Gatsby's representation of the broken American Dream gives irony to the novel because he is the only one that actually works for his station. "Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished foreverHis count of enchanted objects had diminished by one" (98). If he couldn't reach The American Dream, who can? "he [Gatsby] must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dreamA new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about" (169). Gatsby was the only one who truly believed in the power of The American Dream. He honestly believed that his efforts and his dreams would pay off in the end.
Failure of the American Dream
Failure in The Great Gatsby
In Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, all the characters are, in one way or another, attempting to become happier with their lives. The characters in the novel are divided into two groups: the rich upper class and the poorer lower class(West egg and East egg) though the main characters only try to make their lives better, the they are all trying to achieve is eventually ruined by the harsh reality or life.
Tom and Daisy Buchanan, the rich couple, seem to have everything they could possibly want. Though their lives are full of anything you could imagine, they are unhappy and seek to change, Tom drifts on "forever seeking a little wistfully for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game"(pg. 10) and reads "deep books with long words in them"(pg. 17) just so he has something to talk about. Even though Tom is married to Daisy he has an affair with and has apartment with her in New York.. Daisy is an empty character, someone with hardly any convictions or desires. Even before her relationships with Tom or, Gatsby are seen, Daisy does nothing but sit around all day and wonder what to do with herself and her friend Jordan. She knows that Tom is having an affair, yet she doesn't leave him even when she hears about Gatsby loving her. Daisy lets Gatsby know that she too is in love with him but cant bring herself to tell Tom goodbye except when Gatsby forces her too. Even then, once Tom begs her to stay, even then Daisy forever leaves Gatsby for her old life of comfort. Daisy and Tom are perfect examples of wealth and prosperity, and the American Dream. Yet their lives are empty, and without purpose.
Though Myrtle Wilson makes an attempt to escape her own class and pursue happiness with the rich, she ends up gaining nothing and eventually dies. She is basically a victim of the group she wanted to join. Myrtle tries to become like Tom by having an affair with him and taking on his way of living, but in doing so she becomes unsatisfied with her life. Her constant clothing changes show that she is unhappy with her life, she changes personalities every time she changes her dress: "with the influence of the dress her whole personality had also undergone a change. The intense vitality... was converted into impressive hauteur"(pg. 35). "Myrtle raised her eyebrows in despair at the shiftlessness of the lower orders. 'These people!
You have to keep after them all the time.'"(pg. 36). . Myrtle trys to create a new life for herself but eventually falls victim to it while trying to be someone she wasn't.
For the past five years, Gatsby sees Daisy as the perfect woman, someone that Daisy could be, "no amount of fire or freshness can challenge what man will store up in his ghostly heart"(pg. 101). Gatsby is disappointed that the woman he loves is not really who he wants her to be be. Gatsby wants a better life and he thinks he can do it if he puts his mind to it, which is also a part of the American Dream. However, Gatsby's dream collapses when he fails to win Daisy and is not accepted by the upper class. All his money cannot help him when old man Wilson fires a gun at him. Gatsby sees himself as a failure when Daisy chooses Tom instead of him.The failure of Gatsby's hoped for life relates to the failure of the American Dream. Without his dream Gatsby has nothing, nothing to keep him going, no direction, and no purpose to live.
Throughout the novel, shows how dreams are destroyed, no matter what the dreams consist of, money, material status, or just simply to be happy. Fitzgerald also shows that the failure of the American Dream is unavoidable in a sense that nothing can be as perfect as one could imagine. Without hopes or dreams life would be empty, as shown by Tom and the Buchanans. The American Dream is something every person works for throughout his or her life. Although the American Dream is admirable, it is impossible to achieve eternal satisfaction. The American Dream is just that, a dream.
American Dream Lost - Gatsby as a Social Commentary on American Life
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, has been celebrated as one of the greatest, if not the greatest American novel. Yet this is ironic for the society which has so hailed the book is precisely that which is criticized throughout it. Politically, the was a foundation of ideals and hopes for any and every American individual. Specifically, one of the ideals was an American dream free of class distinction; that every person has the opportunity to be whomever they hope to be. In a sort of Cinderella-like fashion, it is in essence an ideal of social mobility and freedom. The social reality, however, is far more cruel. Because of the harsh truth of social America, by way of its pretentiousness and decadence, the American dream is lost. Through Nick’s honest and poignant observation, the parallel lives of and Jay Gatsby reflect The as a social commentary about the polluted American Dream.
Myrtle is that infamous model of how the political and social ideals of America conflict so that the American dream becomes a nightmare. Contrary to the naivete the American dream, there are indeed fine class distinctions. With them comes certain social boundaries. In a sense, it is almost as if there are unspoken sumptuary laws understood by low and high classed individuals alike. Myrtle Wilson is no exception.
Instead of abiding by them, Myrtle, who represents the low and ignorant class of America, tried to break the social barriers and thus pursues wealth by any means necessary. Using her sexuality and vulgar mien, she becomes false for abandoning and dismissing her own social foundation, and like Nick, we as readers are repulsed by her grotesque approach to entering the rich class. At one point, and quite humorously to the knowing onlooker, Myrtle complains about a service done for her that was so expensive that "when she gave [Myrtle] the bill you’d of thought she had [her] appendicitus out" (35). Obviously misusing her wording, it is comical only because she is trying so hard to fit into the snobbish upper class persona, and failing miserably.
Her rudeness becomes more apparent when she "rejected the compliment [about her dress] by raising her eyebrow in disdain" (35). She is so false in her manner that Nick observes that she "had changed her costume…and was now attired in an elaborate afternoon dress" (35). This articulate description of Myrtle captures her fraudulence. She was not being herself, but almost putting on an act to perform as an upper class lady. It is a detestable, ambitious tactic to chase social superiority. Another tactic is her affair with Tom Buchanan, who represents the rich upper class. This affair and connection with Tom represents the falseness and decay in class distinction. Out of context, Myrtle’s political aspirations are admirable: she is a woman who is practically able to change her social position.—an American ideal. Socially, she is an adulterous woman using her sexual ardor and coarse manner to force her way into something she does not belong to—an American reality. The American dream of social mobility has been twisted into disgusting ambition. The American dream has collapsed.
Jay Gatsby’s social weakness falls along the same lines as Myrtle’s. However, Gatsby’s warmth and dedication makes his an infinitely more significant struggle. He too desires Daisy Buchanan in all of her upper-class glory. At first, one cannot make a serious social distinction between Gatsby and Daisy. But those tacit social edicts will be harsh. Daisy is presented as wealthy and she also comes from a rich background. Gatsby is rich, but comes from quite a different upbringing and earned his money in an illegal way. As with Myrtle, this can be seen as a positive achievement, for Gatsby has climbed the social and economic ladder and succeeded. But because he had to change who he was, and become a bootlegger, he is thus tainted, and will never be truly accepted in the Buchanan social mold. Listening to the many lives and "pasts" of Jay Gatsby, at one point, Nick becomes utterly frustrated that Gatsby invents different backgrounds for the sake of his false pursuit. Nick’s intuitive gift for observation came the moment he met Gatsby. Gatsby’s "elaborate speech just missed being absurd. Some time before he introduced himself I’d got a strong impression that he was picking his words with care" (53). Although Gatsby is not blatant or crude like Myrtle, Nick immediately notices that he seems well-rehearsed. It is impressive, but unnatural. More importantly, Nick later on questions where Gatsby came from:
I would have accepted without question the information that
Gatsby sprang from the swamps of Louisiana or from the
lower East side of New York. That was comprehensible.
But young men didn’t…drift coolly out of nowhere and buy
a palace on Long Island Sound (54).
Once again, Nick realizes that behind Gatsby’s neat ruse was something false and out of place. Like Myrtle, Gatsby tries to fit himself into another social group, and so he too is false. Moreover, Daisy’s wealth is presented as pure and clean, while Gatsby’s achieved wealth is gaudy and tasteless. Perhaps what is most tragic is that Gatsby dies while waiting for Daisy, and never really understands his pathetic condition. We not only mourn the death of a good-hearted, naïve man, but the death of his metaphorical counterpart—the American dream.
Admittedly, this is a sad and often disheartening social commentary. But what makes The Great Gatsby so excellent, and the commentary that much more true, is that it is timeless. Over half a century has passed since Fitzgerald wrote this piece, and it applies to the present as much as it does to the past. Then, now, and always, the social foolishness of America has turned promising, good individuals into nasty, pitiful beings. But there is something that is so imperative never to forget. That beneath all the flash and materialism, there is something quietly breathing and still alive. Behind what has been lost, we still find honesty. We, like Nick, can see America’s tragic flaws in ourselves and in others. Perhaps this is not something to be proud of, but it may be a step towards something larger. By finding Nick’s touching quality in all of us, we can revive the American dream
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great is much like an onion. On the surface there is the hard outer layer, but to really understand it, one has to dig into the fresh insides. On the surface of The Fitzgerald portrays a romantic love between a man and a woman, but inside the real meaning is much deeper. Fitzgerald depicts the 1920’s as a time of decay social and moral values, evidence of this is the greed and the pursuit of pleasure. Jay Gatsby’s constant parties epitomized the corruption of the American Dream as the desire and worldly pleasures overshadowed the true values of the American Dream. After WWI ended in 1918, veterans found that life was not as rosy as it had been before. The war led to an economic boom as more and more people were buying materialistic items that they would have never bought. With this economic boom it became apparent that any person of any social status could . This created the social rift between the families that had just found new money and the old wealthy industrialists. 1919, the women’s suffrage movement, running strong, were quick to establish prohibition in the United states with their influence. This consequently led to an increase in crime and illegal smuggling of alcohol; Al Capone is the prime example of what came out of that era of prohibition.
Fitzgerald intricately places characters in these social trends. Meyer Wolfshiem, a man that is the epitome of the underground mafia. WWI vets Nick and Gatsby’s new found cynicism. Also, Jay Gatsby’s need to climb the “social ladder” shows the need of wealth of the individuals in this era. If one reads the passage in which Fitzgerald characterizes Gatsby’s house as an “amusement park” (41), it is also said that there are guests that attend without even meeting the host. This shows the need for “new money” people to socialize with others to climb this “social ladder”. Also the rift between “old money” and “new money” is quite evident with the geographical placement of the individual characters; East Egg, “old money” individuals, who have been wealthy for generations past, and West Egg, “new money” representing self-made individuals.
The original idea of the American Dream as described in chapter 9 is about moral values and the pursuit of happiness. It’s written in the American Constitution that every individual has the right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. This right it seems has taken a twisted turn in the early 1920’s. The pursuit of happiness soon turned into the pursuit of wealth and ultimately to greed. This led to social rifts among the different classes and eventually corrupted the true American Dream. Throughout it is shown how social rift came between the love of two individuals, Daisy and Gatsby. This led to the eventual corruption of Gatsby himself, the pursuit of wealth, greed, and illegal deeds. T.J Eckleburg, the greatest symbol in the novel, represents more then just an advertisement, but like the onion, inside he represents everything that is corrupt in the new American Dream. After renouncing his parents, James Gatsby was said to be the “son of God” (98), the only thing Gatsby believes in is money. Wilson in chapter 8, mistakes the advertisement as an advertisement for God, this in turn means that the advertisement portrays money.
On the last page of the novel Nick compares the “green breast of the new world” (180) to the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. The “green breast of the world” represents the dreams of the immigrants that came to the new world seeking religious freedom, opportunity, love, and democracy, along the way instilling universal family values. As they settled with these goals in mind, they strived and created what is America today. Fitzgerald describes the corruption as being the modernization of the beauties of what the settlers had seen before. Remember that accident which involved Daisy and Myrtle, Myrtle’s left breast had been torn off, this was regarded as Myrtle’s “greatest achievement”. This achievement was the realization of American society which has torn off the green breast of the new world and replaced it with a corrupted rendition of what the settlers brought along with them. Along with this, Fitzgerald adds in the Valley of Ashes, which is the opposite of the green breast; a valley in general is different in that the green breast of the new world represents a hill, opposite to this is a valley which is a concave piece of land. The green breast represents the true American Dream and the Valley of Ashes represents corruption, like that of Myrtle and her adultery or Wilson and his killing of Gatsby.
Fitzgerald uses an abundant amount symbols to fully satisfy the most rewarding symbol, the corruption of the American Dream. Settlers first came to America with one ambition, a better life. What came of this better life? The American Dream, a life in pursuit of opportunity, freedom, love, equality, family and wealth. These dreams soon diminished as materialistic values seemed to be above all else. These materialistic values consequently led the decay of the American Dream. The new American Dream described by Fitzgerald portrays a world where greed, the pursuit of money and pleasure are above all else. Fitzgerald portrays a world that has lost its way in the corruption of the American Dream.
Corruption of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald embodies may themes, however
the most salient one relates to the corruption of the American Dream. The
American Dream is that each person no matter who he or she is can become
successful in life by his or her own . The dream also embodies
the idea of a self-sufficient man, an entrepreneur making it successful for
himself. The is about what happened to the in
the 1920s, a time period when the dream had been corrupted by the
avaricious pursuit of wealth. The American dream is sublime motivation for
accomplishing ones goals and producing achievements, however when tainted
with wealth the dream becomes devoid and hollow.
When the American dream was pure, motivation and ambition were some
key aspects of the pure American dream. "He stretched out his arms toward
the dark water in a curious way...and distinguished nothing except a single
green light"(page.26). It shows how Gatsby was striving for the his goal
and trying to accomplish it. When the dream was pure, motivation and
self-discipline were present. This quote talks about Gatsby's daily agenda
and how in the earlier days he upheld the pure American Dream "No wasting
time at Shafters, No more smoking or chewing, Read one improving book or
magazine per week, Save $3.00 per week, Be better to parents" (page 181-
182). Nick says "I became aware of the old island here that flowered once
for Dutch sailors' eyes-a fresh green breast of the new world"(page 189).
This quote shows the pristine goals of where the possibilities were endless
and one could accomplish anything through hard work.
The American dream became corrupted, its main aims were wealth and
power. Gatsby became corrupted because his main goal was to have Daisy.
The only reason he want Daisy was that she symbolized wealth and took on
the characteristics of money. "Her voice is full of money"(page127).
Gatsby needed to have an enormous mansion so he could feel confident enough
to try to win Daisy. " That huge place over there? Do you like it? I love
it" (page95). The tainted dream was so empty that having accouterments of
wealth could even incite feelings of love. "He's the man who fixed the
World Series back in 1919" ( page 78). The dream became so focused on
money that any means of a obtaining it were condoned, even if it were
Result of American dream being corrupted is that the motivation and
ambition were gone and the dream is left with the pursuit of an empty goal.
This is displayed when Daisy says "Do you always watch for the longest day
of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day of the
year and miss it." This quote shows the lack of motivation and meaningless
to which the empty rich society has turned to. Another result of this
corrupted dream is that the dearth of the idea that each person no matter
who he or she is can become successful in life by his or her own hard work.
This ignorance is shone when Tom says "The idea is if we don't look out the
white race will be utterly submerged. It's all scientific stuff; it's
been proved" (page 17).
Ignorance and the ideal of looking out for oneself is prevalent. Where as
in the pure American Dream striving to accomplish ones' own personal goal
is ones main focus.
One should use the American Dream for motivation and hope that one
can achieve ones personal goal. The American Dream should not be centered
on money and other materialistic things but on a real goal.