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The American Dream Gone Astray

Critical Realism in American Fiction, 1920-1940


Jürg Keller

This study focuses on nine American novelists and their criticism of the deceptive enticements of the American Dream. Written during the crucial years between the two World Wars, both, well-known authors such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Steinbeck as well as half forgotten Critical Realists, raise an admonitory finger, portraying the needs and illusions, the hopes and shattered dreams of their protagonists. Minute textual analyses reveal the authors' concern with a society which seduces its members with the promises of the American Dream.
Striking similarities betwen their criticism and recent European disapprobation of American influence on Europe can be discerned. In order to get a better understanding of the perception of the American Dream, the author illuminates some fundamental concepts concerning the American Way of Life and the country's historical background.