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A criticism of the american dream in the great gatsby by j scott fitzgerald

Without a doubt, it is a fantastic representation of an age in American history when everything was possible, or at least people thought it was. The underlying cause for everything that happens in the novel is an idea, an idea towards which everyone strives and dreams of. This idea is none other than the omnipresent notion of the American Dream. You have to be loyal to a dream country rather than to the one to which you wake up every morning. I believe that he described the actual nature of the concept of the American Dream perfectly.

The actual nature of this dream and the manner in which people try to achieve it, as well as the moral implications their actions bring, are some of the main themes explored in The Great Gatsby.

But what exactly is this famous American Dream? Some might say that it is a quest for wealth, prosperity and generally a high position in society, while others might say that it is nothing else but the act of settling down, having a family, being able to provide for them, and basically having a good life.

What is true is that all of these notions can be ascribed to the fundamental idea of the American Dream. Through the passing of time, the original quest for settlement and freedom has evolved into a continuing struggle to achieve a big house, a nice car, and a life of ease.

This materialistic aspect of the American dream is the one presented in The Great Gatsby. In the novel, there is a strong division between the rich and the poor. This division is clearly and somewhat witfully summed up in Mr. On one side there is West Egg, and on the other there is East Egg.

  • Taking place during a period of exaggerated domestic euphoria, Black Friday and the Great Depression looming just over the horizon, The Great Gatsby illuminates the fragility and, on occasion, superficiality of the dream to which so many, embodied in the person of Gatsby himself, aspired;
  • A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about;;;
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  • Those who manage to resist the temptations of money and power are few and far between;
  • The following sample focuses on all of these subjects and should give you plenty of inspiring ideas to work with.

This division can be seen not merely as a division between the haves and the have-nots, since some people in West Egg are also rich. Now, America itself is corrupted, so the characters in The Great Gatsby travel from west to east - in search of wealth and sophistication - leaving the moral values and stability of the west behind. It is this eastern part which is called a "valley of ashes" by Fitzgerald, a place where morals are left out and only superficial, material-driven people can live in peace.

Fitzgerald uses this change in direction as a symbol for the deterioration of American ideals and the American Dream, helping to prove that our quest for wealth and sophistication is corrupting our culture, and causing us to live in a wasteland of morals - an ash heap of civilization.

The famous image of the valley of ashes is not only a symbol for the corrupt society of East Egg, it also symbolizes the wasteland of humanity in a godless age. Furthermore, the West is usually associated with traditional values like raising a family and providing for them, and in a sense that is still the American Dream for many people who strive to nothing more than a secure and a fairly good life.

However, the East, especially in the 1920s, represents the corruption of the original notion of the American Dream. Everything concerning the lives of the people living in East Egg is connected with money and material possessions, the purpose of which is to ensure the easiness of their lives.

In The Great Gatsby this obsession with material possessions becomes absurd.

The Great Gatsby Essay Example: Symbolism and American Dream

The fact that Gatsby owns such a gadget and actually makes his butler press a button two hundred times for simple orange juice shows how much have his morals and vision of good life become distorted. Once this goal is achieved, preserving it becomes the only important thing in life. The only way to gain reputation and wealth, especially if you have a poor social background, is to reinvent oneself. Perhaps the most prominent example in the novel of how a person reinvents oneself in order to achieve a certain goal is the life of Jay Gatsby, who is actually James Gatz.

Coming from a modest family in North Dakota, as a seventeen year old boy James Gatz drifts from one place to another, working his way to a better life. In that period, even though he acquired some money, he is rejected by Daisy Fay, whose background is far more distinguished than his. Even though she does feel some sort of affection towards him, the fact that he had to go to war and his poor background represented a serious financial and social obstacle.

After that, Gatsby had even more reason to become a completely different person. Because of his obsession with Daisy, Gatsby deludes himself into thinking that he can buy love with money.

  • The characters are Midwesterners who have come East in pursuit of this new dream of money, fame, success, glamour, and excitement;
  • For example, you can analyze the notion of the American dream through symbolism in The Great Gatsby essay, or through carelessness in The Great Gatsby essay, or even through wealth in The Great Gatsby essay;
  • The famous image of the valley of ashes is not only a symbol for the corrupt society of East Egg, it also symbolizes the wasteland of humanity in a godless age.

Regardless of his riches, he is not a happy man because the love of his life is married with another man, and she seems to ignore him despite all of his 4 achievements. The reason why he throws his lavish and flamboyant parties is not to make friends or socialize, it is to attract Daisy.

Even though his house is full of people we learn that he is in fact lonely even when among the very people who visit his parties. By participating in such extravagant parties they see themselves as members of the elite to which they wish to belong, and they deceive themselves into thinking that they could improve their social status if they meet the right people.

  1. Tom and Daisy must have a huge house, a stable of polo ponies, and friends in Europe.
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Anyone who has money is immediately seen as welcome. The mere fact that they thought Nick had money was enough for them to accept him as their own. Through this, Fitzgerald demonstrates how empty and rotten have become the lives of people who devote themselves to nothing more than accumulating money and social standing. The fact is that to him the proximity of wealthy people is not comforting at all, in fact it makes him even more anxious. Nick represents the opposite path that Gatsby could have taken from the Midwest.

Much more than Gatsby, who is ultimately recognised as a good person by Nick, the baseness of the American Dream in the novel is represented by Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom. Even as a young girl, Daisy was heavily influenced by false splendour of a life in rich society.

The only thing that is different about her is that she has become even more absorbed in her own world filled with money, parties, fast cars and new dresses. Daisy is the symbol of all that Gatsby strives for; her voice is full of money, as Gatsby describes it.

From then on he does everything he can to achieve her. Because Gatsby still retains some aspects of morality and goodness, and Daisy seems to be the epitome of both material success and corruption that wealth can bring, they cannot have a future together.

She can only stay with her unfaithful husband with whom she shares the same vision of an affluent and corrupt life. Why of course you can! In the penultimate chapter of the book, Nick ponders on whether Gatsby actually realised the futility of his actions, as well as the unachievability of his dream, and says: He thinks his wealth can erase the last five years of his and Daisy's life and reunite them at the 6 point at which he left her before he went away to war.

Works Cited

Indeed, in his novel Fitzgerald gave a striking representation of the American society in the 1920s — the era of infinite possibilities. In a way, what was once a dream became a nightmare. This is in fact a very accurate description of the people of that age.

In The Great Gatsby everyone is trying so hard to keep up with the Joneses that even their original goals have slipped from their sight, and their struggle for wealth and a higher social position became a purpose in itself.

The corruption is not only limited to those who already have money, it also spreads to all those who come in contact with this world of opportunities and eventually lose themselves. Those who manage to resist the temptations of money and power are few and far between.

The American Dream in The Great Gatsby is mostly presented as a decayed and corrupt shadow of what it used to stand for in the past. However, we might ask ourselves whether Fitzgerald is portraying the American Dream as corrupt and deceitful in itself, or is it that the people of that time are the ones who corrupted and twisted the dream?

Chelsea House Publishers, 1985. Scott Fitzgerald and the American Dream. The Great Gatsby, New York [etc. The american tradition in literature, Revised Impresum: Retrieved April 4, 2011, from http: Retrieved April 3, 2011, from https: Rorty, Richard, Achieving Our Country: Retrieved April 3, 2011, from http: SparkNote on The Great Gatsby.