This essay deals with the topic equality of opportunity by analysing Tom McAfee’s short story This is My Living Room and the historical source Traditional American Values and Beliefs. This is My Living Room is analysed with a focus upon the “I” character and Traditional American Values and Beliefs is related to this analysis by supporting these conclusions with historical facts.
This is My Living Room is about a redneck living in Pine Springs, Alabama, who is telling about his life and his family. The “I” character is a stereotypical redneck; he is Christian, he does not trust the law, he is independent, he love his guns etc. He might be intelligent, but he is very one-sided, his way is the only right way, so he does not let it show. He is very determined on his way of living and has a disturbed way of thinking. He is driven by a fearless and at times illogical view of his surroundings, which makes his determined character seem arrogant and violent. He only trusts himself, which makes his relationship towards his family peculiar: “your own flesh and blood, will try to run over you, stomp you, steal from you, kill you if they can” (This is My Living Room, paragraph 29). He is dominant and the only thing he cares about is his store. He is uneducated, but still he has managed to make a living for himself.
The American value of equality of opportunity is basically an ethical rule; it is about fair play and giving everybody a chance. It is not in the meaning that everybody should be equal but more like a race. Everyone has an equal chance to enter and win. You do not have a better chance because your parents are rich and you do not have a lower chance because of your race or religion. The concept of fair play is a very important aspect for the Americans. This belief was also expressed by the president Abraham Lincoln march 6, 1860 at New Haven, Connecticut: “We … wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else. When one starts poor, as most do in the race of life, free society is such that he knows he can better his conditions; he knows that there is no fixed conditions of labor for his whole life.” In the short story this aspect of fair play is shown in relation to his lack of education, but as he says: “I … make more profit than some people I know of” (This is My Living Room, paragraph 19).
The price you pay for this equality of opportunity is completion which is a vital part of the American dream. So in order to win the race to success you must compete with others. Therefore many Americans think that it is every person’s duty to try to succeed. In the short story we see this competition, when the “I” narrator tells Ezmo: “I give you the best prices in town” (This is My Living Room, paragraph 37). But competition also leads to bad things; in the story the redneck mentions that people are jealous of him. He has gained success: “I’ve got as much business as I need” (This is My Living Room, paragraph 19), and that without an education or money.
However this idea of equality of opportunity is just not possible. There will always be those with more money who gets an advantage, or those who find people of a different race worth less. This aspect is also shown in the text: “Maybe they’ve got better houses and ride in finer cars, but maybe they didn’t make all their money like I did. Honest. I ain’t earned a cent crooked. I didn’t inherit my money. I worked for it.” (This is My Living Room, paragraph 19).ained succese redneck mentions that people are jealous of him. h that he knows he can better his conditions; he knows that
But it is not only equality of opportunity and competition that is shown in the text, material wealth, hard work, individual freedom and self-reliance is also seen. The American values are often connected and by gaining one of them, you often gain all six. It is what holds America together: “we all share a common set of values that make us American…. We are defined by the rights we have…. Our rights are our history, why the first European settlers came here and why millions more have come here since”.