlie à la société et à ma socialisation. Je ne vois pas l'utilité de devenir riche et célèbre si c'est pour ne jamais voir mes proches... Après, chacun choisi ses préférences. Il n'y a pas de critique dans ce que j'écris.


I agree with Jamie and Diana, that the possibility of rising from "rags to riches" is what the American Dream is really about and what Americans still believe in today. However, I think the results of last year's recession have negatively affected how many Americans view the American Dream. Hearing about the rise in unemployment and the decline in the economy made me think differently about the opportunities that are avaliable in the U.S. How did last year's recession affect your view on the American Dream?

To follow up even more on the "rags to riches" ideal, is it possible that while that ideal of the American Dream still exists, the concept of the American Dream has evolved with our culture and priorities over time?  I think the American Dream now is more about escaping a certain world, and making a life in a new one, whether or not that new life involves riches.  It's about opportunity, not the result.  That is why the American Dream is still alive today.


But this raises another question in my mind: while America may be the ideal destination for people with the dream to somehow escape their poverty or low quality of life, is it unique to America? And why? is it because of our history as a "fighting" country--we fight for our rights and what we want and "freedom"? 


Is there any sort of "French dream"?  Obviously France does not have a many immigrants as the United States; so which came first--the American dream, or immigrants?

I'm quite fascinated by Kenneth's response, as I think that is a much better ideal of "progress" and "independence" than simply money.  If rags-to-riches were the only American Dream, it would only be achievable by one generation (assuming that accumulated wealth is not squandered so that subsequent generations once again end up in rags).  By establishing the idea of escaping a certain world and finding one of your own, the American Dream becomes something that can exist for everyone.


What is the French Dream?

To me it seems like the French see the American Dream as mainly dealing with wealth and work, whereas Americans see it as working from the ground up "rags to riches." The use of the term "utopie" describes a sense of disbelief of the American Dream. However, I think the American Dream is still alive today just in the form of entrepreneurs. 

To me it seems like the French see the American Dream as mainly dealing with wealth and work, whereas Americans see it as working from the ground up "rags to riches." The use of the term "utopie" describes a sense of disbelief of the American Dream. However, I think the American Dream is still alive today just in the form of entrepreneurs. 

To me it seems like the French see the American Dream as mainly dealing with wealth and work, whereas Americans see it as working from the ground up "rags to riches." The use of the term "utopie" describes a sense of disbelief of the American Dream. However, I think the American Dream is still alive today just in the form of entrepreneurs. 

To me it seems like the French see the American Dream as mainly dealing with wealth and work, whereas Americans see it as working from the ground up "rags to riches." The use of the term "utopie" describes a sense of disbelief of the American Dream. However, I think the American Dream is still alive today just in the form of entrepreneurs. 

Je pense en effet que l'on peut associer l'expression " reve américain " a une utopie car il est vrai que certaines personnes sont réellement parti de rien et ont vraiment réussi dans la vie grâce à leur détermination, leur travail mais c'est surtout un concept pour faire croire aux immigrants que leur vie sera meilleure aux etats-unis or ce n'est pas toujours le cas.



je pense en effet que le terme American Dream n'est plus qu'un mythe pour nous autres; c'est quelque chose qu'on a appris à l'école, dans nos livres d'histoire, mais la vie de tous les jours nous montre le contraire: tous ces gens qui jusqu'à Obama n'avaient aucune couverture sociale quand ils étaient malades, est-ce là un rêve? Tous ces jeunes qui ne peuvent étudier dans de bonnes universités quand les parents ne peuvent pas payer, est-ce un rêve? Toutes ces fusillades parce que les ventes d'armes sont en vente libre, est-ce un rêve? Toutes ces personnes chassées de leurs maisons à cause des subprimes, est-ce un rêve? Toutes ces personnes âgées obligées de retravailler même à 75 ans, est-ce un rêve? Non, je ne le pense pas et beaucoup de français partagent mon opinion. C'est pourquoi le rêve américian n'est pas pour nous quelque chose de crédible, même si nous pensons tous que c'est un grand pays capable de grandes choses.

Pour répondre à Aaron, je ne pense pas qu'il a de rêve Français comme il existe 'The american dream' nous n'avons pas réellement de concept comme vous, cependant je pense que pour chaqun d'entre nous le rêve c'est d'être heureux et de réussir dans sa vie professionelle, ainsi que dans sa vie privée.

Je suis d'accord avec Lucie,


il n'y a pas de rêve français, je dirais même qu'il y a surtout du pessismisme et des désillusions en ce moment. Les gens ont peur de l'avenir; en fait, il y a des études qui montrent que les enfants des classes moyennes, aujourd'hui, ont souvent un niveau de vie inférieur à celui de leurs parents, contrairement à l'époque des 30 glorieuses.

Pour répondre à certaines de vos interrogations, il faut peut-être se dire que si le rêve américain est aussi important pour vous, c'est parce que tout le monde n'a pas les mêmes chances au départ; en France, la scolarité est gratuite et ceux qui veuillent travailler en classe ont de bonnes chances de s'en sortir.

Ciara, quelle serait ta défintion du mot entrepreneurs? Je ne suis pas sûre que ce mot ait le même sens pour nous!!

Il est vrai que la France ne possède pas de '' Rêve '' comme les Etats -Unis. En revanche, nous possèdons des valeurs qui nous sont chères. Il y a par exemple le conformisme qui montre notre soumission aux règles morales de notre pays. Mais il y a aussi la tolérance qui se développe progressivement.

De plus, je pense que nous estimons tous qu'il y a y des choses à respecter, cela peut mettre avant le fait que nous voulons montrer aux autres pays du monde que nous les respectons.

Peut-être que l'on ne met pas assez en avant ces mots qui nous tiennent à coeur. Mais je pense que ces valeurs, que nous voulons faire connaître aux autres, font en quelque sorte partis du ''rêve français'', même si nous ne l'indiquons pas ainsi.