Rewriting the American Dream for the Trump Era and Beyond in Gary Shteyngart’s Lake Success (2018)
AbstractThis essay analyses Gary Shteyngart’s Lake Success (2018) as an inquiry into the formative narratives of the American identity—the American Dream and self-making—through the story of a hedge-fund manager, Barry, who abandons his wife and child with autism to travel across the US just as the country is about to elect Donald Trump as president. Building on the intertextual connection with The Great Gatsby (1925), this essay contextualizes the ongoing corruption of these narratives within the culture of unbridled individual advancement, arguing that Trump’s victory has further normalized opportunism and the dissociation between individual success and collective well-being. Although this hollowing out of the American Dream and self-making renders a rather bleak picture of contemporary US, the novel suggests the possibility of change, both for Barry and America, as it calls for the re-insertion of the other into the formative narratives of American identity, thus expanding their current limits.
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