The Great Gatsby and the American Dream

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In the United States' Declaration of Independence, our founding fathers "…held certain truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." This sentiment can be considered the foundation of the American Dream, the dream that everyone has the ability to become what he or she desires to be. While many people work to attain their American dream, others believe that the dream is seemingly impossible to reach, like F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby examines the "Jazz-Age" generation's search for the elusive American Dream of wealth and happiness and scrutinizes the consequences of that generation's adherence to false values.

In the years following World War one, many American writers, known as the "Lost Generation," were disillusioned with American society and they rejected the values of American materialism. "The generation was lost in the sense that they believed its inherited values could no longer operate in the postwar world and because of its spiritual alienation from a country that seemed to be embracing a hedonistic lifestyle as the path to fulfillment of the American Dream" (DISCovering Authors). Many writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote literature criticizing society and its "pursuit" of the American Dream. Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby presents the belief that the American Dream can be attained only by compromising the ideals that make it worth pursuing (Lathbury 21).

During the 1920's, America experienced a prosperity it had never before encountered (American Decades 88). The economy was booming, and with the prosperity, more people in the middle class were moving up on the social ladder. They began to move away from the traditional view of the American Dream (attainment through thrift and hard work) and towards the notion that one should try and "get rich quick" (Harris 30). Many of the...
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