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American Dream

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Essay title: American Dream

Tally's Corner and Ain't No Makin' It are two compelling works that follow the lives of poor, disadvantaged individuals whose dismal life stories support Macleod's belief like actors in a play:

There is a strong relationship between aspirations and occupational outcomes; if individuals do not even aspire to middle-class jobs, then they are unlikely to achieve them. In effect, such individuals disqualify themselves from attaining the American definition of success – the achievement of a prestigious, highly remunerative occupation – before embarking on the quest (2).

Liebow's Tally's Corner describes a shifting collection of anchorless adult Negro males who came together regularly at Tally's Corner, an unsightly urban section of Washington's inner city during the early 1960's. Severely handicapped by lack of education and skills, and inadequate income, these men considered the streetcorner a source of security and self-esteem, since failures were transformed into successes, and weakness turned into strengths. The men of Tally's Corner were in their 20's and 30's when Liebow conducted his research. As young and full adults, these men were perfect subjects to observe and interview in order to understand the complexities of and reasons for their adult lifestyles: unstable marriages, low-wage, low-responsibility jobs, heightened friendships, and a lack of preparation for the future. Liebow's comprehensive and poignantly personal observations of his subjects bring a certain logic to their unacceptable, uncivilized behaviors. In a world where society expected one to be a "loser" and left one very little room for self-improvement, the men of Tally's Corner could find some self-worth, a sense of belonging, and freedom only amongst themselves.

Ain't No Makin' It by Jay Macleod complements Liebow's work by focussing on the youths of Clarendon Heights, a low-income housing development in a northeastern city. However, whereas Liebow's subjects were adult Negro men, the most disadvantaged and resentful group in Macleod's study was composed of white teenagers.

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