“Was there an early form of the American Dream? I can’t say there was one American Dream. There were several dreams to begin with. There was El Dorado, the City of Gold that Cortez and Pizarro dreamed of finding. And then there was Ponce de Leon’s dream of the Fountain of Youth, where you could start life over again, and the New England Puritan dream of God’s Protestant utopian City on the Hill, the New Jerusalem.
The dream of the Fountain of Youth may yet prove to be the strongest of the three, since it carries within it the sense of the new, the dream that persists more strongly than the other two and is today perhaps the most vivid of the three. We can think of there being three braided strands, or perhaps three mutually reinforcing dreams: one is of a place where a sinner can become virtuous, free from the decadence of the secular cosmopolitanism of old Europe; another is of a place where a poor man can become wealthy; and a third is of a place where a person can be born again.”
—Russell Banks, Dreaming Up America