Essay, Research Paper: Great Gatsby And American Dream

Literature: The Great Gatsby

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The Great Gatsby, a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is about the American Dream,
and the downfall of those who attempt to capture its illusionary goals. This
dream has varying significances for different people but in The Great Gatsby,
for Jay, the dream is that through wealth and power, one can acquire happiness.
To get this happiness Jay must reach into the past and relive an old dream and
in order to do this he must have wealth and power. Jay Gatsby, the central
figure of the story, is a character that longs for the past. Surprisingly he
devotes most of his adult life trying to recapture it and, finally, dies in its
pursuit. In the past, Jay had a love affair with the beautiful and seemingly
innocent Daisy. Knowing he could not marry her because of the difference in
their social status, he leaves her to accumulate his wealth to reach her
economic and social standards. Once he acquires this wealth, he moves near to
Daisy, "Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the
bay," and throws extravagant parties, hoping by chance she might show up at
one of them. He, himself, does not attend his parties but watches them from a
distance. When his hopes don’t show true he asks around casually if anyone
knows her. Soon he meets Nick Caraway, a cousin of Daisy, who agrees to set up a
meeting, "He wants to know...if you'll invite Daisy to your house some
afternoon and then let him come over." Gatsby's personal dream symbolizes
the larger American Dream where all have the opportunity to get what they want.
Later, as we see in the Plaza Hotel, Jay still believes that Daisy loves him. He
is convinced of this as is shown when he takes the blame for Myrtle's death.
"Was Daisy driving?" "Yes...but of course I'll say I was."
He also watches and protects Daisy as she returns home. "How long are you
going to wait?" "All night if necessary." Jay cannot accept that
the past is gone and done with. Jay is sure that he can capture his dream with
wealth and influence. He believes that he acted for a good beyond his personal
interest and that should guarantee success. Nick attempts to show Jay the flaw
of his dream, but Jay innocently replies to Nick’s statement that the past
cannot be relived by saying, "Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you
can!”. This shows the confidence that Jay has in reviving his relationship
with Daisy. For Jay, his American Dream is not material possessions, although it
may seem that way. He only comes into riches so that he can fulfill his true
dream, Daisy. Gatsby doesn't rest until his dream is finally lived. However, it
never comes about and he ends up paying the ultimate price for it. The idea of
the American Dream still holds true in today's time, be it wealth, love, or
fame. But one thing never changes about the American Dream; everyone desires
something in life, and everyone, somehow, strives to get it. A big house, nice
cars, 2.5 kids, a dog, a beautiful devoted spouse, power and a ridiculous amount
of money. That is the classical American Dream, at least for some. One could
say, an outsider perhaps, that Americans strive for the insurmountable goal of
perfection, live, die and do unimaginable things for it, then call the product
their own personal American Dream. Is having the American Dream possible? What
is the American Dream? There is one answer for these two questions: The American
Dream is tangible perfection. In reality, even in nature, perfection does not
exist. Life is a series of imperfections that can make living really great or
very unpleasant. Living the American Dream is living in perfection, and that by
definition is not possible, thus deflating our precious American Dream. F. Scott
Fitzgerald proves this fact in The Great Gatsby, through his scintillating
characters and unique style. Characters in books often mirror the author’s
feelings towards the world around them. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald
suggested the moral decline of the period in American history through the
interpersonal relationships among his characters. The situations in the lives of
the characters show the worthlessness of materialism, the futile quest of Myrtle
and Gatsby, and how America s moral values had diminished- through the actions
of Daisy, Tom, Jordan, and Gatsby’s party guests. Despite his newly acquired
fortune, Gatsby still cannot afford his one true wish; therefore he cannot buy
everything that is important to Daisy. ".Their love is founded upon
feelings from the past; these give it, notwithstanding Gatsby’s insistence on
being able to repeat the past, inviolability. It exists in the world of money
and corruption but is not of it." (Lewis 48) In the novel The Great Gatsby,
Fitzgerald uses the uses of literary technique of symbolism to reflect what life
in the 1920s was like, through Fitzgerald’s eyes. The image of Doctor T.J.
Mecklenburg’s eyes is used to signify an ever-watchful godlike figure.
"Just as Wilson comes half consciously to identify the eyes of Doctor T.J.
Eckleburg with God, so the reader gradually becomes aware of them as
representing some kind of detached intellect, brooding gloomily over life in the
bleak waste land surrounding it, and presiding fatalistically over the little
tragedy enacted as if in sacrifice before it." (Miller 36) The eyes not
only symbolize a godlike being but also Fitzgerald himself and his negative
views of 1920s society. Fitzgerald’s negative views of society are also
portrayed through his depiction of certain guests at Gatsby’s parties. The
symbol of the two women dressed identically in yellow at Gatsby’s party
represent the values of the people of the 20s. The two women meet Jordan and
Nick at Gatsby’s party and are completely self-involved. These women are only
concerned with what happens to them and the fun that they have at the parties
and don’t even inquire the names of Jordan and Nick who they are so openly
speaking with. "Do you come to these parties often? inquired Jordan of the
girl beside her. The last one was the one I met you at, answered the girl in an
alert, confident voice. She turned to her companion: Wasn’t it for you
Lucille? It was for Lucille too. I like to come, Lucille said I never care what
I do, so I always have a good time." (Fitzgerald 47) Lucille admits that
her general attitude toward life is that she does not care what she does as long
as she has a good time. Her entire motivation in her life is to enjoy herself.
When all she was asked was if she came to the parties often she also felt the
need to inform the rest of the guests of her trivial anecdote. The reason that
these women are indicative of the generation is because of their self-absorbed
characters and egotistical nature. Also, the food served at Gatsby’s parties
symbolizes the attitudes of most people living in the 1920’s. At Gatsby’s
parties, most of the food was just show and no one really ate it. People display
Large amounts of expensive food at parties to subtly remind the guests how much
money they have, which is exactly what Gatsby did and the food was wasted. This
incredible wastefulness is representative of people who lived in the 20’s.
They were so extremely wasteful because they assumed with all they had gone
through, they deserved to be. After so many years of being unhappy and repressed
from, among other things World War I, they thought it was okay to become
carefree when indeed it was not. Through Fitzgerald’s use of symbolism to
describe the costumed characters of the 20’s the reader can learn to
constantly and conscientiously examine the people that they surround themselves
with. The novel also teaches the lesson of being true to one’s self and
following one’s own personal dream, not the one Americans are programmed to
have.

Bibliography
Fitzgerald, Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Macmillan Publishng Company,
1980.
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