I Am Not Proof of the American Dream

This study guide will help you analyze Tara Westover’s essay “I Am Not Proof of the American Dream”, which was used for a written exam in English B on STX from the 9th of December 2022. In addition to help for your analysis, you can find a summary of the text and ideas for discussing it. 

Presentation of the text

Title: “I Am Not Proof of the American Dream” (2022)

Sender: Tara Westover

Genre: Essay

Tara Westover (b. 1986) is an American memoirist and essayist. She did not receive a formal education until the age of 17, when she began studying for the ACT exam and was admitted to Brigham Young University. Her memoir, Educated, details her journey from growing up in a strict and abusive household to pursuing higher education and breaking away from her family's beliefs. Her essay “I Am Not Proof of the American Dream” discusses the lack of access to higher education for poor people.


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One way Westover appeals to pathos in her essay is by referring to her personal experience. For example, she describes the many compromises that come with poverty, such as having to take extra shifts and side hustles just to make ends meet. She recounts her experience of needing a root canal but not having the money to pay for it until she received a Pell Grant, which allowed her to continue her education and improve her life. This story prompts feelings of both frustration and hope for readers who have faced financial struggles. Moreover, it allows readers to empathize with Westover’s situation and feel sorry for her even if they have not experienced something similar themselves.

Westover also appeals to pathos by using strong language when she highlights the challenges faced by children from poorer backgrounds in accessing higher education, painting a bleak picture of the current situation. She uses language with negative connotations to convey the desperation and hopelessness that many poor students might feel. For example, she notes that poor kids today face a “no-win scenario” (l. 92) and that the American dream has become a “taunt” (l. 97). By doing so, she encourages readers to feel compassion for these students, and she also evokes outrage in her readers, motivating them to take action to address the issues she raises.

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I Am Not Proof of the American Dream

  • 04-12-2023
    Givet af 2.g'er på STX