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'The American Dream not only fails to fulfil its promise but also contributes to the decay of social values' (Tyson 1999). How far does The Great Gatsby demonstrate this view of the American Dream?

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Introduction

'The American Dream not only fails to fulfil its promise but also contributes to the decay of social values' (Tyson 1999). How far does The Great Gatsby demonstrate this view of the American Dream? The American Dream is often portrayed in literature as the pursuit of ultimate happiness with regard to life and employment. The stereotypical protagonist of an early-twentieth century American novel is self-reliant and a hard worker, seeking to make a successful living through motivation and perseverance. Jay Gatsby himself has pursued this dream and is a success story in terms of wealth, though the novel may be viewed as an exploration of the corrupted ideal that the American Dream became in the 1920's when people with newly acquired wealth sought to flaunt what they owned. It is largely the owned wealth in the novel that is presented as an ideal; social values and morality are shown as corrupt and indeed unimportant alongside material prosperity. ...read more.

Middle

Despite Gatsby's wealth being due to bootlegging, there is encouragement to question the morality of such a life without a need to earn a living: Daisy takes the wealth for granted, yet tells Nick that she wept upon learning that her child was a girl. In this way, society is presented as being lacking of social values, for material wealth has preceded the importance of human life. Moreover, the couple fail to report any involvement in Myrtle's death to the police, simply moving to a different home. Nick later refers to them as 'careless people', which in itself is best viewed as an understatement with respect to the fact that Daisy's driving caused a fatal accident. Tom's affair with Myrtle leads to the presentation of him being personally corrupted, in contrast with the corruption in terms of Gatsby's business. Despite being married and holding great wealth, he sustains their relationship without even being overly cautious to conceal it from Daisy, who in turn finds Tom's disloyalty of little concern. ...read more.

Conclusion

Conversely, the image of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg in the Valley of Ashes represents to the achieved ideal that is perceived by society. It is conveniently placed between West Egg and New York, making it unavoidable and the stare of the eyes is described as 'persistent'; 'Ashes' in itself has connotations of decay. It is implied that this image of commercialism has replaced any form of deity in society and is just a fa´┐Żade, thus allowing social corruption to flourish. Fitzgerald also presents the social pursuits of the characters in the novel as corrupted. A multitude of guests arrive at Gatsby's parties and are similar to celebrities, though concerned with business and politics. Names such as the humorous 'Rotgut Ferret' are used to illustrate that it is possible for a diversity of characters to follow a dream and be successful in the eyes of society - to this end it could be argued that the American Dream does fulfil its promise. However, it becomes clear that many of Gatsby's acquaintances, like himself, are criminals who have made money by bootlegging alcohol during this Prohibition Era. ...read more.

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This is a clearly structured and fluent essay which demonstrates textual knowledge and understanding. In places, ideas need to be developed more analytically and explained more clearly. However, this is a challenging title and there are clear attempts here to explore some complex issues.

Marked by teacher Roz Shipway 07/12/2012

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