Materialism Turns the American Dream into the American Nightmare

Many authors in the early part of the twentieth century dealt with the frustrated hopes created by the American Dream of prosperity for anyone willing to work hard enough to get it.  John Steinbeck, most notably in The Grapes of Wrath, felt and generated sympathy for those who could never quite fulfill the desires created by the drive for wealth and social standing.  Steinbeck’s last finished novel, The Winter of Our Discontent, illustrates how the pursuit of that dream could actually lead an honorable man to turn from a simple life of integrity to one where he was willing to do just about anything to get what his wife, children, and the larger society told him he ought to want and have.  The result is a powerful demonstration of Paul’s maxim that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (I Timothy 6:10).  In our materialistic society where many people think that they deserve all the material benefits that a culture driven by computerized gadgets has to offer, this novel is a significant cautionary tale, though Steinbeck lacks the Christian’s answers to the destructive power of materialism.