September 21, 2011
The quintessential American theme in literature has always been the American Dream. In fact, it has been difficult not to write about it, even unintentionally, because it’s in our psyche. It’s built out of our freedoms, protective laws, and limitless opportunities to move in any direction toward limitless goals. We Americans have always believed that the great goals were possible. We have always held that hope.
My question is, how are literary writers dealing with the American Dream today? It is no longer the era of limitless possibilities. How are we to thinking about it? How are our characters behaving?
The Great Depression era gave us a preponderance of escape movies. World War II war movies ending satisfyingly even when we were dealing with Nazis. But now we have a spate of movies with evil endings; “Silence of the Lambs, “The Usual Suspects,” and more recently the movie “No Country for Old Men.” Is this the way we will continue? Is this too much? The year that “No Country for Old Men” won in the Academy Awards, we saw a severe drop in audience response to it.
Will we reach for escape literature? What about the 1950’s era when we wrote about values?