Gatsby: The False prophet of the American Dream
The American dream, or myth, is an ever recurring theme in American literature, dating back to some of the earliest colonial writings. Briefly defined it is the belief, that every man, whatever his origins, may pursue and attain his chosen goals, be they political, monetary, or social. It is the literary expression of the concept of America: the land of opportunity. F. Scott Fitzgerald has come to be associated with the concept of the American dream more so than any other writer of the country. In fact, the American dream has been for Fitzgerald what the theme of the separate peace has been for Earnest Hemingway – the focal point or building block for much, if not all, of his work. However, Fitzgerald’s unique expression of the American dream lacks the optimism, the sense of fulfilment, so evident in the expressions of his predecessors. Cast in the framework of the metaphor, the aforementioned exponents of the American dream were Old Testament prophets predicting the coming of the golden age, complete with a messiah who was to be epitome of the word “American.” Gatsby is Fitzgerald’s answer. To Fitzgerald the long prophesied American dream had its fulfillment in the “orgiastic” post World War I period was known as “The Roaring Twenties.” He was the self-appointed spokesman for the “Jazz Age”, the term he takes credit for coining, and he gave it its arch-high priest and prophet, Jay Gatsby, in his novel The Great Gatsby.
Gatsby is aptly suited for the role of arch-high priest because he is the persona and chief practitioner of the hedonism that marked this period. He is also its unwritting prophet, for his failure and destruction serve as a portent for the passing away of an era. The suggestion that The Great Gatsby may contain religious implications is not a new idea. Bernard Tanner sees it as a “Jazz Parody”, “The Gospel of Gatsby”. Gatsby is characterized as an “inverted Christ” in this drama, and the rest...
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