"Gatsby is a Victim of the American Dream." Discuss Scott Fitzgerald's Portrayal of Gatsby in the light of this Statement.

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A history of American literature – Richard gray

Lois Tyson- critical theory today

“Gatsby is a Victim of the American Dream.” Discuss Scott Fitzgerald’s

Portrayal of Gatsby in the light of this Statement.

Victim (n)

  1. One who is harmed or killed by another: a victim of a mugging. 
  2. A living creature slain and offered as a sacrifice during a religious rite.
  3. One who is harmed by or made to suffer from an act, circumstance, agency, or condition: victims of war. 
  4. A person who suffers injury, loss, or death as a result of a voluntary undertaking: You are a victim of your own scheming. 
  5. A person who is tricked, swindled, or taken advantage of: the victim of a cruel hoax 


        The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald illustrates many themes, however the most significant one relates to the American Dream and the corruption of this. Throughout this novel we see how the dream has been corrupted by the greedy pursuit of wealth. The American dream is great motivation for accomplishing goals and producing achievements, however when tainted with wealth, the dream becomes worthless and hollow. In the Great Gatsby we see Jay Gatsby’s attempt at trying to live the life of the American dream, we see his victimization, and his battle. Yet the American Dream involves more than the social and economical standings of an individual, the dream involves a large spiritual and physical strength from a man. It is these desires we see that help us to understand Gatsby and realize his downfall.

Throughout the novel we are made aware of the flaws in the American dream through the values and attitudes of the western society. Although the dream establishes progress, prosperity and democratic principles, there are still rife class conflicts, corruption and exploitation. Through these ideas we can see just how superficial the wealthy Western characters of The Great Gatsby really are.

The first idea of the American dream in The Great Gatsby is pure and involves motivation and ambition. “He stretched out his arm towards the dark water…and distinguished nothing except a single green light.” Gatsby begins by striving for his goals and trying to accomplish them. Nick describes him, in the beginning, as much more innocent than we learn of him to be. In the last chapter of the book, we see just how innocent and ambitious Gatsby once was, before corruption takes over and he becomes a victim of the dream rather than an example. “No wasting time at Shafter’s, no more smoking or chewing, bath every other day, read one improving book or magazine per week, save $3.00 per week, be better to parents.” This idea is reinforced by the following conversation between Gatsby’s father and Nick Carraway. “It just shows you.” “Jimmy was bound to get ahead.” This understanding shows the reader that at this time, possibilities were endless, and anything was achievable through hard work and determination.

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        On Nick’s last visit to Gatsby’s house, Nick realises that Gatsby’s belief in life and love resembles the hope and faith of the early Dutch Sailors, arriving in America in search of freedom. “I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes – a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams.” For Gatsby, it seems his dream is very easily realised, to a certain extent, by virtue of ...

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