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The Great Gatsby

By christastout2014 Mar 12, 2013 1143 Words
The American dream is an ideal that has been present in American literature for a very long time. Typically, the dreamer aspires to rise from rags to riches, while accumulating such things as love, high status, wealth, and power on his way to the top. The dream has had different representations throughout different time periods, although it is generally based on ideas of freedom, self-reliance, and a desire for something greater. The early settlers’ dream of traveling out West to find land and start a family has gradually transformed into a materialistic vision of having a big house, a nice car, and a life of ease. In the past century, the American dream has increasingly focused on material items as an indication of attaining success. In The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby is a self-made man who started out with no money and only a plan for achieving his dream. He is so blinded by his luxurious possessions that he does not see that money cannot buy love or happiness. Fitzgerald demonstrates how a dream can become corrupted by one’s focus on acquiring wealth, power, and expensive things. Gatsby’s American dream has become corrupted by the culture of wealth and opulence that surrounds him. Gatsby’s romantic view of wealth has not prepared him for the self-interested, snobbish, corrupt group of people with which he comes to associate. He throws lavish parties for countless people, yet he has no real friends. Gatsby buys expensive things and entertains large groups of society because of his incommunicable desire for something greater. Nick Carraway realizes that although Gatsby is involved in underhanded business dealings and is fixated on money, he is a good man at heart. The last time Nick sees Gatsby alive, he tells him, “They’re a rotten crowd…. You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.” Gatsby’s romantic view of life may partly be to blame for his inability to achieve his dream. Although he has made his fortune through conducting suspicious business deals, his heart seems untouched by the moral evil that is around him. Gatsby’s inspiration comes from the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, whom he knew when he was in the military. Daisy’s parents considered Gatsby to be an unsuitable match, because he did not come from a good background and had little money. Nick Carraway, the narrator, sees Daisy as the golden girl. Daisy is the symbol of all that Gatsby strives for. Gatsby became so consumed by her voice that he based all of his actions on winning Daisy over. Her voice contains the promise of vast riches. However, Gatsby is too late to realize that money is the only thing her voice promises. Daisy has been the object of Gatsby’s obsession for the past five years, and his romanticism will not allow him to separate the past from the present. He still sees Daisy as the golden girl he knew five years ago, and he is still set on their golden future together. Gatsby’s lapse in judgment is in not realizing that Daisy represents both material success and the corruption that wealth can bring. Although she appears to be full of sweetness and light, she is at heart self-centered and cold. Daisy is careless with people’s lives; she lets Gatsby take the blame for her unintentional manslaughter of Myrtle Wilson. Her careless actions eventually result in Gatsby’s death, of which she shows no concern. She commits adultery, but she had no real intentions of leaving her husband. After she learns of Gatsby’s shady background, she quickly runs back into the arms of her equally self-absorbed, corrupt husband. The Buchanans live in the wealthy and highly exclusive East Egg of Long Island. The green light at the end of the Buchanans’ dock symbolizes Gatsby’s yearning for wealth and power, and it also embodies Daisy as the object of Gatsby’s desire. Daisy and Tom’s marriage is further proof of the collapse of the American dream. Although they belong to the elitist West Egg social group and have extreme wealth, they are unhappy. Tom and Daisy are both unsatisfied with life and are searching for something better. They are unhappy and bored with life. Tom seems to be searching for the excitement that he found in playing football in college, and he finds an outlet for his dissatisfaction by cheating on his wife with Myrtle. The Buchanans’ marriage is full of lies and infidelities, yet they are united through their corruption. After Myrtle and Gatsby are both killed, neither one of the Buchanans sends their regards or seem remorseful. In fact, they go on a short vacation, which is an indication of the lack of compassion they have toward others. Nick perceives Tom and Daisy as they really are, heartless and careless. Tom and Daisy’s actions are an indication of the emotionally numbing effects that wealth can have on someone. They focus too much on appearance and things of monetary value, while ignoring people’s feelings and lives. Jordan Baker’s plans are also negatively impacted by the corruptive qualities of wealth. Although Nick is attracted to Jordan’s bored, jaunty, careless air at first, he finally understands that it conveys her disregard for other people’s feelings. Jordan supports Daisy having an affair and she sees Gatsby as something, not someone. Jordan also has a reputation for being dishonest and for being a gossip. Jordan belongs to the elitist East Egg social group because of her careless, dishonest ways. She serves as a hint as to the true nature of the people from East Egg. On the surface, Fitzgerald’s novel may appear to be just a shallow novel about the jazz, parties, and glitz that he experienced in the early twentieth century. After closer examination, however, it is apparent that The Great Gatsby is a profound social commentary on the corrupt and disillusioning effects that materialism can have on members of society. Gatsby has devoted his life to belonging to this exclusive group, but it becomes obvious that he never will belong because of his background. It should also be noted that Gatsby’s romantic idealism does not fit in with this group; no matter how far up the social ladder he climbed, he would never really fit in. The great irony seems to be that the people who have the means, monetary or socially, to grasp their dreams do not have the motivation or the will. The drifting, careless, shallow people who comprise the social group of East Egg and West Egg are representative of the corruption that materialism can bring. Gatsby’s rags-to-riches dream turns into a dark nightmare that leads to his untimely downfall. His romantic idealism has not prepared him for the corrupt world in which he enters. Corruption and disseat fills up this novel, and is ultimately a living example of how materialistic things are not everything.

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