Essay, Research Paper: Great Gatsby And Dream Downfall

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 is
a common them central to many novels. 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
who 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 (83)," 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
Carraway, 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 (83)." 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." (151) He also
watches and protects Daisy as she returns home. "How long are you going to
wait?" "All night if necessary." (152) 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!” (116). 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 which 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 , an
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 1920’s was like,
through Fitzgerald’s eyes. The image of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg’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 god—like being but
also Fitzgerald himself and his negative views of 1920’s society.
Fitzgerald’s negative views of society are 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 20’s. 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 symbolize 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. Fitzgerald is not only a consequential author
but and effective moral adviser.
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