Monday, March 28, 2011

Essay: The American Dream Defined

The following is my most resent essay for my Composition I class. We were assigned to write an extended definition essay to define a word or abstract term. I choose “The American Dream.” I got 100% on the assignment. At the end are the comments my instructor made about the paper.


“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” When this declaration was made on July 4, 1776, the world was first presented with the idea of the “American Dream”. The founding fathers, being fed up with the control enacted by King George III, sat down together as one and wrote out what it means to be an American. They had a dream of a country where “all men are created equal”; that everyone can have the same opportunities as everyone else. This single act of defiance has sent ripples throughout history, affecting the thoughts and dreams of every person who lives or will live in America[R1] . The American dream can be as simple as having kids or as complex as becoming the President of the country. It is all possible in America. This idea has driven many Americans, native or not, to seek a life full of liberty and happiness. The American dream has recently come under fire because many Americans[R2] believe the dream is dead. This is not so; there is nothing in this world that can destroy the spirit the American dream embodies.

Although the idea of the American dream has always been around, the phrase was made popular by James Truslow Adams in his book “The Epic of America.” In his book Adams wrote, “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” The American dream has been a literary term used as a main theme by many authors over the years. Such writers as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain, and Hunter S. Thompson have all used the term or theme in some way. One author, Horatio Alger, Jr., was a prolific believer in the American dream. He wrote hundreds of young boy’s in which the characters went from rags to riches. Much like Horatio Alger’s stories, Hunter S. Thompson’s novel, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream”, was a major play on the theme. A semi-autobiographical story of a sports writer sent to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race. Bringing along a car trunk full of booze, drugs and a typewriter, the protagonist seeks to discover the hallucinogenic depths of the American dream. Looking into the dark side of the theme Thompson, paints a vivid picture of what it really means to live outside normal conventions and do whatever it takes to make you happy; even if it means destroying who you are. In the last lines of the novel, Thompson writes, “I felt like a monster reincarnation of Horatio Alger: A man on the move, and just sick enough to be totally confident” (Thompson)[R3] . By making this reference to Horatio Alger, Jr., Thompson is setting the final stone to his story, letting the reader know that all of which he has written is the American dream.

As a child I was always fascinated by Arnold Schwarzenegger. I never understood the truth to my obsession but looking back I now know why. He is the manifestation of the American dream. Born in Austria, Arnold was never favored by his cop father. His father, a member of the German army during World War 2, never believed Arnold was his son and resented him (Schwarzenegger and Hall). Arnold eventually started body building as a teenager and became a European muscle sensation. Having won many prizes as a champion bodybuilder (including seven Mr. Olympia competitions), Arnold started on a career as an actor. Throughout his career in Hollywood, Arnold established himself as a major action star. Starring in the Terminator movies, Total Recall (based on the story, “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” by Philip K. Dick), Conan the Barbarian and the very well received True Lies. In 1969 Arnold “arrived here with empty pockets but full of dreams, full of determination,” and “full of desire”. Arnold said that quote in a speech at the Republican National Convention right after he became the Governor of California after a recall election in 2003. Arnold became the personification of a perfect Horatio Alger, Jr. story. From underappreciated boy to movie star unto respected politician, Arnold Schwarzenegger gives proof to the American dream.

When one thinks of the American dream as the idea that someone can do anything that makes them happy and be living the dream, then Edgar Allan Poe is also proof. Poe lived a more blessed childhood than Arnold Schwarzenegger; when he was three he lost both of his parents and was adopted by a wealthy tobacco merchant. Poe’s adopted father pushed him to become a businessman but much like his actor parents Poe was drawn to the arts. Fresh out of college, Poe would become poor and dreaming of becoming a writer. Eventually, Poe would meet his goals and become published. Following a stent in the Army, Poe would lose his adoptive mother to tuberculosis and was devastated that his adoptive father remarried right away. He would later marry his thirteen year old cousin only to lose her years later to tuberculosis. Poe would go on to publish many works including such greats as “The Raven,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Poe was found years later wandering the streets broke and delirious. He died soon after…alone (Poe Museum ). Poe always pursued his dreams, no matter what others thought. He always did what was important to him; no one could tell him no. He was a great example of the American dream, of course, living the dream doesn’t guarantee success[R4] .

I never believed the American dream existed. I was a young, brash character with no direction in life; until I had my kids. I realized the joy one can have in life when one discovers their purpose. I was almost immediately aware of the situation I was in; a dire one, if I didn’t act right away. In high school I started delivering newspapers but years later, after I was married and my wife was pregnant, it was obvious how little I made. I started looking for a new job and found one that, even though paid a good hourly wage, gave little hours. I started to slowly realize the futility of not having a college education. I started to find other jobs and eventually landed a manager position at an A&W restaurant. I was excited for the opportunity to gain this experience and was content with the pay until my wife became, by accident, pregnant with our third child. This being my fourth kid overall I knew I needed to have a change in my life. I would never be able to raise them if I couldn’t provide for them. Even more important than my own future, was their future. Come college time for them, if I did nothing to better my life, I couldn’t pay for their education. I knew that, being able to help them start their dream, was essential to their future. I knew that their failure would mean my dream too, would be a failure. I remembered when I was a kid I used to say I wanted to be a doctor and decided there was nobody holding me back. I looked at many options and found that the best and quickest way to my goal is to become a chiropractor. Now I am living my American dream. I am going to school to become a doctor; and for the sake of my children’s future I will become one.

Living the dream doesn’t guarantee anything but “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It means a person can live their life how they want it. The American dream is more than an idea, it is the design instilled in the soil of America. Anyone that can touch the land of America can do what he wants to succeed. If you are in America you can do it. Reach out for the stars and grab what is yours. The American dream is more alive today then people like to think. One person I talked to said that they are living the dream every time they eat a slice of homemade cheesecake. The beauty of the American dream is that there is no definition[R5] ; it is lived in the manner the person living it chooses. This spirit will always be in the bedrock of this land; waiting for someone to come along and say “This is what I want and nobody is going to stop me!” The American dream lives on, strong and powerful, and always will.

Works Cited

Poe Museum . "Poe's Life: Who is Edgar Allan Poe?" 2010. Poe Museum. 20 March 2011 <>.

Schwarzenegger, Arnold and Douglas Kent Hall. Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1977.

Thompson, Hunter S. Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. New York: Random House, 1971.


[R1]What a fantastic transition between the Declaration and your own ideas!

[R4]You are using terrific and diverse examples to illustrate the various implications of the American Dream. Nice work.

[R5]I like this idea. My first reaction was to say that you should have made this statement earlier on in the paper. However, on second thought, I realized that rather than saying it, you demonstrated in with all of your examples. Excellent.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Essay: The eBook Revolution


The following is the essay I recently wrote for my Comp I class. I got 100 out of 100 on the essay so I thought I would post it. The assignment was to write a cause and effect essay about some new technology that is directed at an audience that is older and doesn’t fully understand newer technology.

The world is always changing. New life is being discovered in places humans never thought possible. Humans have always had a deep seeded need to push on and build up. From the Tower of Babel to the Titanic, mankind has always tried to reach new heights and test limits. When Bill Gates of Microsoft and Steve Jobs of Apple built the first personal computers I am certain the revolutionary dream was not lost on them. They pushed technology to new parameters. The computer age revolutionized the way we think. Humanity moved beyond the confines of the old ways. We disconnected phone lines and replaced them with cell phones. We tossed the records and switched to tapes then compact discs and now are keeping thousands of songs on one small device. The last bastion of the old world, the printed word, is still running strong but, like many other technologies in human history,  is under threat by innovation. EBooks are coming to the forefront of our lives. The eBook reader is becoming more prominent in the lives of humanity and is pushing the printed books out of our hands and into library rummage sales. If this revolution continues there will be a decline in printed book sales, creating an increase in self-published books and lowered production costs for major publishers.

               You may be asking yourself, what is an eBook? To answer that simply, it is a digitized book; digitized meaning that someone has transcribed the book on a computer to preserve it for the digital age. In 2004, an eBook reader, a device you can store these eBooks on to read whenever you want, was kind of a myth, something tech nerds call vaporware; a device the manufacturers keep promising to produce but never actually release. In 2005, Sony finally released the first eBook reader with a price tag of over $600. I am certain after seeing the interest sparked by this device, an internet book retailer, decided to create their own and in 2007 they released the first Kindle eBook reader. The Kindle had many features the Sony Reader did not have and had a lower price tag, just under $300. Before there were very few options available for purchasing eBooks but that changed with the Kindle. created a special store for eBooks purchases and allowed the user to even purchase eBooks from the Kindle device without having to use a computer. This breakthrough has caused a major shift in the book market and more people are buying eBooks. This trend is growing steadily. Paul S. Kemp a prominent science fiction/fantasy writer even said that “E-books are 50% of his net sales” and that the “percentage has been increasing every quarter” (@Paulskemp, 2011).

               This trend is, of course, a scary trend for “brick and mortar” stores like Borders or Barnes & Noble. The decrease in printed book sales is affecting their “bottom line” already. Borders themselves just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, stating “it expects to close about 30% of its more than 600 stores nationwide”, and listing “assets of $1.28 billion and debt of $1.29 billion (Kellogg). This has been a major hit to the publishing world, not only because Borders is one of the largest chain book stores but having that kind of debt means that the publishers are not getting paid for the books they sell.

               Facing this crisis, I think we can expect Borders to push more into the online market by concentrating on increasing the advertising of their online book store, especially the eBook section of the website. This will mean they will have to come up with new ways to reach their audience. They will have to increase the amount of books they offer; currently if you go to and view their printed book selection you find they offer 22,902,167 books. Do the same at Borders and you can see they offer 2,009,564 printed books. That is 2 books for every 23 offered though Go to the eBook sections of the websites and you come up with 3 eBooks for every 8 eBooks offered though I think it is fair to say that we can expect a lot of changes to Borders online store if they want to increase their overall sales and break into a market dominated by

               The best thing about eBooks is the cost. As an eBook reader and a Kindle owner, I am paying around an average of 40% to 50% less to purchase an eBook (I also don’t have to get rid of books because they are cluttering up my house). There are also many classic books that are offered for free because they are public domain. Retailers are able to offer these free books because volunteers transcribe the books into eBook versions. If one wanted a printed copy of Treasure Island, one would have to pay for the production costs; if Treasure Island was purchased though the Kindle, it would be free. The real matter at hand though is not that it saves the consumer money but that it saves the publisher money. That is why the eBook format is a dream for publishers. A typical hardcover book in store can cost a consumer $25 but costs $2.50 to print whereas an eBook costs anywhere from $0.99 to $14.99 with $12.99 the typical cost for a new release book but with no printing costs. Take out cost for printing, author royalties and the retailers cut you find that a hardcover will net “the publisher $5.80 (or 23.2% of the cover price)”, and “an e-book $6.82 (52.5%)” (Derrico, 2010). The lowered cost for purchase and the higher percent in net sales for the publisher will create a win-win situation for the publisher and the consumer.

               Also benefiting from the emergence of eBooks into popular culture is the author. The cheaper price on eBooks (combined with the ease that a consumer can purchase them), will drive people to purchase more books. Leaving the author with higher sales compared to having sold the book at the $25 price. There is also the unpublished author to consider. The unpublished author has for years had no outlets for their work. If they published their own books, the cost of printing and trying to sell is just as high, if not higher, then the publishers. A self-published author would have to print a lot of books, paying thousands of dollars just to have the books sit around while they try to reach their audience. The beauty of eBooks is that it costs nothing to produce. An author would just have to type up their novel, convert it using many free programs that can be found on the internet and submit it to for sale. By eliminating the major publisher the author can receive their full royalties, for example if you sell your eBook through, “you’ll earn 70% royalties on your eBook sales, as opposed to 17.5% on your eBooks sales under contracts with traditional publishers” (Kemp). While the author will lose out on the advertising that major publishers utilize, they will not have to stress that they can’t get published and doing it themselves would be better than not at all.

               Eventually, we may see eBook readers as a social norm in every home, kind of in the same way the television is. I am certain that most casual reading done in the future will be exclusive to eBook readers. On the other hand, I believe we will find textbooks for school or work will still continue to be on printed books. Will printed books ever go away? I think the answer is no. They are too much of a staple to human life to fully get rid of them. EBook production will continue to be a must for publishers. currently has over 840 thousand eBooks offered in their Kindle store; that’s 4 for every 115 printed books. There may be a day when 8 eBooks for every 10 printed is the standard; or possibly even 1 for 1. There is one thing that is definite, while there will be hard times for retailers and publishers not following new trends, the sale of eBooks will continue to revolutionize the way we read. Through the sale of eBooks the publishing world will grow stronger. The increase in sales will push for better technology and the surge in self-published authors will create a fair and competitive market for aspiring writers. The eBook revolution will continue and the decrease in sales from printed books will keep in balance with the sale of eBooks due to the decrease in production costs.  Unlike the television, this revolution will not be televised; it will be downloaded directly to the reading device of our choice.

Works Cited

@Paulskemp. Web log post. 21 Jan. 2011. Web. 17 Feb. 2011.!/Paulskemp/status/28481513460858880

Derrico, David. David Derrico: Always Write Blog. 29 September 2010. 17 February 2011 <>.

—. David Derrico: Always Write Blog. 29 September 2010. 17 2 2011 <>.

Kellogg, Carolyn. Jacket Copy: BOOKS, AUTHORS AND ALL THINGS BOOKISH. 16 February 2011. 16 February 2011 <>.

Kemp, Paul S. Paul S. Kemp: Blog. 4 1 2011. 17 January 2011 <>.