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What has principally interested you in your study of 'The Great Gatsby' so far?

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Introduction

What has principally interested you in your study of 'The Great Gatsby' so far? I find Fitzgerald's interpretation and examining of the American dream and ideal in The Great Gatsby very intriguing. The novel is set in 1920s America - a time when the country's industry was booming as the post-war trade took-off. As Tanner said, 'The American Dream- whatever one takes that phrase to mean - is not an index of aspiration but a function of deprivation', and Fitzgerald certainly explores the capabilities of his characters to fulfil this 'dream'. As the hero of the novel, Gatsby is the focus and he is presented as an attractive character, his exuberant wealth is attractive even to Nick, who I feel is often quite sceptical about his peers, 'there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life' - it is this attractiveness about Gatsby and his wealth, that perhaps those who attend his parties would consider his living out this American dream. Materialism is extremely evident in the novel, Nick describes it as an era when it was 'quick to get rich' and Gatsby earns a certain popularity and status due to his immense wealth and lavish lifestyle. ...read more.

Middle

It is this American dream, that is Gatsby's dream of a better world, which has caused him to move into a world where the line between illusion and reality is very blurred. His life is superficial and he has begun to create the dream for himself, Nick describes him signing a formal invitation in 'a majestic hand', portraying his false self-presentation. Jay Gatsby. We discover, is merely an invention, his real name being James Gatz, this conveys his attempt to reinvent himself in order to attract Daisy and in order to make his own world. His entire behaviour is an act, 'Gatsby began leaving his elegant sentences unfinished and slapping himself indecisively on the knee of his caramel-colored suit'. Anyone 'prominent' or 'well-to-do' can see that Gatsby's wealth and personality is a fa´┐Żade. Those who attend his party know so little about him that they resort to inventing fantastical stories, ' One time he killed a man who had found out that he was the nephew to Von Hindenburg and second cousin to the devil'. And it is this false information about Gatsby which circulates around the guests at his parties. Fitzgerald uses Gatsby's character to portray how tragic this American dream can become; despite a party full of guests, Gatsby has no true friends, (none of those at his party attend his funeral at the end of the novel) ...read more.

Conclusion

Fitzgerald is thus portraying the shallowness of the American society, and that money brings power. Myrtle wants to share in this consumer power, she wants to assert authority. When her nose is broken by Tom, (showing his true violent and aggressive nature) Myrtle seems most concerned about her furniture and if it will be damaged by blood-stains. The image of the dog, wandering, 'faintly' around their flat portrays the materialism and the moral blindness that is an image throughout the novel, as a failing of the American ideal. Myrtle wants to be part of this, to enjoy the power and status of a rich lifestyle. Fitzgerald enables us to feel great pity for Myrtle as she has failed to see the virtues in having power, but instead longs for wealth and control. The mansions of East and west Egg, and the contrasting valley of ashes are both worlds of success and failure in American capitalist society. This society in which wealth creates glamour, which in turn masks an underlying moral inadequacy, shown at all levels of status, from Myrtle's enjoying, 'The Town Tattle' - a gossip magazine, to Gatsby who is summed up by Kathleen Parkinson as having an, 'essential insubstantiality in life which becomes extremely evident'. ...read more.

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