The American Dream- The Great Gatsby
The so- called American dream is a theme that is presented throughout the Great Gatsby; in fact, many would agree that it is one of the main points that drive the novel. This idea of the American dream is quite simple; a person, when he works hard, will gain what he wants. The idea was of self-reliance, of the pursuit of happiness and of changing one’s life to something better, but which, as most things do when humans are involved, was corrupted, focusing mainly on the materialistic aspects of life, aka: money. Fitzgerald shows the 1920’s in America as being a hypocritical society, consisting of greed and empty pursuit for material things. This was the period of Jazz music and the repeated mentions of jazz during Gatsby’s parties links the jazz music with the upper class societies and their constant need of materialistic possessions and pleasure. Money was a major factor in the 1920s societies (as seen in the Great Gatsby) and flaunted at almost every turn; the over-the- top parties thrown by the rich, the expensive houses and cars, all were results of the corrupted “American dream”. The economic boom after the war stoked this materialistic dependency, and created a different type of social divide; the “old money” (money was passed down through family) and the “new money” (people who worked in order to gain money and came from undistinguished backgrounds). The “old money”, or the aristocratic families, in the Great Gatsby look down upon the people of “new money”. Tom Buchanan obviously doesn’t get along with Gatsby, nor do his friends; in chapter 6, when Tom and his friends stop for a drink at Gatsby’s place, they barely mask their contempt towards him. Mr. Sloane pointedly refuses to hold a conversation with Gatsby and is furious when he is invited to a party later on. Though Gatsby tries to fit in with these high class societies by throwing these extravagant parties and having expensive belongings (the car, the hydroplane, etc) he never truly achieves this. It is always awkward between the two parties; Gatsby never picks up on the “code” that the aristocrats have between themselves and is always the odd one out, while Tom is never really interested in Gatsby, as evident in his absence at most of Gatsby’s parties and that he forgot who Gatsby was when he had met him a few weeks prior. In fact, there is almost a physical separation between the two social classes in the form of West Egg and East Egg, showing the stark differences between the aristocrats and the newly rich. Gatsby is what you would call “new money”; after the war, before which he had almost nothing, Gatsby earned the money that he is so well known for (a reporter even asked for his “statement” about his life and money). He was the son of a farmer, with nothing but his dreams, his “platonic conceptions” of what he wanted for his future; however, his dreams got corrupted as he strived to achieve his goals. There is no clear confirmation, but it is suggested that Gatsby is a bootlegger for alcohol, which was banned in 1919; the mysterious phone call during Nick’s first party at Gatsby’s, or the new servants at Gatsby’s place who looked “suspicious”, all indicate that Gatsby is clearly doing something that would cause legal troubles. Gatsby’s corrupted idea of the American dream is something that Fitzgerald tried to emphasize in order to show the average person in the 1920’s in America. The simple fact that Gatsby flaunts his wealth shows that he believes, or at least he did, that the wealthier a person was the more respect and happiness he got. The fact that he looks towards the “green light” (representing either money or envy) which was situated on Tom’s dock, and tries to fit in with the aristocrats proves that he is always striving for the already wealthy and the already respected people to like him (aka, Daisy), which would automatically make him at par with them. He wanted to be accepted so much so that he changed his...
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