The American Dream of the Nineteenth Century

Categories: Mark Twain


The American dream of the nineteenth century was marked by a heightened sense of individualism and self-interest—a natural response to America's relatively new freedom from British rule. The Declaration Of Independence protects this American Dream . It uses the familiar quote: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.'

The term, 'American dream' was first used by James Truslow Adams in his book 'The Epic of American' in 1931.

He points out that: 'The American dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with the opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.

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These values and principles rooted in individualism, self actualization, and self-reliance where people are able to fulfill their own destiny, be self-reliant, and believe in the promise that through hard work and perseverance life can be different and better

The 'American dream' gradually sprouted among the vulnerable groups. Immigrants which came to the United States in 18th century were vulnerable groups from Europe. They extremely longed for political equality, so 'Equality' has become a connotation of the 'American dream” Written in four parts throughout the course of his later life, American polymath and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States - Benjamin Franklin’s initial intention for his autobiography was to tell the story of his rise from poverty to a man of affluence for his son William.

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Not soon after he began to write his autobiography, the intention of the project evolved to establish his life narrative as the blueprint or a model American in a burgeoning new nation .

Under the influence of slavery, the literature of the nineteenth century transitioned from portraying the seemingly endless and limitless romantic notions of the American dream to portraying the true and often harsh realities of the American experience. When examining the history of the American dream in literature as it pertains to issues like the institution of slavery and racism in the nineteenth century, no novel in American literature better captures the struggles the American dream had to confront and overcome amid an era of intense racial discrimination and legal barriers to freedom than Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. With individual freedom being a foundational value and theme in both American literature and the American dream, Twain writes a social critique of the idea of individual freedom by juxtaposing the idea of freedom against the institution of slavery and society. In his book American Literature and the Dream, Frederic Carpenter gives literary life to the American dream and argues that there is much to be learned about the American dream and beliefs by looking at how the dream has been shaped and reshaped by different periods in American literary history.


Updated: Dec 12, 2023
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The American Dream of the Nineteenth Century. (2020, Sep 16). Retrieved from

The American Dream of the Nineteenth Century essay
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