Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. American Studies Program


Lisa Arellano

Second Advisor

Ben Lisle


The term the "American Dream" was coined in 1939 by James Truslow Adams and has undoubtedly become an integral part of the American ethos. This narrative has brought thousands of immigrants to American shores with the promises of prosperity and success for centuries. Yet in 2014, it must be questioned whether this dream still holds significance for the young people of this country. By studying first-generation American citizens, whose parents did not grow up here, it can be ascertained how relevant this narrative still is and the sort of power that it retains. The following research describes my interactions with seven Colby College first-generation American students.This project works with this particular demographic through the interviewing process in order to draw conclusions about how these first-generation American citizens relate to the American Dream. Originally this project was meant to focus on the social aspects of their lives as the children of immigrants, such as cultural assimilation struggles, language barriers, and problems that come with straddling two cultures. However, this project ended up focusing on contemporary aspects of the lives that affected opportunity, according to them, more so than being the children of immigrants. Ultimately, I focus on two major themes: an overwhelming disassociation with the American Dream concept and a sense that contemporary issues such as racial relations are more salient than immigration status for first-generation American citizens today.


American Dream, first-generation, immigration, multiculturalism, race relations

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