American Dream

“A place in the Sun” is an American film based on the “An American Tragedy” by Theodore Dreiser which provides the story of a working class young man who later entangle with two women, one who works at his uncle’s factory and the other a beautiful socialite women. Interestingly, nowhere in the dream variations it says where the dream takes place. However, many critics suggested that this dream of “place in the sun” refers to the practical life of Americans. It gives perspective concept of American people which represent the social and cultural activities. On the other hand, the autobiography “Up From Slavery” by Booker T. Washington represents the childhood of a slave boy and how his dream come to true when he become free from social obstacle practice.

“A place in the Sun” is a film casted by Montgomery Clift, Herbert Heyes, Shelly Winters and Elizabeth Taylor. The dream in this film is not within the film, rather it is about the film. It was selected for preservation in United States national film registry by the Library of Congress. Culturally, historically or aesthetically this film bears a significant role in American people. From this point of view, the film can be called as a classic production by the director. The emphasis on changing story makes the hero precipitator of the events rather than the victim of society and environment. In addition to this, it also emphasize on the significance of society in tragic events of the story (Kliman, 1977).

The story is not totally an “American Tragedy” as such; because the director changed the time period to the 1950s by creating a hero George Eastman, who had chance to achieve his dream, and fails through a sequence of circumstances that come together to bring about his downfall.

Plot of “A place in the Sun” film

George is a handsome, but poor boy with rich connection. He visits his uncle and gets employment at his factory stacking swimming costumes. But his ambitious and determination of being success motivates him to suggest the improvements of workplace. He meets rich young socialite Angela Vickers, and fall in love; but her parents oppose their relationship. With uncle’s support, George overcomes the opposition. While dreaming about her, George unexpectedly makes love with Alice Tripp, a girl who works at the factory. When she gets pregnant and then blackmails George into marrying her, his whole dream is put in jeopardy.

“Up from Slavery” by Booker T. Washington

“Up from Slavery” by Booker T. Washington represents quite different theme and lesson for the readers. It details the slow and solid rise from a slave child during the civil war, to the troubles and problems he overcome to get the education at the new Hampton University, to his effort establishing employment schools, to help back black people as well as other disadvantage minorities learning thoughts, marketable skills and work to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. The quote "Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work." from his book represents the understanding of his American dream.

Comparison between “a place in the Sun” and “Up from Slavery”

In the “a place in the sun”, Alice and Angela are presented in opposition to each other as darkness and lightness. Alice is weary, whiny and slovenly and always dressed in tight clothes. Angela, in contrast, dressed in pure, virginal white or traditional sober black. While Alice symbolizes hard work and poverty, Angela is the personification of wealth and luxury. Point to be noted here, this contrast can be compared to the economic and social situation between black and white Americans in the past. This difference is somewhat similar to the autobiography “up from slavery” by Booker T. Washington where he signifies the economic and educational obstacles. A place in the sun is a noteworthy film not only because of its excellent making, but also because of the society it depicts. This is the main similarity regarding the American dream between these two titles (Phillips, 1973).

“Up from slavery” is one of the greatest autobiographies ever written by an American. Its words and messages of black economic and social empowerment, land ownership and self-help encouraged generations of black leaders. In this book, Washington wrote,

"During the next half-century and more, my race must continue passing through the severe American crucible. We are to be tested in our patience, our forbearance, our perseverance, our power to endure wrong, to withstand temptations, to economize, to acquire and use skill; in our ability to compete, to succeed in commerce, to disregard the superficial for the real, the appearance for the substance, to be great and yet smile, learned and yet simple, high and yet the servant of all."

The dream is defined as the rise of a group people to get all the social, economical and cultural rights. The civil war is considered as the foundation of today’s free America. The book was written for young readers to represent and illustrate the picture of American dream and a rich context to explore the basic issue of human nature and society. It describes essentially some of social, political and personal issues that black Americans confronted during this war (d'Arcy, 1974).

On the other hand, “a place in the sun” also provides the basic differences between poor and rich in the social and economic perspectives (Pichel, 1952). Additionally, the film is significant for its unique story and unique message. It gives the message of how a man’s dream can come into end. George is represented as the symbolic character of many of the Americans who dream about an ambitious life, but misses to achieve that. The dream of this film is quite different from the dream of “up from slavery” where that is progressive and positive (Petri, 1987). The dream of “a place in the sun” should be discouraged and can be taken as a negative order of thinking. Most importantly, sacrificing in both issues are totally different. If someone pursues for a legitimate dream, then, that will last for longer time. This can be understood through reading “up from slavery”. And if the dream is to pursue for an unethical achievement, then that will surely fall.

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