American Dream Essay Topics

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

The American dream is a sociological concept with far-reaching implications for many students. This lesson offers essay topics designed to help students think about the American dream and its roots.

Understanding the American Dream

Whether your students are focusing on its role in history, literature, or sociology, the American dream is a concept that will undoubtedly play a part in their overall intellectual development. Regardless of any individual's perspective on the American dream, it plays an indisputably important role in American consciousness and culture.

One way to help students think more carefully and critically about the American dream is to give them the opportunity to write essays about it. When students write essays, they develop their critical thinking skills, practice arguing from their own perspective with strong evidence, and gain more facility with the writing process.

The essay topics in this lesson help students approach the American dream from a variety of angles, deepening their understanding of the concept and their capacity to participate in critical reflection.

History Topics

Part of understanding the American dream has to do with understanding American history. The topics in this section help your students develop the historical context for the American dream.

  • Write a historical analysis of the factors you see as leading to the development of the American dream as a concept. Try to show how the American dream grew out of specific aspects of American history.
  • Describe one event or phenomenon from American history that you see as supporting the overall positive nature of the American dream and the possibility it reflects. Show how the event you have chosen demonstrates what you say it does.
  • Describe one event or group of people that you feel has been historically ill-served by the American dream. Use specific examples from history to show why and how the American dream has been more of a destructive force for the group you are describing.

Literary Topics

The American dream has played a huge role in American literature past and present. This section offers topics that focus your students on the literary implications of the American dream.

  • Describe one character from American literature that you think exemplifies the American dream. Write about the character in detail, showing why he or she represents a successful American life.
  • Write about one American author whose poetry or prose seems critical of the American dream. Why do you think this author is more skeptical of the dream than some? How does he or she show their skepticism through their literary voice? What is your own opinion of the perspective they portray?
  • Choose one poem by an American poet to analyze in relation to the American dream. Offer a close reading of precisely what the poet says or shows about the American dream through this specific work.

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