Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type

Thesis (Master's)

Department or Program

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

First Advisor

Klaus J. Milich

Second Advisor

Donald E. Pease

Third Advisor

Eric L. Ramsey


This thesis ventures into the intricate realm of foundation myths and their impact on shaping national identities, with an emphasis on the American Dream as a central, master myth within the American narrative framework. Foundation myths serve as the bedrock of a nation's identity, crystallizing its values, aspirations, and collective memory. The American Dream transcends its role as a mere aspirational ideal to act as a powerful orchestrator of a myriad of sub-myths that collectively forge the American ethos.

By engaging with theoretical perspectives on myth's role in national identity formation and the crafting of a "usable past," this thesis illuminates how the American Dream has dynamically evolved, reflecting, and responding to shifts in the societal, political, and cultural landscape. Historical narratives underscore the dynamic interplay between the American Dream and its constituent sub-myths. This interrelationship enhances the master myth’s capacity to simultaneously encapsulate and energize these narratives, thereby enriching the American identity.

The analysis extends to critically evaluating the American Dream’s societal impact, underlining its dual nature as both an inspirational force and a source of contention. This master myth, while embodying the nation’s highest ideals, also mirrors its profound contradictions. The interplay and adaptations of sub-myths within the American Dream framework reveal the intricate processes of national myth-making, where historical events and ideals are continuously reinterpreted to resonate with contemporary values and aspirations.

This thesis reconceptualizes the American Dream as a master myth that not only shapes but is also shaped by a constellation of sub-myths, each contributing to the complex tapestry of American identity. This approach offers profound insights into the role of myths in fostering national unity, enhancing social cohesion, and navigating the complexities of societal evolution. By exploring the American Dream through this lens, we gain a deeper understanding of the multifaceted power of myths in articulating a nation’s identity and steering its trajectory on the global stage.