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Rethinking the American Dream in Coney Island of the Mind, Why Wallace?, and Goodbye, Columbus

Rethinking the American Dream in Coney Island of the Mind, Why Wallace?, and Goodbye, Columbus

Webster defines a dream as “something notable for its beauty, excellence, or enjoyable quality.” This seems, logically, something that everyone desires to obtain. However not everyone is the same therefore each dream is not the same. According to certain works of literature regarding the 1950’s-60’s though, it appears as if many people are quite disillusioned and believe their dream is the one and only dream suitable for everyone. This American Dream consists of a nice job, nice spouse, nice house, nice kids, nice car and all the money, money, money you can get your hands on. Anyone who desires differently is unacceptable.

But what happens when people finally start to realize, heaven forbid, that this one dream isn’t a dream at all and is not the ultimate source of happiness? A rebellion against this materialistic society takes place. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, in his poem “A Coney Island of the Mind,” illustrates this dissatisfaction with American society:

“…on a concrete continent

spaced with bland billboards

illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness

The scene shows fewer tumbrils

but more maimed citizens

in painted cars

and they have strange license plates

and engines

that devour America” (Ferlinghetti,131).

America is supposed to be the great capitalistic society, but Ferlinghetti sees otherwise. Billboards feature material assets in a style showing its necessity for human happiness. By calling this happiness the billboards represent an illusion, Ferlinghetti is speaking out against materialism. This materialism has apparently also horribly disfigured America and it’s citizens. The citizens believe that the more material possessions one has the happier they will be. Ferlinghetti says these material possessions such as cars and fancy license plates devour them instead and are possibly dictating their life.

Addressing this issue of a materialistic society is a common theme among many of the writer’s during the 1950’s and 1960’s. In their writings Phillip Roth and Michael Novak both depict a family of this society. The parents of these writings have an “ideal” lifestyle and a standard for their children, which gives the children every reason to want to rebel. They want to break away from the thoughts and standards of their parents and society. In Roth’s novel, Goodbye, Columbus, the character Mrs. Patimkin is much like the Andy Restek of Novak’s “Why

Relevance of Machiavelli’s The Princeto Today’s World

The Relevance of The Prince to Today’s World

The only way it was possible to get ahead was to be part of the inner circle. It didn’t really matter what the issue was or what sort of implications it carried. All that mattered was knowing the right person, having the right information, making the right introductions, and going to the right parties. The most valuable information was not necessarily something you knew about an enemy but something you knew about a friend. Staff and “advisors” were, in many ways, far more powerful than the aristocrat holding office. As much as it sounds like it, it was not late 20th century Washington, D.C. but early 16th century Italy. The tell all book is not “Primary Colors,” “And the Horse He Rode In,” or any other modern political tell-all but the most infamous political book of all time, “The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527). Machiavelli entered government service as a clerk and rose to prominence when the Florentine Republic was proclaimed in 1498. His duties included missions to the French king (1504, 1510-11), the Holy See (1506), and the German emperor (1507-8). In the course of his diplomatic missions within Italy he became acquainted with many of the Italian rulers and was able to study their political tactics, particularly those of Cesare Borgia, who was at that time engaged in enlarging his holdings in central Italy. From 1503 to 1506 Machiavelli reorganized the military defense of the republic of Florence.

Although mercenary armies were common during this period, he preferred to rely on the conscription of native troops to ensure a permanent and patriotic defense of the commonwealth. In 1512, when the Medici, a Florentine family, regained power in Florence a…

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…of Milan. His sons, who were not interested in war, lost Milan and became private citizens. The Prince who is uninterested in war becomes contemptible, and this attitude on the part of others must be guarded against at all costs.”

At the core of all his writing, Machiavelli was determined to eliminate pretense and examine what he perceived as reality. Before this could be done, he had to develop his political hypothesis, which was based, not upon the Christian ethic, as other writers had done before him, but rather upon what he considered as obvious and observable occurrences. Through his eyes, modern readers have had an opportunity to see the political maneuvering of an age of great intrigue and deceit . . . not unlike the close of the 20th century in America.

Works Cited:

Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince. Arlington Heights: Harlan Davidson, 1947.

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