Culture Matters

According to the American Dream, everyone can have a fair start in life regardless of their origin Also, James Truslow Adams defines the American Dream as by saying; “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement, despite the origin or social class.” In essence, the assumption of the Americans prior to the Declaration of independence was that equality and similar opportunities would be guaranteed to everyone in the country. Such allegations ignored the major cultural influences which determine the position of individuals in the current society. Some of the cultural influences ignored in the American Dream include socioeconomic status, profession, gender, ethnicity, and religion. A combination of these aspects form the basis of a person’s culture, and also brings differences among people in society. In the two stories, Old Houses and Reunion, the influence of cultural influences in people’s lives can be noticed through the events that occur in each of the two stories. The allegations of equality and fairness to every person on the society are proved to be null as there are many cultural influences in people’s success.

Firstly, class, which refers to the sociocultural status of people in society is represented in both stories. Besides, the professional standards of characters tend to influence their socioeconomic status. In the Old Houses story, residents live in old houses which are described as “having built-in cabinets, box beams, coved ceilings, and stained glasses which were original to the houses.” The residents tend to live in the old houses because it has become their culture to inherit and live in such old buildings. However, those who have gained higher professional standards end up migrating from the old houses. Judith Goldman, one of the characters in the Old House story sits alone and thinks about her daughter who is no more living with her after attaining higher professional levels. The writer says, “she thinks of her own daughter, now three thousand miles away…” In the Reunion short story, the idea of class is totally different. The main character, a young boy, lives with her mother in a rented cottage in the Cape. On the other side, his father a rich man who lives in New York after divorcing his mother. The fact that the boy can afford to board a train and travel to different destinations shows that she comes from a rich socioeconomic class.

Another aspect that influences the current culture of unequal chances and opportunities is gender. This aspect is also present in the two short stories. Although the residents in the Old House live low socioeconomic life, they seem to value the female gender, especially when it comes to educating them. The writer notes, “Judith Goldman times her evening walks to coincide with the Welshes’ practice hour; sometimes Suzanne Collier joins her, and they share news of their daughters who attend neighboring colleges in Massachusetts.” This shows that they greatly value the education of their daughters, hoping that they will one day uplift them from the low socioeconomic status. Similarly, the Reunion short story seems to depict the female gender as being focused and hardworking that the male gender. The main character’s mother can afford to live in a rented cottage in the Cape after divorcing with his father. On the other side, his father is much hooked on alcohol such that when the boy visits him, he takes him to a club to introduce him to alcohol. At one moment the waiter says,“but I won’t serve the boy another drink.” This shows that the father was trying to encourage the boy to drink alcohol excessively like him. Thus, the two stories depict a positive contribution of the female gender towards societal development while the male gender is focused on drinking and committing crimes.

Besides, religion affects the experiences of the characters in the short stories. In the Old House short story, the residents of the old houses in the Hillcrest had made it a custom going to block parties that involved wine drinking and listen to instrumental music from James and Madeleine who were also residents of Hillcrest old houses. In the parties, they discuss the stories concerning the old houses. The writer notes: “Keeping their backs to the doctor’s house, they tell themselves that any place as old as Hillcrest has stories.” Thus, they were used to meeting and talking about the occurrences in their environment, including the story of an old doctor who lived close to a house of a key suspect to the past killings that left them horrified.  On the other hand, the depiction of religion in the Reunion short story is quite different. When the little boy visits his father, he realizes that he is used to drinking alcohol and insulting other people. As such, it becomes difficult for him to adapt to such a devotion that he has not practiced before. When the boy excuses himself to leave, his father says, “I’ll walk you back to the station. If there had only been time to go up to my club.” This clearly showed that the father adored drinking more than anything else. However, the son could not force himself into a habit that he has not practiced before.

Lastly, ethnicity influences the experiences of the characters in the two stories. In the Old Houseshort story, the residents of the Hillcrest are used to stay in the old houses such that they do not wish to leave the place. Even when issues of security arise, they keep staying on the old houses as people of common ethnicity. The narrator says, ‘they must all watch out for one another. It’s why the block parties are so important.” Thus, the residents of the old houses have common dreams which they know they can achieve while living in old houses. On the contrary, the character in the Reunion story finds it difficulty adapting to the behaviors of his father after spending time with him. His father seems to be buried into different ethnic beliefs compared to him. As such, he chooses to return to his mother since he could interact with her in an appropriate way. Due to the differences in ethnic beliefs, the boy decides to leave his father never to see him again. Therefore, ethnicity and ethnic beliefs have the power to keep or separate people even when they are related.

Based on the comparison between the Old House and Reunion stories based on the different cultural influences, it is clear that the allegations in the American Dream are not applicable in reality since not everyone can have a fair start in life. The discussed aspects including gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and religion can affect people’s progress in society, especially in the matters of equality and grabbing opportunities.

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