Essay, Research Paper: Great Gatsby And Fall Of American Dream

Literature: The Great Gatsby

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The book 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald was an 'icon of its time.'
The book discusses topics that were important, controversial and interesting
back in 1920's America. The novel is 'an exploration of the American Dream as it
exists in a corrupt period of history.' The main themes in the book are the
decay of morals and values and the frustration of a 'modern' society. The Great
Gatsby describes the decay of the American Dream and the want for money and
materialism. This novel also describes the gap between the rich and the poor
(Gatsby and the Wilsons, West Egg and the Valley of the Ashes) by comparing the
differences between the Western United States (traditional western culture) and
the Eastern United States (money obsessed values). On a smaller scale this could
be seen as the difference between the West Egg (the 'new, money) and the East
egg (the 'old' money). The 1920's were a time of corruption and the degradation
of moral values for the United States and many other countries. World War One
had just ended and people were reveling in the materialism that came with the
end of it, new mass produced commodities such as motor cars and radios were
filling people's driveways and houses, money was more accessible (before the
Great Depression). Cars were becoming a social symbol in the 1920s as we can see
with Gatsby's five cars, one of which he gives to Nick and one of which kills
Myrtle Wilson later on in the novel. Herbert Hoover (an American President) said
in 1925 "We will root out poverty and put two cars in every garage."
The parties that Gatsby held every week in the summer were a symbol of the
carelessness of the time. Gatsby would hide in the house while the 'guests',
most of whom were not even invited, would party, eat and drink until the early
hours of the morning without even meeting the guest or even knowing who he was.
People would turn up just to be seen or reported in the local newspapers
"In his blue garden people came and went like moths among the whisperings
and the champagne." This shows the carelessness of the guests. Another
quote about the parties refers to the way the guests devour the endless supply
of food and never give a thought as to who gave it to them. "Every Friday
five crates of oranges and Lemons arrived from a fruiterer In New York- Every
Monday these same oranges and lemons left his backdoor in a pyramid of pulpless
halves." This is also a symbol; it relates the 'pulpless halves' to the
rather 'empty' guests, soulless people obsessed by image and wealth, a
corruption of the American Dream. Another sign of the fall of the American Dream
in The Great Gatsby is the way Gatsby makes his money. Gatsby gets his fortune
through the illegal sale of alcohol ('bootlegging'). The sale of alcohol was
prohibited in the United States in the 1920s. Gatsby came from the western
United States where there was 'old money.' There he met Dan Cody who taught him
how to 'bootleg.' As Gatsby became richer he moved to West Egg in New York.
Gatsby's house is a rather artificial place, the house was originally built to
impress Daisy with his so-called wealth, and this is a sign of a corrupt way of
'winning' love through money and wealth. Gatsby's house is furnished well with
old looking ornaments and (probably) second hand antiques, Gatsby's house also
has a library which is full of 'uncut' literature. The conversation between
Jordan and an unnamed man at one of Gatsby's parties talks about the books:
"Absolutely real - have real pages and everything. I'd thought they'd be a
nice durable cardboard." These books and antiques are just Gatsby's way of
showing off his wealth to others, however Gatsby doesn't really care for
materialism, we can tell this because his bedroom, the only room he really ever
uses, is empty compared to the rest of the house. Gatsby's love life is also a
sign of declining morals, and also a sign of further corruption of the American
Dream. Daisy has an affair with Gatsby; Gatsby then gets concerned that Daisy
does not tell Tom about her affair with him in chapter six. Eventually Daisy
tells Tom about her affair with Jay Gatsby. The climax of the story comes when
Gatsby tells Tom that Daisy never loved him. The fall of the American Dream and
corruption is also evident in the position and treatment of children in the
story, Daisy and Tom's daughter, Pammy, is treated as an object to show off
rather than a child to love. "The child, relinquished by the nurse, rushed
across the room and rooted shyly into her mother's dress." The child does
not know her mother very well and is still very shy to go near her. Gatsby had
never really known of the existence of Daisy's child, as Daisy was probably
afraid to tell him about her. "Afterward he kept looking at the child in
surprise. I don't think he had ever really believed it it's existence
before." The word it instead of her also denotes the child's position as
nil. Daisy uses the child as a show item: "I got dressed before
luncheon" said the child, turning eagerly towards Daisy. "That's
because your mother wanted to show you off" replies Daisy. When the child
speaks to Daisy, Daisy never answers or replies to her. Daisy always changes the
subject as if she doesn't even notice the child is there. For example, when the
girl comments Jordan's dress, Daisy ignores her and asks her what she thinks
about her friends: "Aunt Jordan's got on a white dress too" (said the
child). "How do you like mother's friends?" (Replies Daisy). Also:
"Where's daddy?" (Said the child) "She doesn't look like her
father" explained Daisy. 'Daddy' (Tom) is also never around, he was not
there when his child was born. Daisy thinks that Tom is 'brutish' and she has
never really liked him. The Great Gatsby is a great portrayal of the corruption
of society and the fall of the American Dream. The Great Gatsby shows us the way
people will fall into the hands of money, greed and power and get involved in
illegal activities to get where they want and what they want. This book is a
perfect example of the fall of the American Dream in the 1920s.
Bibliography
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald (The school's Penguin edition) Scott
Fitzgerald's Criticism of America - Marcus Bailey Fitzgerald and The Great
Gatsby - http://www.hisf.no/~ernstj/lectures/ggr20s.html And various other
photocopied hand out sheets.
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