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Literature: William Faulkner

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In The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, many themes are enclosed; the most
salient of these themes is related to the American Dream. The American Dream is
based on the idea that any person, no matter what they are, can become
successful in life by his or her hard work. The dream also embodies the idea of
a self-sufficient person, an entrepreneur making it successful for themselves.
The Great Gatsby is about what happened to the American Dream during the 1920s,
an era when the dream had been corrupted by the relentless pursuit of wealth. In
this novel, the pursuit of the American Dream and the pursuit of a romantic
dream are the ultimate causes of the downfall of the book’s title character,
Jay Gatsby. Throughout the story, Jay Gatsby avoids telling the truth of his
hard, unglamorous childhood. He does this to keep his superficial image of
himself and to save himself from the embarrassment of being in a state of
poverty during his youth. His parents were lazy and unsuccessful people who
worked on the farm, and because of this Gatsby never really accepted them as his
parents. Jay Gatsby’s real name is James Gatz and he is from the very
unexciting North Dakota. He changed his name to Jay Gatsby when he was seventeen
years old, which was the beginning of his version of the American Dream. In all
realities Gatsby arose from his Platonic view of himself, the idealistic
self-view that a seventeen year old boy has of himself (Fitzgerald 104). Though
concealed for most of the story, Gatsby’s embarrassing childhood is a major
source of determination in his attempt to achieve the American Dream. During
Gatsby’s early adulthood, he joined the army. He first met Daisy when he was
at Camp Taylor and he and some other officers stopped by her house. He initially
loved Daisy because of her extraordinary house and because many other men had
been with her already. One evening in October, during 1917, Gatsby fell in love
with Daisy Fay, and in turn she fell in love with Gatsby. “Daisy was the first
‘nice’ girl that he had ever known” (Fitzgerald 155). Their love was an
uneasy one at first for Gatsby to comprehend because he wasn’t rich by any
standards and he felt that he wasn’t worthy of Daisy’s affection, but his
uneasiness was uplifted when he and Daisy fell in love and when he found out
that Daisy knew a lot because he knew a variety of things that she didn’t.
Their month of love was physically ended when Gatsby had to go to war, but their
emotional love never ended. As Gatsby performed brilliantly throughout the war,
they wrote each other frequently. Daisy couldn’t understand why Gatsby
couldn’t come home. She wanted her love to be their with her, she needed some
assurance that she was doing the right thing. It didn’t take long for Daisy to
get over Jay because in the Spring of 1918 she fell in love with a rich, former
All-American college football player named Tom Buchanon. This broke Jay
Gatsby’s heart. His love for Daisy was a strong one and he was determined to
get her back. This first love with Daisy had a great impact on his idea of one
of the aspects of achieving the American Dream. Throughout the novel, the reader
is mislead about how Gatsby became wealthy. Gatsby claims on several different
occasions that he inherited his parents’ immense fortune. This is a story that
Gatsby made up in order to keep his self-image up by not letting people know
about his childhood. The truth is that Gatsby got rich by illegal measures. He
was friends with the notorious Meyer Wolfsheim. Meyer Wolfsheim was the
racketeer who supposedly fixed the World Series of 1919. He was Gatsby’s
connection to organized crime, in which Gatsby became rich. Gatsby’s true
sources to richness were selling bootleg liquor in his chain of drug stores and
creating a giant business to get rid of and sell stolen Liberty bonds (Mizener
188). Gatsby’s methods of gaining wealth corrupt the morality of the American
Dream although they help him to achieve it. It did not take long for Gatsby to
attempt to win Daisy back after he returned from the army. Jay Gatsby had this
romantic view of Daisy and himself together and happy forever. He felt the best
way to achieve this idea would be for him to become at least as rich as
Daisy’s husband Tom Buchanon. He knows that the best ways for him to pry
Daisy’s affection away from Tom are gaining wealth and gaining material
possessions. Daisy is a shallow woman who is easily overwhelmed by material
items. Gatsby’s main way to show off his wealth and material possessions were
to throw lavish parties. His parties featured the finest drinks and live jazz
bands. The parties were so huge that Nick Carraway, Gatsby’s best friend and
the narrator of the book, alluded to them as the World’s Fair. Not only did
the parties fulfill Gatsby’s reasons for having them, but they also showed his
grand sense of pride that stemmed from his richness. Gatsby and Daisy are
finally reunited by Nick at Gatsby’s request. This is Gatsby’s second chance
for him to show off his wealth and to win Daisy back. Gatsby uses this meeting
to show Daisy what he has become through his possessions (Way 103). Daisy is
amazed when she experiences the extravagance of Gatsby’s house. When Gatsby
throws his imported shirts all around the room, she begins to cry because she
realizes that she has missed out on so much of Gatsby’s life. It is at this
moment, when the dream that he has strived for is right in front of him, that he
realizes that Daisy isn’t as perfect as he imagined her to be. This is clearly
evident to Nick who thinks that: “There must have been moments even that
afternoon when Daisy fell short of his dream- nor through her own fault, but
because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond
everything.” (Fitzgerald Chapter 5) This is the first point in the novel which
shows that Gatsby’s dream can never be fully achieved, yet it is also his
dream being achieved because he is finally back with Daisy again even though she
is still with Tom. The beginning of the downfall of Gatsby’s dream occurs when
Tom suspects that Daisy is cheating on him with Gatsby. His hypothesis is proven
correct when he, Gatsby, Daisy, Nick, and Jordan Baker, are at a hotel in New
York holding a conversation which breaks out into an argument. It is during this
argument that Tom finds out that Jay Gatsby and Daisy have been in love for five
years and that they have never stopped loving each other. As Tom and Gatsby
argue it becomes evident that Daisy does not know which man she wants to be with
because she is in love with both of them because both of them are rich. All
Gatsby wanted was for Daisy to tell Tom that she never loved him, but she could
not do that. She knew that it would be a lie if she said that so she simply said
to Gatsby, “I did love him once- but I loved you too.” This statement opens
the well into which Gatsby’s dream will eventually fall because it shows that
Daisy is not Gatsby’s woman alone Tom begins the undermining of Gatsby’s
idealist concept of himself by making Gatsby realize that he isn’t what he has
made himself out to be. He makes Gatsby see that he does not appear to people in
the way that he thinks of himself. Tom describes Gatsby as a “bootlegger,
cheap swindler, and a crook.” These few comments shattered Gatsby’s
self-identity because of it’s fragileness (Way 99). Tom washed all of the
effort and determination that Gatsby had put into becoming what he was and
earning what he received, even though his methods were illegal, with a few
minutes worth of speaking. After the argument, Gatsby can feel a minor sense of
victory because Daisy refuses to speak to Tom and when they are leaving, Daisy
leaves with him. On the way back to the suburbs, Gatsby allows Daisy to drive
his car. While driving, Daisy hits and kills Myrtle Wilson, the lady Tom is
having an affair with. Gatsby and Daisy keep on driving and they act like
nothing ever happened. Later that evening, Nick learned from Gatsby that Daisy
had been driving when Myrtle was killed in the hit-and-run accident. Gatsby’s
love for Daisy causes him to be willing to take the blame if the blame if the
death was traced back to his car. If Daisy’s love for Gatsby was based on true
love, instead of wealth and material items, then she would have stepped up and
confessed to her crime especially since she was riding in Gatsby’s car and it
could easily be assumed that he was the killer. Daisy was not concerned with the
well- being of Gatsby and this is shown when she is back at home conversing with
her husband, over cold chicken and ale, instead of worrying about what might
happen to Gatsby. Gatsby, on the other hand, worries that whole night about
Daisy. He worries that Tom might beat on Daisy when he gets home. These things
never happen but it is the fact that Gatsby was concerned about her well- being
and Daisy was not concerned with Gatsby’s well- being that is important. She
is just a shallow person who does not know the meaning of the word love. She is
caught up in the times and in living the moraless and careless lifestyle that
she leads. She could care less about what happens to anyone except for herself.
This whole situation proves that she is definitely not deserving of the high
pedestal that Gatsby has placed her on (Internet 1). This is the greatest blow
to his romantic dream of him and Daisy being together forever because she
chooses Tom over Gatsby in a time of crisis. It shows that the man that she
truly wants to be with the most is the man she is living with now. Gatsby
realizes this and his life begins to be pointless. This is his dream brought to
reality. The dream is completely dissipated and will knows it will never be
achieved. It did not take long for George Wilson, Myrtle’s husband, to trace
the yellow car which killed his wife back to Jay Gatsby. Because George Wilson
wants revenge for his wife’s death, and he believes it is Gatsby who killed
his wife, he goes to Gatsby’s estate and kills Gatsby and then himself. This
is the tragic end of Gatsby’s life. All of his heroism, his rapid rise to the
top, all brought to a calamitous end because Daisy did not love him as much as
he loved her. Although Gatsby’s romantic dream was already dead, his version
of the American Dream was still alive and beaming. He still had everything going
for him; his youth, money, and personality. Gatsby is morally superior to his
fellow East Eggers and Nick acknowledges this when he tells Gatsby, “You’re
worth the whole damn bunch put together. (Fitzgerald 162).” To have it all
taken away for something he had not even done was the greatest misfortune of the
entire novel. Gatsby’s death is made even more saddening at his funeral. Nick
tried to make Gatsby’s funeral respectable but only he, Gatsby’s father, and
one of Gatsby’s acquaintances attended the funeral. None of Gatsby’s
racketeering friends came, nor did the “love” of his life, Daisy. Nick truly
cared about Jay Gatsby although nobody else did. He exemplified what a true
friend is and did what only a friend would do for another friend. Daisy did not
seem to feel a tiny bit of sadness over Gatsby’s death. This is shown in her
not attending his funeral and instead going away with Tom on a vacation. “In
the end, the most that can be said is that The Great Gatsby is a dramatic
affirmation in fictional terms of the American spirit in the midst of an
American world that denies the soul (Bewley 46).” Gatsby’s strong desire for
wealth and Daisy, the American and romantic dream respectively, prove to be the
greatest reasons for his grave downfall at the hands of a ruthless
society.
Bibliography
Bewley, Marius. “Scott Fitzgerald and the Collapse of the American
Dream.” Modern Critical Views: F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ed. Harold Bloom. New
York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1985: 32-45. Mizener, Arthur. “F. Scott
Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby.” The American Novel: From James Fenimore Cooper
to William Faulkner. Ed. Wallace Stegner. New York: Basic Books, Inc.,
Publishers, 1965: 180-191. Scott Fitzgerald, Frances. The Great Gatsby. New
York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1925. “The Great Gatsby by F. Scott
Fitzgerald.” Online: School Papers, Microsoft Network, November 19,1997. Way,
Brian. “The Great Gatsby.” Modern Critical Interpretations. Ed. Harold
Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986: 87-105.
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