The Broken American Dream of the 1920s
An accurate name for the 1920s is the roaring twenties. This was a decade full of social transformation and industrialization. Through this shift, a degradation in social moral occurred. A victim of this shift is the character J. Gatsby in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Gatsby is “corrupted by values and attitudes that he holds in common with a society that destroys him”(44). Through this mutual and obscured social moral, Gatsby seems to obtain a destructive view of his “American Dream”. Where the American Dream once “consisted of the belief that people of talent in this land of opportunity and plenty could reasonably aspire to material success if they adhered to a well-defined set of behaviors”(Trask). These behaviors were actions such as working hard, staying honest, and better educating ones self; much like the list that Gatsby made as a young boy. But with the boom of industrialization, came a trend of bootlegging and get rich quick schemes and unfortunately Gatsby became a victim of the era. As a matter of fact, Gatsby is not the only one who has suffered from this time of moral deterioration. Daisy Buchanan, Gatsby’s object of obsession, also is a victim of a society that allows her to not take responsibility for her actions. Daisy hides behind her public facade and her innocent carefree charm. Her husband Tom Buchanan has also manipulated the greedy, selfish social society that exists on East egg. Tom has no dreams or aspirations and “seeks excitement first in sport, then in infidelity, seeking identity in a book of racist political philosophy”(Wershoven). In a time of moral peril, each character is corrupted by a societal idea that taints their grasp of the “American Dream”.
During Gatsby’s adolescent years, he has a clear and healthy mindset about what he wanted to accomplish in his life. Gatsby was self-motivated to make something of his life. But once he meets Daisy, Daisy becomes the embodiment of his dreams and the object of his obsession. As a young boy, growing up in North Dakota, Gatsby was motivated to be successful. Gatsby’s father said “ Jimmy was bound to get ahead”. Even as a young adult, Gatsby refused to think of himself as an average person. Gatsby’s parents were “shiftless and unsuccessful” and Gatsby never “ really accepted them as his parents at all.” Instead Gatsby had a schedule of each day that would help him to attain his wealth. As Trask says, “ He early decided that he could contemplate future glory.” Early on Gatsby embodies the ideals of society before the 1920s; he is determined and eager to work hard to independently reach success. This is until he meets Daisy, the idea of Daisy is what sways Gatsby’s dreams off the right path. Gatsby met Daisy as a young man and hopelessly fell in love with her. However in the end, Daisy broke it off with Gatsby since he was not financially suitable for maintaining her lifestyle. It seems as though Gatsby never recovered from getting his heart broken by Daisy. As Nick says, “ [Gatsby] had a extraordinary gift of hope- a romantic readiness such I have never found in any other person and which is not likely I shall find ever again”(2). Nick also says “Gatsby turned out alright at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-wind elations of men”(2). Indeed, it was the idea of winning Daisy’s love that drove Gatsby to his success. It corrupted his earlier ideas of working hard and saving his money; now he had to make money fast and resorted to bootlegging. Gatsby becomes frantic at the idea of coming wealthy and instead of slowly climbing up the success latter, he desperately and quickly makes money in any way he can so he can win Daisy back as quickly as possible. Gatsby became consumed with the idea of winning Daisy’s affection and rekindling their past romance. This is apparent when...
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