The Paradox of the California Dream

“More gold has been mined from the thoughts of men than has been taken from the earth. ” – Napoleon Hill Dreaming something is very different than trying to accomplish it. The famed author Napoleon Hill puts it so wisely: many more people dream and try to become rich and successful than the small percentage that actually accomplish that goal. In the article “California: A place, A People, A Dream,” James Rawls argues that the California dream consists of five main factors. These factors are Health, Romance, Opportunity and Success, Warmth and Sunshine, and Freedom.
People come from all over the world to live this dream, which sometimes turns into a nightmare instead. Based on texts such as The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, The Republic of East L. A. , by Luis J. Rodriguez, California travel guides, and others, the California dream is perceived and lived differently by different people. The California dream is not how it seems; it is a paradox to the lower class but a reality for the wealthy. The California dream changes drastically depending on your level of income. As we see in the majority of Luis J.
Rodriguez’s stories, opportunity and success is what lower class families are focused on. “Pigeons” is about a young, poor couple who are doing whatever it takes to support their family. “Although apprentices were called oil greasers… it was a Job that promised up to 15 dollars an hour within two years… What more could a young, poor, married couple living in East L. A. ask for? ” (109). For a typical poor couple like that, Jobs like these are very common. For them, the California dream is being able to support a family and live happily.

While this can be thought of as a dream, it is what is expected everywhere and is not unique to California in any way. If you compare this definition to Rawls’ definition, it is nowhere near the full California dream. In fact, it is only one fifth of it, which doesn’t really make it a dream. In contrast, the California dream changes a lot for upper and some middle class families. For wealthy families, all of James Rawls’ five factors play into the picture when deciding to move to California or not. Romance, Warmth and Sunshine, and
Health are all added benefits that California has. These added benefits are some of the main things that wealthy people are focused on. Being wealthy, they most likely have or had some sort of well paying Job/source of income, inheritance, etc. The climate, health, and Romance of California are not things that a single person can control. They are more or less unique to California and very attractive to people with disposable income. California Travel guides are generally directed towards the upper class. “California Dreaming?
Travel deals to Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego,” is a travel guide for wealthy people out of state. It highlights some of the main things people think of when they think of California. “Want to feel like a celebrity while you are at it? Indulge in a spa day at the Beverly Hills Plaza Hotel and Spa($99, a low by $101; expires June 29). ” While this sounds attractive to many people in all financial classes, the question is if someone can afford it without losing a meal or electricity for their family. Unfortunately, many lower class people cannot.
Too often, neducated, lower class families come to California with the dream of living a lavish lite like the wealthy; this is a tar tetcned dream. California’s lofty cost of living makes it hard for a lot of people to think of living here as a dream. With California housing prices two times the national median, it takes much perseverance that many people think isn’t worth living in the new, overcrowded California. Maribel Vazquez Lemus is one of those people. In an article published on CNN, she talks about her situation. “[she] skips two meals a day so she can afford to feed her kids…
She wants to move East–perhaps out of the state–so she can find better employment and lower rent. Right now she pays $400 for a single bedroom in someone elses house. She and her two daughters all sleep together in that room. ” Believe it or not this is quite a common situation for young families. The amount of single parents are growing at a constant rate, adding to the difficulties of raising one or more children. In a recent study done by the United States Department of Agriculture(USDA), the cost of raising a child is the highest it has ever been. The verage middle-class family who had a child in 2011 will shell out $234,900 to keep it fed and a roof over its head for the next 17 years”between $12,290 and $14,320 per year. ” This is one fifth of the $51 ,017 national median income and it has to be over two fifth with two kids. By moving somewhere else where the cost of living is much cheaper, like Maribel Vazquez Lemus wants to, this number can be reduced significantly. With California being the most populous state since 1970(1970 California Census)–and the population still rising–the cost of living has nothing else o do but rise as well.
The California dream is a paradox; an idea that is very attractive thinking about it, but very opposite living it. California is perceived as the place to make easy money, meet a partner, and get a tan. These things simply aren’t realistic. It is Just as hard, if not harder to earn a living in California. And the inflation Just adds to the trouble. We see this example of the paradox of the California Dream is The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, when living in California is much different than the main character, Baba, anticipated. Baba loved the idea of America.
It was living in america that gave him an Clearly, living in Fremont, CA did not live up to their expectations. At all. Hearing so many positive things about it, they don’t know how they can be experiencing these negative things such as the the lack of trust. “No one trusts anybody! ” Baba says. Later in the book, we see more negative reasons why the state is not living up to expectations. “The Bay Area’s smog stung his eyes, the traffic noise gave him headaches, and the pollen made him cough. The fruit was never sweet nough, the water never clean enough, and where were all the trees and open fields? (l). More and more things that seem like they should all be here but clearly aren’t. At the moment Baba and his son are very disappointed, as are many other people that came to California to live the dream but have failed to get that opportunity. Maybe the paradox stems from the old California. From the 1970’s when the California dream for all classes, not Just the upper class, was actually a realistic thing. Or maybe it stems from the countless celebrities such as Steve Jobs and Tiger Woods ho nave emerged trom Calitornia.
Either way, the old Calitornia dream, where an overwhelming number of people came to California with nothing and left with something, is dying out. Whether it is because of the decline in education, the high cost of living, or the unrealistic perception that outsiders have on California, the old dream is being replaced by new, tougher times in California. The California Gold Rush days are long gone. Getting rich so easily Just does not happen anymore. Luck is a main reason why people still move to California, and a main reason why they fail, too.
The future is still bright for the Golden State, though. Many of the problems that have caused this end to the dream have fixes that aren’t too complicated. Soon, in the near future, it will be clear for most people that there is no such California dream anymore. Hopefully sometime after that it won’t be as clear. And hopefully soon after that it will be clear that the California dream is back. But for now, the California dream is “fizzling out. “As James Rawls’ stated, the California Dream is “quite impossibly everything–and quite possibly nothing at all. ” A paradox for many, a reality for few.

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