How does Shepard rewrite the American Dream in Buried Child?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the directions that you might consider taking with Shepard's view of the American Dream is his suggestion that there is a need to confront reality within it.  Shepard is not maligning the American Dream.  I believe that his end message seems happiness possible within the "American Dream."  However, he is advocating that there has to be a sense of open and honest communication present within this configuration.  Individuals cannot presume that the mere pursuit of the American Dream will automatically guarantee success and happiness.  Rather, Shepard seem to be suggesting that Vince's example of being acting in asserting control and transparency within familial settings is necessary in order for happiness to even have a fleeting chance of blossoming.  seeking to bring out the need to confront reality within it.  The need to confront the difficulties in reality is a trait that makes Vince a redemptive figure and the source of what Shepard believes is the hope present in "the American Dream."  Tilden also represents this in that he confronts what was done and does not seek to escape his reality.  He "digs up" what was buried and faces down his mistakes.  As opposed to the weight of family expectations of being "the star athlete" or the savior for the family, Shepard composes Tilden's character as one who has to put right what was wrong.  Shepard's view of the American Dream is a reality where individuals must accept the pain of reality.  As disfiguring as it might be to the perceptions of "the American Dream," this is a workable condition than pretending that all is well under the pursuit and invariable weight of the "the American Dream."

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