The concept of THE AMERICAN DREAM is as central to an understanding of the history and culture of the U.S. as it is difficult to define. Books on the Dream are legion, but nobody has yet managed to provide a generally accepted definition. Therefore, any attempt at approaching THE AMERICAN DREAM must resort to generalizations and simplifications.
Historically speaking, the ever-changing mixture of hopes and beliefs, values and convictions for which, as late as 1931, James T. Adams coined the term THE AMERICAN DREAM gradually evolved out of the interplay between the manifold cultural ideas which Europeans projected upon the New World and the conditions of life which they encountered there. These projections resulted in different images of America which developed consecutively and intermixed in various ways. The three major image clusters are: