America And Americans Essay

In his essay "Paradox and Dream," John Steinbeck makes a number of arguments, including the following:

  • Americans tend to be "a restless, a dissatisfied, a searching people."
  • Partly for this reason, they act excessively, taking everything to an extreme.
  • Americans often hold views that are not only extreme but self-contradictory.
  • Americans tend to be obsessed with being financially secure and will do almost anything to achieve that goal.
  • In numerous ways, American behavior is fundamentally inconsistent and involves trying to square circles and embrace opposites. In short,

Americans seem to live and breathe and function by paradox . . .

  • In particular, Americans like to consider themselves self-reliant, yet they are often anything but. Their lives, more and more, involve the possession of fewer and fewer practical, useful skills.


The paradoxes are everywhere: We shout that we are a nation of laws, not men-and then proceed to break every law we can if we can get away with it. We proudly insist that we base our political positions on the issues--and we will vote against a man because of his religion, his name, or the shape of his nose.

  • Americans are inconsistent in such other ways as in their attitudes toward gender roles, their attitudes toward advertising, their various fears, their views of entertainment, and their views of art.
  • The aspirations of Americans have little to do with the actual lives most of them live, and when their aspirations are achieved, they are often quickly discarded for new ones.
  • Americans are increasingly transient and unsettled.
  • The American obsession with status leads to an obsession with constant change.
  • The dreams of Americans seem to reflect realities of the nation’s past and seem connected with birth in the United States.
  • In American myths of morality (such as those associated with the Old West),

virtue does not arise out of reason or orderly process of law--it is imposed and maintained by violence.

  • The deepest aspirations of Americans

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 possibility.


Jomar NocedaHooper 11 AP Literature and Composition21 November 2016In "Paradox and Dream" Jo!n teinbec# exp$ains !o% Americans !ave become ob$iviousto t!e paradoxes t!at are present bet%een t!e American mindset and American $i&e' He points outt!at America(s !istor) is &i$$ed %it! s)mbo$s $i#e "*uns$in*in* s!eri&&s" %!ic! trans$ate to be t!e nationa$ dreams o& t!e past +teinbec# ,-' .!e paradoxes t!at teinbec# $ists are supported b) t!ese s)mbo$s o& t!e American Dream as t!e) are ido$i/ed b) Americans )et t!e) are not re$evant in t!e present' Ho%ever it is to be reasoned t!at t!e American Dream is c!an*in* a$on*side American $i&e so teinbec# is correct in !is assertion t!at t!e American Dream is sti$$ a possibi$it)' uc! o& t!e paradoxes teinbec# accounts &or can be t!ou*!t o& as t!e impact o& c!an*in* times' He states t!at Americans be$ieve t!emse$ves to be !eirs o& t!e pioneers )et t!ere isn3t a man amon* us in ten t!ousand t!at can ta#e on t!e ro$e o& a butc!er or !unter +1-' Americans are not as se$&4su&&icient as t!e) idea$$) %ere in t!e past because America is becomin*more advanced' It is a resu$t o& t!e increased avai$abi$it) o& a co$$e*e4$eve$ education %!ic! &osters a variet) o& ne% s#i$$s amon* Americans and a dependenc) on ot!er Americans &or certain s#i$$s' .!e American Dream o& t!e past %as bein* se$&4su&&icient evident t!rou*! t!e  pioneers' 5it! t!e opportunit) o& education in t!e advancin* America o& toda) t!at Dream is no $on*er re$evant' at!er t!e Dream !as s!i&ted to%ards pursuin* a s#i$$ to specia$i/e in' .!e Dream did not die %it! t!e past it 7ust 8too#9 anot!er &orm +2-' .!e Dream !as c!an*ed %it!t!e circumstances o& education in American $i&e so t!e American Dream is sti$$ attainab$e'


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