AP English 11
December 18, 2011
The Unattainable American Dream
The Great Gatsby, a novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a story of misguided love between a man and a woman. Fitzgerald takes his reader through the turbulence and trials of Jay Gatsby’s life and of his pining for the girl he met five years prior. The main theme of the novel, however, is not solely about the love shared between Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby. The main purpose is to show the decline and decay of the American Dream in the 1920’s. The American Dream is the goal or idea which suggests that all people can succeed through hard work, and that all have the potential to live happy, successful lives. While on the surface, Gatsby looks like he lives a happy, successful life, he truly doesn’t. He spends his life working hard to make money to impress the beautiful and practically unattainable, Daisy Buchanan, the love of his life. He spends his money to throw ostentatious parties in his lavish house and to buy unnecessary materialistic goods. The Great Gatsby is Fitzgerald’s way of criticizing the decade and its lack of depth. Fitzgerald portrays the 1920s as an era of destroyed social and moral values, which is evidenced in its greed, and pursuit of empty pleasure. Greed and pressure take their form in many different ways in The Great Gatsby. The parties that Gatsby throws every Saturday night result ultimately in the corruption of the American dream, as the desire for money and pleasure surpasses more noble goals. The soiree’s are superfluous and extravagant with “…tables garnished with glistening hors d’oeuvres, spiced baked hams crowded against salads. . . pastry pigs and turkeys…a whole pit [orchestra] full of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos and low and high drums…” (44). People who have never even met nor spoken to Gatsby come to his lavish house to have a good time (45). Nick Carraway, Gatsby’s new neighbor and narrator of the story, states “… I believe I was actually one of the few guests who were invited” (45).This proves that the wealthy, upper-class felt as if they had a right to be at the party and that their money made them great by default. Not only does this prove the downfall of the American Dream, but also the hollowness of the upper-class. They gossip rigorously and drink excessively (48). In short, Gatsby throws these parties in hopes that maybe Daisy will stop by. He hopes that she will come back into his life one day and fill the void. He is not truly happy in this large, over-done house where he throws crazy parties that bring people from all over the country. On the surface it may looks that Gatsby has it all, the American Dream in the palm of his hand, but underneath, his life is stuck in time waiting on a beautiful girl.
Another example of Fitzgerald’s criticism of the 1920’s is the material excess Gatsby possesses. Gatsby’s house is grand with high ceilings and filled with “music rooms and Restoration salons…’the Merton College Library’…bedrooms swathed in rose and lavender silk…dressing rooms and poolrooms, and bathrooms with sunken baths” (96). Gatsby’s house has everything anyone could ever hope for. His closet is stuffed with a multitude of garments, “shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray...shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple green and lavender and fait orange with monograms of Indian Blue” (97-98). In addition to his home and it’s amenities, he has a “goreous” Rolls Royce that is a "rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hat-boxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of wind-shields that mirrored a dozen suns sitting down behind many layers of glass in a sort of green leather conservatory..." It seems as if Gatsby...