The American Dream-There are no children here

7 July 2016

“Over the years, as the economy declines, the number of Americans living month to month has soared. At this point millions of Americans are living without any financial cushion whatsoever. If you can believe it, a recent survey in 2010 found that 28% of all Americans do not have a single penny for emergencies. Another survey found that 42% of Americans are living from paycheck to paycheck” stated an article on the blog, End of the American Dream. To me, the American Dream means one has the ideals of freedom, equality, and opportunity traditionally held to be available to every American.

Recently the American Dream has been hard to achieve because of factors such as poverty, gangs, drugs and crimes. Many young Americans also drop out of school at a young age to either support their own children or help support their families, which makes it more difficult to achieve the American Dream due to a lack of money and education. In There are No Children Here, by Alex Kotlwitz the characters have a difficult time achieving the American Dream because they become young parents, abuse drugs, and become involved with gangs.

The American Dream-There are no children here Essay Example

One reason it is difficult for characters in this book to achieve the American Dream is that many of them are becoming parents as a young teen. Lajoe Rivers, mother of Pharoah, Lafeyette, and 5 other children, financially supports her family alone, with occasional help from the government and her husband, Paul. Lajoe struggles to provide adequate food and clothing for the children, usually living month to month on the money she receives from financial aid, but manages to get by with the help of financial assistance. Lajoe’s financial struggles are partly a result of her becoming a teenage parent.

For example, many characters, such as Lajoe, had their first child at age 14, eventually having large families that would be rather difficult to support even for a middle class family with two parents, let alone a single mother on welfare. Many of these young parents drop out of school to take care of their children, ensuring the poverty cycle will continue. Another character that shows becoming a young parent makes is difficult to achieve the American Dream is Dawn Anderson. Dawn is the second member of the entire family to graduate from high school. Although Dawn graduated from high school, Dawn had four children by the age of 18.

Because of this, her boyfriend, her children, and her were not able to move out of Henry, after graduating, because they used the money, along with financial assistance and food stamps, for food and other necessities. Also, because they didn’t have money they were forced to postpone getting married, “Neither had a job, so they couldn’t afford the money for rings or for a wedding”(244). Having children at a young age makes it more difficult to achieve the American Dream because most teenage parents drop out of school to support their children, which leads to a lack of education.

Having not been fully educated makes it very difficult to find a job and to make it possible to achieve success and opportunity. In addition to becoming a young parent, many people in the book also abused drugs and alcohol, which makes it nearly impossible to achieve the American Dream. Drugs in Chicago at this time were extremly appealing to young children. Some teenagers and adults in housing complexes such as Henry Horner did drugs to fit in, while other used drugs to escape from poverty and the violence. Many people, like Paul, blew their earnings on alcohol and especially drugs.

Paul, the father of Lafeyette, Pharoah, and their siblings, “…began to dabble with drugs in the early 1970s, shortly after they [Lajoe and Paul] were married. He already drank and, in fact, avoided being sent to Vietnam by purposely arriving at his draft board inebriated”(82). Because Paul arrived at his draft board meeting intoxicated, he took that opportunity away from the family. If he would have been sent to Vietnam his family would have had benefits and possibly been better off. Another example of drug abuse is shown through Lashawn, Lajoe’s oldest daughter, “…who worked as a prostitute from time to time to support her drug habit”(12).

Instead of using the money from work, or prostituting, for her family, Lashawn used the money for drugs. Lashawn and her three children ended up moving back into Lajoe’s house because Lashawn wasn’t able to support her family on her own, even with the help of welfare. Drugs can get in the way of achieving the American Dream because many people waste their money on them, rather than using to benefit the family. Along with abusing drugs and becoming a young parent, it is difficult for the people in this book to achieve the American Dream because they become involved with gangs at a young age.

At first the concept of joining gangs is quite attractive. According to Lafeyette, “When you first join you think its good. They’ll buy you what you what”(31), however, “You have to do anything they tell you to do. If they tell you to kill somebody, you have to do that”(31). Once a person joins a gang, they are locked in. Many times, gangs take over the lives of children and turn them down the wrong path, dropping out of school, becoming young parents, selling drugs, doing drugs. One character who was gang involved in There are No Children Here is Jimmie Lee.

Jimmie Lee was a gang leader who held absolute control over Horner. Jimmie was the leader of a local gang, the Vice Lords. Because Lee sold drugs, he was sent to prison for 30 years. Lee and two other women had been charged with possession of sixty-nine grams of heroin, which had an estimated street value of $7500. It is not uncommon for gangs to be involved with drugs because selling drugs is an easy was to make a lot of money. Gangs are the main reason for poverty because within gangs drugs are sold, and within gangs violence occurs.

By the end of the summer, “…the police would record that one person every three days had been beaten, shot at, or stabbed at Horner”(32). Not only is the American Dream harder to achieve for people in gangs, but gangs also make it more difficult for the good citizens to achieve it because everyday they face the risk of getting killed or injured. In There are No Children Here, the American Dream is hard to reach because children become young parents, people abuse drugs, and become involved with gangs. Becoming a teenage parent makes it rather hard to achieve the American Dream because all of your money and attention goes toward you child.

Most of the time, teenage parents are forced to drop out of school so that they are able to take care of their children. Drug abuse also makes it difficult to achieve the American Dream because much of the abuser’s money goes toward buying drugs. Also, many of these issues are tied together; becoming involved with gangs usually leads to selling drugs or drug abuse, which later leads to violence within the drug distribution. In order to prevent and control teenage pregnancies, drug abuse and gangs, I believe sex-education should have been taught in school along with educational classes on drugs and their effects.

Also, I believe rehabilitation centers should have been provided for everyone, for free. Teaching about sex and drugs in school would better educate the children and possibly decreased the number of teenage parents and drug users. Creating a rehabilitation center that was available for anyone would have also decreased the number of drug users. The American Dream is by no means easy or even possible to achieve for any American. In order to obtain the ideals of freedom, opportunity and equality, you must work hard and stay focused on the important things in life: education and family.

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