The American Dream, and All Its Splendor (Great Gatsby)

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The 1920s were a decade of rebirth characterised by the founding of the "American Dream" -- the belief that anyone can, and should, achieve material success. The defining writer of the 1920s was F. Scott Fitzgerald whose most famous novel, The Great Gatsby, has become required reading for present-day high school students. We study Fitzgerald's novel for the same reason we study Shakespeare. The literature composed by both authors contains themes and morals that continue to be relevant to modern society. As a result, this novel could have easily been written in modern times. In his novel, Fitzgerald criticises the American Dream by describing its negative characteristics: class struggles between the rich and the poor, the carelessness of the rich, and the false relationship between money and happiness.

"The Great Gatsby ... describes the failure of the American dream, from the point of view that American political ideals conflict with the actual social conditions that exist. For whereas American democracy is based on the idea of equality among people, the truth is that social discrimination still exists and the divisions among the classes cannot be overcome" (Internet 1). It is impossible for all people to become rich, since wealth is based largely on social position, and classes prevent the poor from becoming successful. "One thing's sure and nothing's surer / The rich get richer and the poor get -- children" (Fitzgerald 101). Myrtle's attempt to break into the class which the Buchanans belong to is doomed from the start. She enters into an affair with Tom, takes on all the negative qualities of his social group, and not only becomes corrupt and immoral, but she scorns people from her own class. "I thought he knew something about breeding but he wasn't fit to lick my shoe" (Fitzgerald 39). The adulterous behaviour of Myrtle and Tom, as well as the carelessness of Daisy and Jordan, illustrates the corruptibility of the rich. Both Tom and Daisy are...
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