Is the American Dream Dead?

by capreviewroom

           In James Frey’s Bright Shiny Morning, we are introduced to Los Angeles through a series of harsh facts about it, its people, as well as how it developed into its present. We are also introduced to the four main narratives, which set up the main themes of never loosing hope and being able to live the American Dream.

 

            Amberton Parker, main character in one of the four narratives, is an incredibly famous and rich movie star, which lives the American Dream (has the mansion, wife, and flawless kids) and gets whatever he wants, since this is Los Angeles.  On the other hand, we also later find out he has a dirty little secret! What a surprise right? Its as if Frey is also trying to incorporate him as a cartoon character, by showing him as a “private” homosexual. “Amberton Parker. Public heterosexual. Private homosexual “ (Frey 27.)  We also find out later that this cartoon character does have feelings like a regular human being. “ Being in love is like getting a twenty-million-dollar check for the starring role in a hot new action film, you think it’s going to be great, but when it comes, it’s even GREATER!” (Frey 265) By adding this, Frey was trying to make us realize that people no matter what they do, or how famous they might, are all humans who experience the most powerful emotion which is that of love.

 

            Maddie and Dylan, another major narrative, talks about the lives of young teenagers who escape their daily (boring) lives and hope to go to some place exciting where they can achieve the American Dream, which in their minds is Los Angeles. “They stay up late they go again, again, they lie in each other’s arms and say I love you they’re nineteen and on their own and they’re in love and they still believe in the future” (Frey 128).  Toward the end of their story, by ultimately putting one of their lives to the end, and leaving a pregnant widow “ When the child moves inside her she holds the album close and says this is your father, he loved you, he loved you. “ (Frey 778) is Frey blaming the environment in which they moved to be the causer of this? “

 

            Old Man Joe, a homeless panhandler living in the streets of Los Angeles is the main character in another one of the narratives in this book. He is shown to be unlike most panhandlers described, and truly wants to make the world a better place, not harm anyone while doing it, and has strong hope that the universe has something that is his major calling . “Ever since that day I been waiting for an answer to why. I figure maybe God was sending me some kind of a signal or something, or that what happened was part of some greater calling, or meant I was supposed to do something with my life besides drink and beg change” ( Frey 755) Here we can see how he is also trying to achieve the American Dream and has hope for a better future no matter where he lives or what he is doing at the present moment.

 

            The last of the four narratives, but definitely not the least interesting talks about an American-Mexican girl who moved to Los Angeles because her Mexican parents wanted to give her a better life than they could have in Mexico. She gets a job as a maid, then a clerk, and ultimately is in line to marry a very wealth American man, who sees the beauty in her even though she doesn’t. She is constantly thinking about him “ her heart falls, leaps, pounds, she’s tried to forget him, get over him, erase the memories the good and bad just erase them, but when she’s alone they always come back” (Frey 683). Does this not sound like a typical Mexican soap opera? In Frey’s attempt to have the American Dream as his theme, he also introduced some scenarios where us readers can’t help but wonder… where did his creativity go?

 

            Is the American Dream dead? This was the question I was trying to come up with an answer while reading this novel. I believe that Frey, by choosing to write this novel as he did, made readers in fact view it as dead, by incorporating naturalism in every narrative in the book. Ultimately the only “happy” ending was Esperanza, which ironically means hope in Spanish! All in all, Frey is not in my recommended books list, for the all reasons above, and I do not see myself reading any one of his books in the near future. 

Alejandra R.

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