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The American Dream

 Eng 101: Composition – Instructor: Muldoon

Essay One: Rereading America “The Myth of Individual Opportunity”

Readings: your choice of at least 3 readings from chapter 3 (or Frank, Kasser, or Thoreau): “The Myth of Individual Opportunity” and at least 2 outside sources located through library research

Essay Focus: “Americans cherish the notion that the United States is a land of unequaled opportunity, where hard work and smart choices yield big results, where no one is stuck on the lower rungs of the economic ladder […but] our reality falls short of our ideals” (Colombo, Cullen, Lisle 242). Consider this belief and/or discrepancy through an analysis of readings and outside sources, using specific details and examples to illustrate your argument. For example you might start by considering the following:

  •  What is the American Dream? How do we define success? If there is no one definition, then what accounts for the differences? Is it personal or dictated by outside forces, or both?
  •  How does media framing contribute to the “vicarious living” and “hedonistic consumerism” that lead many American’s into debt? Why do we over-consume?
  •  What does it mean to be “middle class”? Is the middle class "disappearing"? Why does this matter? What is the perceived role of the middle class in the U.S.?
  •  Consider who (according to various categories, i.e. race, class, gender) is more or less likely to achieve success and why. How important of a role does individual initiative play?

Thesis: Create an original thesis statement (see handout on thesis statements) based on your specific stance on one of the above-listed or other arguments inspired by the chapter readings and class discussion. Your essay must prove your thesis through thoughtful development of your ideas and your original analysis of elements of the readings you chose from the chapter and through outside research.

Essay Format: Your essay must meet page length requirements (1500-2100 words, or 5-7 pages) and be in correct MLA format (see syllabus, handout on format, and submission materials listed above).

Essay Requirements: Your essay should:

  • Have an engaging introduction paragraphs with a strong and clear thesis statement
  •  Have organized body paragraphs, appropriately divided
  •  Incorporate and analyze quotations from texts (at least one per paragraph in most cases)
  •  Avoid the first person (“I” or “my”) and the second person (“you”)
  •  Demonstrate critical thinking with only limited summary
  •  Be properly formatted and spell-checked

(see syllabus, rubric, and targeted handouts)