An American Dream Essay Questions

Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What is the significance of the novel’s title?

    The title is a satirical allusion to the concept of the “American Dream.” The American Dream preaches upward socio-economic mobility through hard work and determination—the idea that anyone, so long as they work hard enough, long enough, can make a better life for himself. The novel however tries to shatter that idea by introducing some bitter truths concerning the American Dream as seen in the life and consequent decline of the character Stephen Rojack. Rojack is the embodiment of the American Dream because he has achieved all the requirements for it: he has risen from poverty, served in the military, and has achieved wealth and fame. This however does little to satisfy a deep sense of purposelessness in his life and the reading audience is taken through a nightmarish journey of a man who seeks to find new meaning in his life through the expression of excessive and horrible carnage.

  2. 2

    What does moon symbolize in the novel?

    Historically the moon has been associated with madness, hence the word lunatic. Despite the lack of scientific evidence of the moon’s influence on man’s behavior the novel seems to take this quite seriously and as such the moon is symbolic of both madness and violence associated with the madness-inducing energy that it supposedly produces. Every mention of the full moon in the novel is followed by a corresponding action—often violence. He mentions the moon’s maddening effect upon him first when he first kills four German soldiers and once more when he contemplates self-harm. He is so convinced of the effects that the moon has on him that he has even called off public speeches scheduled for him because the dates corresponded with the appearance of the full moon.

  3. 3

    Would you consider Stephen Rojack to be a reliable narrator? Why or why not? Support your answer.

    Stephen Rojack had not always been unstable but there is a lot of evidence in the novel that supports that his sanity is no longer what it once was. Having gone through a traumatic experience with death during the Second World War affected him profoundly and since then he has been obsessed with death and his violent urges barely kept in check as horrible images of war and brutality are always lingering on the surface of his thoughts. Later on more manifestations of his slipping sanity come to the fore: his belief that the phases of the moon affect his behavior, his obsession with scents, his overactive imagination, and the several mentions of odd supernatural abilities.

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