Gloria Naylor’s novel Linden Hills describes a community that is inhabited by wealthy African Americans. The story shows how some of the characters in the novel live in a wealthy lifestyle that has a detrimental effect on their personality. These accompanying lifestyles make some of these characters abusive, cruel, shallow, and selfish. Through their personality, the writer has brought out several themes in the novel, one of which is the American dream.
From the novel, the American dream is depicted as a kind of lifestyle that wrongfully adopts the type of lifestyle that the white Americans were living. The black Americans struggle to achieve the white American’s lifestyle, the American dream, so that they can exercise the same level of oppression that the whites do to “other” black Americans. For the blacks to achieve the American dream, they had to sacrifice their souls and culture. The writer has shown how the middle-class African Americans, who have already sacrificed their racial identity, undergo a series of vignettes purposely for a successful career and attainment of property. The White Americans exercised inhuman and entitled behaviors that made the blacks suffer. The author uses the main character’s beating his wife to showcase the level of brutality a black man is willing to exercise only to achieve “the American dream.”
It is clear that for a black American to achieve the American dream kind of lifestyle, he or she should be willing to sacrifice some of their “blackness.” Additionally, they had to sacrifice their individuality and culture to realize the dream (Engles 671). Some of them fully embrace the American dream to the extent of changing their given names. On a closer analysis, we realize that the aspiration of achieving the American dream is misguided. Instead of one staying true to their black culture, they force themselves personify the whites to achieve the American dream.
A close analysis of the book’s subtle details fully supports the theme of the American dream. For example, the main character’s address is 999 Tupelo Drive. On inversing the number, we get 666 in a neighborhood where “up means down.” This is important as it is referencing Linden Hills’ “topsy-turvy” kind of social order. On itself, Tupelo among the site where the Civil War took place. The war was fought to stop slaver, a symbolic approach that the writer used to show the battleground to oppose racial oppression. The role of Dante’s Inferno that is used as a source of narrative structure is clear. The writer uses Linden Hill’s topography to show its resemblance to Dante’s hell Luther Nedeed, the evil angel at the very bottom (Naylor). The writer has used this narrative line of Lester and Willie’s odyssey to juxtapose their adventure with Willa Nedeed narrative. The reader can interpret that as the writer passes through Linden Hills, he realizes several failures in morality he made to attain the American dream when he meets the lost souls.
Gloria Naylor’s novel Linden Hills explores hierarchy and the issue of class that comes with it. The novel also details racism bringing about racial identity, misogyny, and hints on moral and psychological growth. The writer has presented several themes one of which is the American dream. The writer has used the term “the American dream” to refer to the kind of lifestyle that is embodied by the whites. Through various characters, the main character included, the writer has shown an array of sacrifices that Black Americans have to make to achieve the American dream.