The Great Gatsby and the Corrupt American Dream

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On the surface, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a story of the thwarted love between a man and a woman. The main theme of the novel, however, encompasses a much larger, less romantic scope. Though all of its action takes place over a mere few months during the summer of 1922 and is set in a circumscribed geographical area in the vicinity of Long Island, New York, The Great Gatsby is a highly symbolic meditation on 1920s America as a whole, in particular the disintegration of the American dream in an era of unprecedented prosperity and material excess. Although everyone’s idea of the American Dream varies a little bit, for Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby the American Dream is all about finding a life less ordinary and reaching the top. "Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry."- page 89 Fitzgerald portrays the 1920s as an era of decayed social and moral values, evidenced in its overarching cynicism, greed, and empty pursuit of pleasure. The reckless jubilance that led to decadent parties and wild jazz music epitomized in The Great Gatsby by the opulent parties that Gatsby throws every Saturday night resulted ultimately in the corruption of the American dream, as the unrestrained desire for money and pleasure surpassed more noble goals. "I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby's house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited--they went there."- page 41 When World War I ended in 1918, the generation of young Americans who had fought the war became intensely disillusioned, as the brutal carnage that they had just faced made the Victorian social morality of early-twentieth-century America seem like stuffy, empty hypocrisy. The dizzying rise of the stock market in the aftermath of the war led to a sudden, sustained increase in the national wealth and a newfound materialism, as people began to spend and consume at unprecedented levels. A person from...
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