The Need to Stay Positive

Have you ever wished for a better life you were willing to leave your country for it? That wish was in every immigrant's mind when they moved to America. Overall the American Dream is another way of saying: 'anything is possible.' The American Dream can take many different meanings. Some people want to make money for their family, and some simply want to find their soulmate. The American Dream is something not just immigrants yearn; the citizens yearn for this as well. While dreaming for the perfect life is easy, turning that dream into reality is far more difficult. Frank Norris's McTeague is an excellent example of this disillusionment. Unlike some protagonists who are honorable and just characters, McTeague is the exact opposite. In this story, Norris shows the reality of living in America. A few things the reader will learn are one cannot find the perfect soulmate and be happy and humanity's selfishness in the form of money. Through McTeague's love life and Trina winning the lottery, McTeague shows the reader the American is an illusion of the life everyone dreams for but can never happen.

One of many types of American Dreams people have is finding love. At some point in life, everyone dreams about finding the perfect partner and starting a family. It would seem strange to think everyone would have the desire to be in a relationship; in reality, this idea is not strange at all. Drake Baer, an author and an entrepreneur, wrote relationships are "the be-all and end-all" in life, and "everybody should organize their lives around securing and maintaining such relationships" (Baer). In other words, people should be in a relationship, so that they can feel happy and secure with another person watching each other's back. People are taught at an early age the importance of being in a relationship, and other people such parents, friends, other family members, and media like tv shows influence this thought process.

However, people need to realize humans are imperfect creatures. One view that has change is finding the perfect soulmate. People need to realize there is no such thing as the perfect partner. Everyone has their flaws, and expectations have to be lower if one does plan to be in a relationship and start a family. Another thing that has also changed is the idea of staying single. Baer mentions in his post being relationship will make you happier than being single; however, that is not the case. When a person in a relationship, he starts to think of his partner's needs as well as his own needs. People come from different backgrounds; thus, they carry different beliefs and different values. These cultural aspects do not change even in a relationship. The couple needs to compromise in their decisions. The world is imperfect, and no plan comes out the way it was designed to be. In the end, "married people don't end up happier than singles;" finding the perfect match is a hit or a miss (Baer). In the past, people, who just wanted to stay single, were considered weird. Today, the idea of being single is embraced. Single people are more free to do whatever they want; they think for themselves and grow as an individual. Single people are able to develop themselves more, so staying single is fine too.

In Norris's story, McTeague falls in love with Trina. Working as a dentist, he met her as one of his patients. While many readers expect McTeague's desire to be innocent, his desire for Trina is more animalistic to the point where he finds Trina's room and starts to go through all her personal belongings and smell all her clothes. When Trina gives into her desires and kisses McTeague, "the man's desire cools" while "the woman's adoration increases" (252). McTeague is not your typical hero; he is portrayed as an animal enslaved by his emotions. McTeague may seem like a very disgusting character for a protagonist, but there is some truth to his character. People look at love more innocently, but love has many sides including its feral side. Whether anyone admits it or not, everyone has a feral side. Some people know how to suppress this feral side of love while others may think to embrace it.

Another common type of American Dream is making money. Because America is the land of freedom and liberty, immigrants and Americans as well believe they can make money they need for life. The reason everyone desires money is because everything revolves around money. Education, housing, food, clothings, taxes and other commodities all need money. They believe America can fulfill all of their needs since "that upward economic mobility is far above-and-beyond its reality" (Cassano). The idea that America is the place to earn a lot money has been drilled well into the minds of many people. For Americans, they desire to make an honest living: finish school, get a job, and start a family. Immigrants want to help their families get out of the tight situation, so they move to America to make money and send that money back home to support them. With many people living America already, anyone would think the economy is very high.

Unfortunately, money is much more complicated than everyone thinks; in fact, even with people work their whole lives, they still would not fulfill their goal. As Jay Cassano, a freelance journalist and writer for Fast Company, mentioned earlier, many people desire to move up the economic ladder for themselves or for their family. People believe when they move up, the economy moves up with them, but they need to understand "no one can move up without someone else moving down" (Cassano). Money does not grow on trees; people cannot get money whenever they want. People need to save money if they want a better place to live, and when they earn money, they have balance the money between themselves and their family from another country. In the end, not everyone will be able to move up the economic ladder. This fact disappoints many people because they realize they cannot the life they want nor give the support their families need. Thus, disappointment may develop into other negative emotions: selfishness and jealousy.

Because humans are selfish creatures, they want to hide their jealousy whenever family and friends gain more money than them. Since earning a lot of money is very difficult, people would spend some money in gambling or lottery tickets in hopes of earning more than what they paid for. When Trina won the lottery, Marcus and the rest of her family congratulate her "with a sudden unaccountable mirthlessness" (265). The reader would have thought Marcus and Trina's family would be proud of her for winning the lottery; however, they did not feel very happy. Jealousy over someone else's is a rare emotion to see in the real world especially if that person is a close friend or family member. But, this scene should not be surprising to most people. Even if people do not admit, there is a hint of jealousy whenever people have better success at earning money.

Overall, Frank Norris does a good job in showing the reality of living in America. People will not find the love of their life, and they will not earn the money they need to live the life they want. In a way, McTeague could be considered as a horror story without the blood and killing. Horror stories look at the fears of society in a supernatural way. McTeague may not have any supernatural beings, but it does some of the fears in society.

In the past, the views on society were more positive than the views today. With the mass shootings and other negative news stories, people are losing their positive outlook in life. Today, people may have lower expectations for themselves for their life and see the American Dream as an illusion. But, despite the negativity in the world, people should still strive for their dreams. People will come into disagreements with each other; but, once they find common ground, they can make the world a better place. The American Dream may seem an illusion to many people now, but that does not mean people should stop dreaming. Even if this generation fails to make changes, the next generation can be inspired and continue the work of the old generation.


Baer, Drake. "There's a Word for the Assumption That Everybody Should Be in a Relationship." The Cut, The Cut, 8 Mar. 2017, . .

Berke, Amy. Writing the Nation: A Concise Introduction to American Literature 1865-Present. University of North Georgia Press.

Cassano, Jay, and Jay Cassano. "Is The American Dream An Illusion?" Fast Company, Fast Company, 4 Mar. 2015, 3043072/is-the-american-dream-an-illusion.