American Dream FranklinThoreau Essay Research Paper The

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American Dream Franklin/Thoreau Essay, Research Paper The ideas of the American Dream are the cornerstones of many of America?s literary works. As far back as the Revolutionary War and as recently as today these ideas are still prevalent in everyday life. The American Dream is something different to everyone. It represents a broad spectrum of interpretation with the freedom to live a good life as the common factor. Obvious differences in the interpretation of The American Dream can be seen based on different philosophies. Benjamin Franklin was an enlightenment thinker whose values were radically different from those of Henry David Thoreau, a Romantic thinker, and of these different values, the ones that seem most prominent in their writings are work, prosperity, and

conformity. The first of these values, and perhaps the most written about, is work. Franklin believes that work should be done in order to improve one?s wealth and to benefit society. He believed in the concept of the self-made man, the idea that anyone could be successful by taking advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves and through hard work. Franklin began work at an early age as a printer?s apprentice and worked regularly until his death. Franklin focuses on how his work furthers him in polite society; on how it effects his status as a citizen. He writes that wealth and status are to be coveted and worked for. He believes that the American Dream can be achieved through work by benefiting society. Thoreau, like Franklin, believes in a strong work ethic.

However, the goals one reaches through work are much different in the eyes of Thoreau. He believed like other Romantics that the best kind of work was agrarian work and that the American Dream revolved around a reconnection with one?s self and with nature. Thoreau longed for a return to a pastoral America that was free from the everyday rat race, the upward mobility that Franklin wanted. Thoreau saw no value in the progression of society if it did not help the individual to connect with himself or with nature. In this respect Thoreau did only enough work while at Walden to survive and to make a small profit. He did this by managing a large plot of beans. Not only did this work provide him with sustenance, but it also afforded him time to commune with nature. To him, this

subsistence living was as good as it got. For Franklin, subsistence living simply would not do. Franklin would have seen this as settling. He believed that prosperity depended on the amassing of wealth and material goods as well as public standing. The last of these probably most important. He even went so far as to include in his autobiography tips on how to appear more successful in order to further his reputation and status. This is the most profound promise in the American Dream for Franklin. The promise of conditional prosperity; the condition being a keen wit and hard work. Franklin focuses on the fact that prosperity does not necessarily mean the inclusion of happiness or even spiritual growth, but is rather a measure of wealth and popularity. Here again Thoreau would

strongly disagree with Franklin?s interpretation of the American Dream. Thoreau would say that prosperity is not dependent on reputation or net worth but on one?s grasp of himself and the world around him. ?I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived?(1816). Thoreau believed that true prosperity came from spiritual growth and a connection to nature. If one could achieve this then one would be prosperous. It was never dependent on the amount of wealth attained by the individual. Thoreau would probably say here that not only was the amassing of wealth not the measure of prosperity, but that because of it, people had