The Corruption of the American Dream in the Great Gatsby

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Jennifer N.
Professor T.
English 101
10 November 2012
The Corruption of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby
In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald illustrates how the desire for wealth and materialism compels the corruption and decay of the American Dream. Each individual has a different interpretation of what the American Dream entails; however, it is usually based on ideas of self-sufficiency, freedom, and a desire for something greater. The old dreams of earning money and starting a family gradually turned into a materialistic vision of having a big house, a nice car, and a relaxing life. Many people believe that expensive material items are an indicator of high success. Jay Gatsby, a character in the novel, is a self-made man who earns his money by illegal means. He surrounds himself with luxurious possessions in an attempt to buy the affection of Daisy Buchanan. According to Michael Sandel, you can’t buy friends. He says that “Somehow, the money that buys the friendship dissolves it, or turns it into something else” (Sandel 94). The “something else” however, is what Gatsby ends up creating. He creates a corrupt relationship with Daisy that is based on her greed and affinity for materialistic goods. The dreams held by the characters of The Great Gatsby are easily corrupted by their quests to obtain money, high social status, and expensive materialistic goods.

The American Dream is a one concept of the good life. Sandel believes that in the good life, people from every different social class interact and cross paths, coming together for a “common good” (203). This is not necessarily the case in Fitzgerald’s novel. The portrayal of East Egg, West Egg, and the valley of ashes emphasize the difference between classes. East Eggers are at the top of the social ladder, while the inhabitants of West Egg cannot seem to reach them. The working-class lives in the depressing area dubbed the “valley of ashes”. Nobody works together, and nobody is interested in a...
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