The Disillusionment of American Dream in Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night

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The disillusionment of American dream in the Great Gatsby and Tender is the night

Chapter I Introduction

F. Scott Fitzgerald is the spokesman of the Jazz Age and is also one of the greatest novelists in the 20th century. His novels mainly deal with the theme of the disillusionment of the American dream of the self-made young men in the 20th century. In this thesis, Fitzgerald’s two most important novels The Great Gatsby(2003) and Tender is the Night(2005) are analyzed. Both these two novels tell us the story of the pursuit and failure of the American dream of the young men in the twenties. Jay Gatsby is the central character of The Great Gatsby and Dick Diver is the counterpart of Tender Is the Night and both these two men fall in love with the beautiful and wealthy girls of the upper class and they want to get these girls to enter into the upper class by their efforts. Although they devote their whole life to win the wealth and position, both of them fail totally at last. Why do they fail? In the thesis the reasons for their failure would be discussed. Their great dream is swallowed up by the hypocrisy and meanness of the upper class, which is the superficial reason for their failure. And the deep reason is that the age of the success of the American dream has past, and the people in the twenties didn’t believe in the values of traditional morality any longer and they had their philosophy of life—that was to ‘seize every day’ and ‘enjoy every moment’, so no matter how many efforts they devoted, they were doomed to fail at last. Fitzgerald lived in his great moments and was aware of the transformations of traditional morality under the splendor and prosperity of the Jazz Age, and as a serious writer, he tried to reveal his true understanding through his novels, so the American dream of his central characters was doomed to failure in the end. In the novel The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald has composed for Gatsby a peculiar tragedy of the American dream. Sponsored as a boy by a type of 19th-century pioneer, appropriately named Dan Cody, Gatsby has worked his way up to becoming a kind of 20th-century version of his benefactor (his great wealth is probably the wages of bootlegging). He directs his whole life toward winning back his first love Daisy Fay, a rich and beautiful girl who becomes the symbol of the wealth and position and the incarnation of its mysterious power. Fitzgerald has made the imperfect Gatsby the carrier of that pristine dream of excellence and perfectibility. Gatsby’s dream is flawed in its corrupt modes and its

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inadequate embodiment, and his good wish is swallowed up by the hypocrisy, selfishness and meanness of the upper class. Tom Buchanan’s part goes to establish that “the very rich are different from you and me”—as Fitzgerald had said in an earlier story.1 Nick Carraway, the witness and commentator of the American dream, plays a special role in the novel. His personality in itself provides an essential comment on all the other characters. Nick stands for the older values that prevailed in the Middle West before the First World War and he is so certain of his own values that he hesitates to criticize others. Nick, having learned just how much brutal stupidity and carelessness exists beneath the charm and even the pathos of Tom and Daisy, goes back to the West. “The Great Gatsby becomes a kind of tragic pastoral, with the East exemplifying urban sophistication and culture and corruption, and the Middle West, ‘the bored, sprawling, swollen towns beyond the Ohio,’ the simple virtues.”2 Dick Diver, the central character of Tender Is the Night, is the son of a Protestant minister and the great-grandson of the governor of North Carolina. From his father, Dick learned his idealism—a code of morality and a set of manners Fitzgerald always connected with the pre-Civil War South: “nothing could be superior to ‘good instincts’, honor, courtesy, and courage.”(Night, p237) These were the...
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