September 22, 2014
Small Dreams are Still Dreams
The American Dream is a very broad and diverse topic, and the definition of the American dream and it has a unique definition for every individual. My definition of the American Dream is pursuing financial success and emotional happiness in life, as well as discovering one’s purpose. I believe that “The Bedquilt” by Dorothy Canfield illustrates Aunt Mehetabel’s pursuit of the American Dream, because she finds a place of contentment and happiness due to the bedquilt, and she also feels as if she has fulfilled her purpose in life, giving her inner peace.
Aunt Mehetabel has humble expectations for life and because of this, her American Dream is not very ambitious. As a sixty-eight year old unmarried woman in the 1900s, she is basically irrelevant and unimportant to everyone. She has grown accustomed to being ignored over the years. “She had never for a moment known the pleasure of being important to anyone.” (1) However, her idea to make the bed quilt transforms everything. After devoting five years toworking on the bed quilt, it is submitted into the county fair, and it wins first prize. Aunt Mehetabel is so surprised and proud to see all the attention on her, so she can’t bring herself to visit any other exhibits at the fair, instead just appreciating and admiring her own work.
“The Bedquilt” is an illustration of Aunt Mehetabel’s pursuit of the American Dream because it shows how Aunt Mehetabel discovers her life purpose through the bed quilt. After living sixty eight years with no noteworthy accomplishments, the bed quilt is something that she can take pride in. When her brother takes her bed quilt to the county fair, she feels separation anxiety from the bed quilt. “Even in her swelling pride, Mehetabel felt a pang of separation as the bulky package was carried out of the house. As the days went on she felt absolutely lost without her work.” (3) Aunt Mehetabel now identifies herself with the bed quilt, and feels like a part of her is missing without it. After finishing the bedquilt, she now feels a sense of accomplishment and finally feels like she’s important thanks to the bed quilt. “The old woman sat up straight and looked the world in the face. She was a part of it at last.” (2) Also, the bedquilt provides a sense of inner peace and contentment to Aunt Mehetabel. “She sat staring into the fire, on her tired old face the supreme content of an artist who has realized his ideal.” (5) The bed quilt has completely changed her life and given her the opportunity to pursue the American Dream, and she feels content with herself since she has fulfilled her dream. Her completion of the bedquilt is compared to an artist who feels that they have successfully gotten their message and ideas across, and as if they’ve fulfilled everything they could through art. She now feels that she is part of the world, proving that she feels the bed quilt is her purpose in life. Also, her feeling of accomplishment and peace after completing the bedquilt, shows that she feels her life is complete, and she has now found and fulfilled her purpose, a key tenet of my definition of the American Dream.
In “The Bedquilt,” Aunt Mehetabel fulfills her version of the American Dream, which is to just feel important and feel happy, while also fulfilling my definition of the Dream. My definition of the American Dream is a combination of achieving financial success, emotional happiness, and finding your purpose.. I believe that Aunt Mehetabel achieves the American Dream because of her bedquilt. The bedquilt allows her to feel true happiness and also gives her a feeling of importance and purpose. However, some may disagree with my definition of the American Dream, instead preferring their own version of this complex topic. So, what is your definition of the American Dream? Do you think the American Dream was meant to be based on the pursuit of tangible, material things like money, houses, cars, and clothes, or is it based on the pursuit of emotions, like happiness or contentment? Also, do you think that the American “Dream” can be as humble and simple as Aunt Mehetabel’s, but still be considered a dream?