The American Dream

Lars Önnerth, Mikkel Neubert, Dejan Omerbasic, Minch Heyman, Marie Kimberly, Lyngbo Nielsen, Anne Mynte & Markus Hørlyck Kaastrup

Studenteropgave: Semesterprojekt


This study examines the phenomenon that is the American Dream and its effect on the working and upper class citizens in American society. To give context to the American dream and its origin, we have made use of professor Jim Cullen’s book “The American Dream: A Short Story of an Idea that Shaped a Nation” from 2003. We have identified what we decided to call the “the traditional dream” and “the modern dream”, both representing different outlooks on lives and ethical standards. We have done this through three specific films that we have chosen to aid us on our project. To contextualize “the traditional dream” we have chosen John Ford’s Oscar winning picture from 1940, “The Grapes of Wrath”. The movie establish the historical context in which the film take place, the Great Depression, as well as tests the faith in the American dream through the working class Joad family. The second film we have chosen, is Baz Luhrmann’s version of “The Great Gatsby” from 2013. We have used this film to establish “the modern dream”, and its effect on the characters in their pursuit of their happiness and dreams. The final film we have made use of, and the film we have put the most emphasis on, is Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” from 1987. This film presents a moral dilemma that the main character, Bud Fox, played by Charlie Sheen, has to make. Bud Fox has to make a choice between the honourable and ethical dream represented by his father, Carl Fox, or the corrupted and greed ridden dream of Gordon Gekko. To analyse these films, we have made use of J. Emmett Winn’s book “The American Dream and Contemporary Hollywood Cinema”. The book explores the relations between film industry, classes in America, social mobility and how film plots are structured through the use of the pursuit of the American dream as an end goal for the various protagonists in film. Through our analysis we’ve reached the conclusion that the three films we have chosen all use the pursuit of the American dream as a plotline. J. Emmett Winn’s theory consists of three themes that a movie plot can be structured around. The three films we have chosen, each fit into their own separate category. However, all have one thing in common - they all serve as a lesson to the viewer. The idea of the American dream is still alive today, partly due to media and henceforth films, use of it as a goal in various film plots. The message is that the only individuals who can achieve the American dream are the ones who posses working class ethics and upstanding morals.

UddannelserBasis - Humanistisk Bacheloruddannelse, (Bachelor uddannelse) Basis
Udgivelsesdato29 jan. 2015
VejledereSofie Engberg Sonne


  • Klasseskel
  • Den store Gatsby
  • The American Dream
  • Vredens Druer
  • Wall Street