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Death of the American - Great Gatsby and Death of a Salesman

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Karen Haight 5.14.02 Hon. English 11 Block 7 Death of the American Dream "Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore/Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me/ I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" Inscribed in the base of the Statue of Liberty, this poem by Emma Lazarus defines the glorified, insatiable drive for wealth that is the American Dream. This dream, based in the belief that every person possesses the capacity to work hard and subsequently achieve fiscal success, has been a part of the American experience since its beginning. From the time of the discovery of the New World, millions of individuals have flocked to the United States in the hopes of capitalizing on the opportunities that accompany the freedom available to American citizens. Jay Gatsby and Willy Loman are two such individuals; people whose lives revolve around the belief that accumulating friends and material possessions will bring them happiness. The nobility and viability of the modern version of this quest, historically lauded as an American ideal, is examined in both Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and in Miller's "Death of a Salesman." Through the characters of Jay Gatsby and Willy Loman, the authors portray the American Dream as an unattainable, misguided quest for monetary success that never brings satisfaction or fulfillment to its pursuers. ...read more.


He states over and over again that he is "well-liked" and an invaluable member of his firm, when that is, in fact, a lie. Without a strong work ethic, being popular alone won't enable Willy to become wealthy. Pathetically, Willy isn't even well-liked, a characteristic he glorifies and also professes himself to be. He constantly tries to build up his reputation as a renowned salesman. "I'm telling you, I was selling thousands and thousands, but I had to come home...Three of the stores were half closed for inventory in Boston. Otherwise I woulda broke records" (22). A few lines later, Miller reveals that Willy has hardly enough money to pay off his bills. This denial of his relative failures also prevents Willy from accepting a job from Charley. Instead of realizing that he will never become a rich and powerful man, Willy's denial ultimately turns into delusion. When Willy is offered a position, he responds "I've got a job." Charley responds, "Without pay? What kind of job is a job without pay?" (74). Willy's pride blinds his ability to see himself for what he truly is: a mediocre salesman who has just been fired. Willy sees himself only as a failure and eventually kills himself because of his inadequate feelings. ...read more.


In Gatsby's case, he doesn't realize that money can't buy love, whereas Willy doesn't understand that camaraderie can't secure capital. In the end, both die believing in the viability of their dreams, even though both authors make it very clear that neither the dream nor the quest are well-founded. Arthur Miller and F. Scott Fitzgerald use the characters of Willy Loman and Jay Gatsby to expose the motivations and ultimate goals of the American Dream as being unachievable and utterly erroneous. Both characters are tied to their dreams by the unshakable ties of denial, the past, and the means by which they choose to pursue their objectives. Willy Loman desperately clings to the notion that hard work is not as important as being "well-liked." Unfortunately, Willy's priorities contradict the more effective means of attaining success, and thus he is prevented from becoming the man he would like to be only because of his misguided beliefs. Jay Gatsby is also misled by his principles. He thinks that by acquiring the 'wealth' aspect of the American Dream, that the relationship with Daisy will follow. He fails to see that she is a shallow person and that money does not buy love, and he dies, like Willy, in disappointment. Both novels expose the fact that the American Dream is often a misguided pursuit, skewed by inaccurate beliefs and exorbitant expectations. HOW SHOULD I END THIS??? ...read more.

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