Francis Fitzgerald is a famous American writer. In fact, all the works of the author are written about the “era of jazz.” The writer came up with this term himself, it means a happy decade in the life of America between the end of the First World War and the beginning of the Great Depression when the younger generation rebelled against traditional culture. She was replaced by frantic and temperamental music, which was given the name “jazz”. It was about her that he wrote the legendary novel The Great Gatsby.
The writer painstakingly worked on this work, changing and modifying the chapters. Initially, the narration of the story came from Gatsby himself, but then the writer changed the narrator since the image of Gatsby was somehow vague and incomprehensible.
The title of the book also has its own special story. Its author succeeded about 6 times. It is believed that Fitzgerald called Gatsby “great” in order to show his irony regarding the fate of this hero.
“Everyone suspects himself at least one of the cardinal virtues and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known. ”-Nick Carraway. Nick is an impartial, honest, and loyal character. He gives readers a detailed, accurate account of the events pertaining to Gatsby’s life. Nick spends time with Gatsby and Tom even though they do not like each other. In The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the color gray is continually used to show Nick’s impartiality to the characters and conflicts. Throughout the whole book, there is tension between Tom and Gatsby since they both want Daisy to love them.
Nick acts as a friend to both characters; he spends time with Tom going out on the town, and with Gatsby attending parties every weekend. “Gray cars, ash gray men,” is a phrase used on page 23 as a color reference to Nick’s neutrality between the two opposing characters. Nick comes off as a very honest character to readers and other characters in the book. On page 19 Daisy says to Nick, “You remind me of a-of a rose, an absolute rose. ” The red color of the rose represents his passion and care for other people.
He looks out for all of the other characters throughout the book even while he struggles with his own personal concerns and struggles. When Gatsby offers to let Nick join in his gambling, Nick refuses; he wants to make an honest living. Nick remains loyal to Gatsby after his death when all of his other friends do not. Out of all of the people that Gatsby knew, Nick was one of three that attended his funeral. Other people pretended to be Gatsby’s friend just to get to attend parties or take advantage of him, but Nick actually cared for Gatsby and remained loyal to him throughout the entire story.
On page 188 the phrase “on the white steps,” represents peace. Nick valued peace and friendship which went along with his loyalty to Gatsby. Though Nick, like the other characters in the book, has some faults, he remains impartial, honest, and loyal. Nick’s demeanor allowed him to provide an honest, accurate account of the events of Gatsby’s life. He told us the story to the best of his ability and through that story we can learn more about Nick and ourselves.
Example 2: The Great Gatsby – Immorality
The American Dream—A Road to Immorality “‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (New International Bible, Genesis 3:4-5). The prevalence of temptation and immorality has been present from the beginning of time. In the Biblical sense, it was the serpent that tempted Eve with his promises for greatness and divinity, but ultimately corrupted her world, as well as the world today. Presently, the lust for power and authority is exceedingly evident amongst today’s society.
In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the American dream was a foundation of desires for wealth and supremacy. Throughout the novel, the characters’ greed has a negative impact on their everyday decisions, and leads them down the path of immorality and depravity. Through the examination of the lives of Nick Carraway and Jordan Baker, Tom and Daisy Buchanan, and Jay Gatsby, the following essay will prove how the tempting and agonizing pursuit of the American dream often leads to a life full of dishonesty and corruption.
In the beginning of the novel, Nick Carraway evidenced his mixed emotions towards the rich lifestyle. In the manner he described Tom Buchanan, it is clear that Nick noticed the complacency of the rich lifestyle: Two shining arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward. . . . His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed.
There was a touch of paternal contempt in it, even toward people he liked—and there were men at New Haven who had hated his guts. Fitzgerald 12) Despite his distaste towards the rich, Nick also idolized them. His strong desire to achieve the American dream persuaded him to associate with these people. However, as he got sucked into their world, he became more and more dishonest and immoral. When asked by Tom and Daisy about his rumoured engagement to a woman back home, Nick denied it. However, it is later revealed that he is, in fact, engaged: But I am slow-thinking and full of interior rules that act as brakes on my desires, and I knew that first I had to get myself definitely out of that tangle back home.
I’d been writing letters once a week and signing them: ‘Love, Nick,’ and all I could think of was how, when that certain girl played tennis, a faint mustache of perspiration appeared on her upper lip. Nevertheless there was a vague understanding that had to be tactfully broken off before I was free. (Fitzgerald 59) Regardless of this, he pursued an affair with Jordan Baker. As the novel progressed, Nick began to realize how the fast and extravagant lifestyle of the rich was only a cover for the disturbing moral emptiness amongst them.
He learned that even Jordan, whom he had developed feelings for, was dishonest and was willing to do anything to ensure her success: Jordan Baker instinctively avoided clever, shrewd men, and now I saw that this was because she felt safer on a plane where any divergence from a code would be thought impossible. She was incurably dishonest. She wasn’t able to endure being at a disadvantage and, given this unwillingness, I suppose she had begun dealing in subterfuges when she was very young in order to keep that cool, insolent smile turned to the world and yet satisfy the demands of her hard, jaunty body. Fitzgerald 58) After gaining much maturity, Nick returned to Minnesota seeking a life structured by more traditional moral values.
The lives of Tom and Daisy Buchanan are prime examples of how achieving the American dream often leads to living a low and vulgar life. At a first glance, their home seems to be the perfect family setting. It isn’t long before Tom’s affair with his mistress becomes evident: “‘Is something happening? ’ I inquired innocently. ‘You mean to say you don’t know? ’ said Miss Baker, honestly surprised. ‘I thought everybody knew. ‘I don’t. ’ ‘Why—’ she said hesitantly, ‘Tom’s got some woman in New York’” (Fitzgerald 20). When Daisy sees Gatsby again, she also begins an affair of her own. However this affair is short lived as Tom becomes aware of the infidelity of his wife. Daisy was forced to choose between Tom and Gatsby, but she refused to abandon her “old rich” lifestyle.
After hitting Myrtle while driving Jay’s car, Daisy and Tom decided to conspire a plan in order to avoid responsibility for the tragedy: “Daisy and Tom were sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table, . . . There was an unmistakable air of natural intimacy about the picture and anybody would have said that they were conspiring together” (Fitzgerald 138). Despite Daisy’s professed “love” for Gatsby, she allowed him to take the blame for the accident, which eventuated in his death.
When Wilson went to Tom and asked him who the car belonged to, Tom had no problem mentioning Jay Gatsby’s name, providing Wilson with the information needed to justify Myrtle’s death: “‘I told him the truth,’ he said. ‘He came to the door hile we were getting ready to leave, and when I sent down word that we weren’t in he tried to force his way up-stairs. He was crazy enough to kill me if I hadn’t told him who owned the car. . . .’” (Fitzgerald 169). In the end, Daisy chose the American dream over her moral conscience, proving that the rich are not really better than the poor. Jay Gatsby’s quest for the American dream began at the age of 17, when he left his North Dakota farm-life home in pursuit of better life. After meeting Daisy and seeing her wealth, he became obsessed with her.
Gatsby’s “love” for Daisy was more of an urgent desire to possess her. He lied to her in order to draw her to him: He might have despised himself, for he had certainly taken her under false pretenses. I don’t mean that he had traded on his phantom millions, but he had deliberately given Daisy a sense of security; he let her believe that he was a person from much the same stratum as herself—that he was fully able to take care of her. (Fitzgerald 142) Gatsby’s desperation drove him to work for Meyer Wolfsheim.
He quickly earned a vast amount of money by bootlegging alcohol and associating in other illegal activities under Wolfsheim’s order: “‘He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. . . .’” (Fitzgerald 127). Even though Jay seemed to be an unsavory, worldly man with his illegal and immoral tendencies, he had an incredible sense of loyalty. His unfailing loyalty extended to everyone he cared for, from his own father to Dan Cody to Daisy.
Unfortunately, he did not always receive the same measure of devotion in return, demonstrated when Daisy allowed him to take the fall for her foolish actions. Nick Carraway recognized this goodness about him, and reassured Gatsby: “‘They’re a rotten crowd,’ I shouted across the lawn. ‘You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together’” (Fitzgerald 146). Jay Gatsby’s hunger for the American dream proves how even good-natured people can become corrupted by their lust for money and power. “‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (New International Bible, Genesis 3:4-5).
The prevalence of temptation and immorality has been present from the beginning of time. In the Biblical sense, it was the serpent that tempted Eve with his promises for greatness and divinity, but ultimately corrupted her world, as well as the world today. Presently, the lust for power and authority is exceedingly evident amongst today’s society. In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the American dream was a foundation of desires for wealth and supremacy.
Throughout the novel, the characters’ greed has a negative impact on their everyday decisions, and leads them down the path of immorality and depravity. Through the examination of the lives of Nick Carraway and Jordan Baker, Tom and Daisy Buchanan, and Jay Gatsby, the following essay will prove how the tempting and agonizing pursuit of the American dream often leads to a life full of dishonesty and corruption. Works Cited Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Toronto: Penguin Books Ltd. , 1998. New International Bible. New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.
Example 3: Dreams in the Great Gatsby
The Broken American Dream of the 1920s An accurate name for the 1920s is the roaring twenties. This was a decade full of social transformation and industrialization. Through this shift, a degradation in social moral occurred. A victim of this shift is the character J. Gatsby in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Gatsby is “corrupted by values and attitudes that he holds in common with a society that destroys him”(44). Through this mutual and obscured social moral, Gatsby seems to obtain a destructive view of his “American Dream”.
Where the American Dream once “consisted of the belief that people of talent in this land of opportunity and plenty could reasonably aspire to material success if they adhered to a well-defined set of behaviors”(Trask). These behaviors were actions such as working hard, staying honest, and better educating ones self; much like the list that Gatsby made as a young boy. But with the boom of industrialization, came a trend of bootlegging and get rich quick schemes and unfortunately Gatsby became a victim of the era. As a matter of fact, Gatsby is not the only one who has suffered from this time of moral deterioration.
Daisy Buchanan, Gatsby’s object of obsession, also is a victim of a society that allows her to not take responsibility for her actions. Daisy hides behind her public facade and her innocent carefree charm. Her husband Tom Buchanan has also manipulated the greedy, selfish social society that exists on East egg. Tom has no dreams or aspirations and “seeks excitement first in sport, then in infidelity, seeking identity in a book of racist political philosophy”(Wershoven). In a time of moral peril, each character is corrupted by a societal idea that taints their grasp of the “American Dream”.
During Gatsby’s adolescent years, he has a clear and healthy mindset about what he wanted to accomplish in his life. Gatsby was self-motivated to make something of his life. But once he meets Daisy, Daisy becomes the embodiment of his dreams and the object of his obsession.
As a young boy, growing up in North Dakota, Gatsby was motivated to be successful. Gatsby’s father said “ Jimmy was bound to get ahead”. Even as a young adult, Gatsby refused to think of himself as an average person. Gatsby’s parents were “shiftless and unsuccessful” and Gatsby never “ really accepted them as his parents at all. Instead Gatsby had a schedule of each day that would help him to attain his wealth.
As Trask says, “ He early decided that he could contemplate future glory. ” Early on Gatsby embodies the ideals of society before the 1920s; he is determined and eager to work hard to independently reach success. This is until he meets Daisy, the idea of Daisy is what sways Gatsby’s dreams off the right path. Gatsby met Daisy as a young man and hopelessly fell in love with her. However in the end, Daisy broke it off with Gatsby since he was not financially suitable for maintaining her lifestyle.
It seems as though Gatsby never recovered from getting his heart broken by Daisy. As Nick says, “ [Gatsby] had a extraordinary gift of hope- a romantic readiness such I have never found in any other person and which is not likely I shall find ever again”(2). Nick also says “Gatsby turned out alright at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-wind elations of men”(2). Indeed, it was the idea of winning Daisy’s love that drove Gatsby to his success.
It corrupted his earlier ideas of working hard and saving his money; now he had to make money fast and resorted to bootlegging. Gatsby becomes frantic at the idea of coming wealthy and instead of slowly climbing up the success latter, he desperately and quickly makes money in any way he can so he can win Daisy back as quickly as possible. Gatsby became consumed with the idea of winning Daisy’s affection and rekindling their past romance. This is apparent when Gatsby describes their first kiss; “His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own.
He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions of her perishable breathe, his mind would never romp again like the mind of god. So he waited…Then he kissed her…and the incarnation was complete”(112). Gatsby is brought down by Daisy and the “refusal to see the nature of his own dreams”(Wershoven). Nick sums up Gatsby’s debacle perfectly when he says that perhaps Gatsby’s “dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in the vast obscurity.
What nick says is true, Gatsby was so blinded by love that he could not see Daisy’s flaws and Gatsby ended up paying the ultimate price . As Trask says, Daisy could never become a “legitimate actualization of Gatsby’s illegitimate dream”(Trask). Among those who have distorted dreams, Daisy Buchanan might perhaps be the worst. Daisy is a selfish, rich girl who has never “been held responsible for her actions, for she embodies the pure freedom of endless choice without consequences”(Wershoven). Daisy has never had to concern herself with worrying about money or materialistic things.
Daisy has always gotten things handed to her and would not want it any other way. Daisy takes advantage of the fact that she lives in a society that has put her on a pedistal, and allows her to “smash” up things without any consquences. Her attractive nature and charm has helped her support this type of lifestyle. Daisy cannot even fathom the idea of having to work for something and therefore she has a sense of entitlement to everything that is given to her. At first Daisy seems harmless and bored as she mindlessly wonders out loud what she will do with the rest of her days.
But as the novel goes on, it becomes quite clear that Daisy is not what she seems. Daisy has become a master of manipulation in order to maintain her lavish lifestyle. She knows exactly how to agree with what society expects of her and knows how to dress and maintain her appearance. But despite her warm and inviting appearance, Daisy is quite cold and superficial. Daisy’s ideals of wealth and money lead her to live a superficial and meaningless life that wreaks havoc in the lives of the other characters. It is this love of money that led here to marry her husband Tom Buchanan.
Instead of waiting for Gatsby to return to the war, Daisy just decides to marry Tom because of his wealth and promise of a lavish life. Tom even gives her a three-hundred thousand-dollar pearl necklace. Even this amount of money is not enough to ensure Daisy’s fidelity. As soon as Gatsby comes back into town, she begins to have an affair. Even after years of leading Gatsby on, she still breaks his heart when she says that she “loves them both. ” This is when it comes apparent that Daisy will never leave Tom.
For Daisy, even true love is not enough to make her change her lifestyle. Her love of money has made her cold and reckless when it comes to love. Another example of Daisy’s reckless nature is when Tom’s mistress, Myrtle Wilson, is killed. Daisy is perfectly content with letting Gatsby take the fall. Not one time does she even contemplate the idea of coming forward to take responsibility. Instead she hides behind her wealth and her appearance. As Wershoven puts it, “society helps to cover up the deed. ” Daisy is an insatiable girl that has no need for validation by others.
Daisy wants things and people but, “there is no space inside her that can be filled, no unfinished part of her can be completed by another”(Wershoven). Therefore, Daisy views people as at her disposal. This is ultimately the attitude that is responsible for Gatsby’s death. Daisy is so caught up in the materialistic needs of that time that she cannot value anything e else. She views everything she has as an accessory; even her own daughter. Were as most parents feel defined by their children’s lives, the reader almost forgets that Daisy even has a daughter at all.
She only interacts with her child when it is convenient for her; and when it looks good in front of company. Daisy’s husband, Tom Buchanan is an ex- football star from the same college that Nick attended. Nick describes Tom as “one of those men that reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterwards savors anti-climax”(10). Tom falls victim to greed and cannot satisfy his need for more. As Wereshoven says: “Daisy and Tom are always looking for something, something new and better, for they are bored with the things they already bought.
Daisy wonders what they’ll do each day, and the next day, identifying the dilemma of people who can have whatever they want, as soon as they want it” (Wershoven). Tom is in a perpetuating cycle of greed in which he still cannot find satisfaction. He seeks thrills through sports, literature and even infidelity and all fall short of the glory he had back in college. He shares the same kind of entitlement and ignorance as Daisy. Toms idea of good literature are books like the “The Rise of the Colored Empire” and even expresses to Nick his distress over the submersion of the white race.
But even Tom’s attempts at sounding intelligent fall short and he ends up sounding ignorant and pretentious. Another telling thing about Tom is the way he treats the women in his life. While he appears to be happily married to Daisy, he still is having an affair with Myrtle Wilson. For months, Tom brings Myrtle to his apartment in New York and for months, Tom knowingly leads her on. Tom showers her with gifts and even buys her a dog and an expensive leash. However, Tom has no intention of ever leaving Daisy for Myrtle; someone of lower social status than him.
But yet Myrtle is under the delusional impression that Tom will leave his wife for her; and she will at last be part of the social network she dreams of. Myrtle is so in love with this idea that in turn, she despises the life that she lives without Tom; including her husband, George Wilson. Tom is also the ultimate hypocrite. While he the first one to criticize Daisy and Gatsby’s affair, he himself is having an affair. When Tom finds out about Daisy’s affair, he confronts Gatsby and says I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr.
Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that’s the idea then you can count me out” (137). He even claims that their affair is a “step toward inter-racial marriage. ” Tom condemns his wife for her infidelity but describes his own as once in a while “going on a spree making a fool out of [himself], but [he] has always come back, and in [his] heart [he] loves her all the time”. Not only is Tom cheating with George Wilson’s wife, but he also acts as a bully toward George. George Wilson is an honest, good-hearted man and Tom just toys with him.
Tom promises George that he will sell his car to him but he really never has any intention of doing so. George Wilson is depending on that money so he can start a new life out west and all Tom is doing is giving him empty promises. When George tries to bring up the subject to Tom, Tom gets offended and says “” Very well then, I won’t sell you the car at all… I’m under no obligations to you at all… And as for your bothering me about it at lunch time I won’t stand for that at all! ” (122).
Tom tries to find satisfaction by making George look like a fool and is amused by how easily he is able to do so. Just like Daisy, Tom has no remorse for the pain he inflicts in others. Overall the characters in The Great Gatsby, all embodied ideals that were emphasized in that time. Women were viewed as accessories and not yet contributing members of society. Women were still in charge of maintaining the home, especially in wealthy households, and concerned themselves with the small things. Daisy takes full advantage of this attitude and successfully gets away with murder.
It is Daisy who corrupts J. Gatsby’s ideal of his American dream and instead of working hard, and “pulling himself up y his own bootstraps”, he resorts to crime in order to become rich quickly so that he can win Daisy back. Instead of working hard for his own self-success, he chases this idea of Daisy. And finally Tom, was a victim of his own insatiable appetite that he could not fulfill. In every aspect of his life, Tom wanted more. Tom held an ideal that was very common throughout the 1920s; that his money and high social class would be able to buy him anything in life.
The idea of the American dream is wanting more for ones own life and becoming successful by hard honest work. All these characters shared the same sense of wanting more. But the had immoral ways of fulfilling their needs. Gatsby resorts to criminal activity in order to become wealthy. And Tom and Daisy resort to affairs in trying to satisfy their need for love. Unfortunately Gatsby is the one that pays the price in the end.
- Trask, David F. “A Note on Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. ” University Review. 3. 3 (Mar. 1967): 197-202. Rpt. in Novels for Students. Ed. Diane Telgen. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 1998. 197-202. Literature Resource Center. Gale. 12 Oct. 2009 http://go. galegroup. com/ps/start. do? p=LitRC=a04fu
- Wershoven, Carol. “Insatiable Girls. ” Child Brides and Intruders. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1993. 92-99. Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Linda Pavlovski. Vol. 157. Detroit: Gale, 2005. 92-99. Literature Resource Center. Gale. 12 Oct. 2009 .
Example 4: The Great Gatsby – The Unachievable Dream
“Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” is one of the most influential and famous phrases in the United State’s Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence encapsulates the original conception of the American Dream – the notion that every individual, regardless of their social upbringing, could have the opportunity to reach their full potential and live a comfortable lifestyle. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby takes place during the early 1920s–a time period that demonstrates the pursuit of happiness, opportunity, freedom, equality and finally the American Dream.
Myrtle Wilson, a significant character in The Great Gatsby, tries to pursue happiness and her American Dream by satisfying materialistic pleasures on a quest for wealth and status. The protagonist of the novel, Jay Gatsby’s quest for hopeless love, signifies the fallen American Dream. Ultimately Fitzgerald uses symbols such as cars, to represent the American Dream itself, and he uses failed relationships to exemplify the corruption and descent of the American Dream. Through his portrayal of the main characters and symbols, Fitzgerald illustrates the decay of morals and values, exemplifying the underside of the American Dream.
Fitzgerald portrays twisted relationships to represent the corrupt American Dream in The Great Gatsby. Emotional intimacy, trust, respect, and mutual goodwill constitute a positive and healthy relationship. To the contrary, the majority of the relationships displayed between the characters are dysfunctional, and diminish the hope of living out a meaningful American Dream with emphasis on a strong family. For example, Tom and Daisy are married, yet Tom has an affair shortly after Tom marries Daisy. Indeed, Daisy is suspicious of Tom’s conduct on a trip they took together to Santa Barbara.
If he left the room for a minute she’d look around uneasily and say ‘where’s Tom gone and wore the most abstracted expression until she saw him coming to the door …. This was in August. A week after I left Santa Barbara Tom ran into a wagon on the Ventura road one night, and ripped a front wheel off his car. The girl who was with him got into the papers, too, because her arm was broken- she was one of the chamber maids in the Santa Barbara. (Fitzgerald 51) In addition to the unfaithful relationship shared by Tom and Daisy, Daisy has a twisted conception of her daughter.
Daisy’s early cynicisms towards her daughter’s life are shown just about an hour after the baby is born, as Daisy says, “I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool- that’s the best thing a girl could be in this world, a beautiful little fool” (Fitzgerald 12). Likewise, as Daisy’s daughter grows older, the girl is treated like a trophy that Daisy uses for show, and the nurse is left with the responsibilities of the child’s care. (Fitzgerald 77). Like Daisy’s relationship with her daughter, another dysfunctional relationship is between Myrtle and her husband George. When George suspects Myrtle of cheating, he locks her away.
This becomes evident when Tom exclaims, “I’ve got my wife locked away up there” (Fitzgerald 91). Another example of the decline of morals and values in the novel is Nick’s romantic ideation of Jordan Baker, in spite of his established relationship at home (Fitzgerald 40). Most importantly, though, Gatsby has a tragically hopeless dream of obtaining Daisy’s love. He pursues illegal activities in order to gain wealth and to attract Daisy’s affection. Clearly, the multitude of dysfunctional relationships in Fitzgerald’s novel represents the misconstrual of the American Dream.
Much like the portrayal of relationships, Fitzgerald uses cars to represent the disintegration of the American Dream. In the 1920’s, cars were extremely popular, coveted by all, and symbolize the vast opportunities available in the United States. Ironically, Myrtle, who seeks American materialism to an extreme degree, ends up getting killed by American materialism itself. Throughout her life, Myrtle possesses a burning desire for money. She ends up giving her life to Tom and getting killed by her own desires (Fitzgerald 93).
Through Myrtle’s death, Fitzgerald conveys that dwelling too much on material objects cannot bring about a positive resolution; materialism can only bring about destruction. Destruction and corruption are shown through cars as well. Drinking impairs judgement and decreases inhibitions. Many of the characters drink as a pastime and drive under the influence. Since cars represent the American Dream, and drinking becomes a way of life, one can conclude that the characters go about achieving the American Dream in a misguided and dangerous manner. Myrtle tries to satisfy her desires by seeking wealth and tatus in attempts of achieving her American Dream.
Myrtle’s husband, George, owns a car dealership and repair shop in the industrial wasteland of the Valley of Ashes, which depict his lower class. In describing George’s shop, Fitzgerald notes “The interior was unprosperous and bare; the only car visible was the dust-covered wreck of a Ford which crouched in a dim corner” (Fitzgerald 27). Although George is loyal and hardworking, Myrtle is unsatisfied with her relationship; she envies the East Eggers for living her version of the American Dream while she is stuck in the Valley of Ashes, married to a low class man.
Myrtle directly disrespects her husband as she goes after Tom, a high class, wealthy, and married man, living in the East Egg. This is captured by Nick’s description of Myrtle, as he notes, “She smiled slowly and, walking through her husband as if he were a ghost, shook hands with Tom, looking him flush in the eye”(Fitzgerald 28). In fact, Myrtle demands that George supply chairs so that she and Tom could contrive against George. During Tom’s visit, Myrtle demands: ‘Get some chairs why don’t you so someone can sit down. ‘Oh, sure,’ agreed Wilson hurriedly …. A white ashen dust veiled everything in the vicinity- except his wife, Who moved close to Tom. (Fitzgerald 28) Myrtle looks past social values and chooses a life of adultery in spite of the repercussions that her actions have on her husband.
Furthermore, not a single character in this novel feels remorse for George when Myrtle blatantly plans to cheat. Indeed Nick and Tom have the following conversation after Myrtle plans her getaway with Tom: ‘It does her good to get away. ’ Doesn’t her husband object? ’ ‘Wilson? He thinks she goes to see her sister in New York.
He’s so dumb he doesn’t know he’s alive. ’(Fitzgerald 32) Nick and Tom take George for a fool, and they feel he is vacuous because he is in the lower class. In addition to the treatment of George, Myrtle’s tragic death symbolize America’s obsession with material wealth. Upon hearing a car approaching, Myrtle runs out into the dusk road waving her hands in the air, at which point she is struck and killed by Gastby’s vehicle (Fitzgerald 130).
Ironically, Myrtle’s chase for American materialism ended up costing her, her life as she is killed by her own desires in her quest for the American Dream. Jay Gatsby, another victim of his own desires, represents the fallen American Dream in his failed quest to win Daisy, but ends up empty handed in the end and does not receive what he had worked so hard for. Fitzgerald illustrates Gatsby’s strong desires for Daisy very early on, for at the end of chapter one lays our first clue, the green light. Gatsby stretches out his arms toward the dark water and looks at a green light.
This green light is just across the water at East Egg, specifically at Daisy’s backyard dock. This may be the first intimation we witness of Gatsby’s passionate dream, but is extremely powerful nonetheless. Gatsby’s tragic flaw is that he believes one can recapture the past and keep a moment crystallized forever.
From the moment Gatsby fell in love with Daisy, everything he did was for the sole purpose of winning her. This becomes evident as Jordan explains to Nick, ‘Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay. (Fitzgerald 76). Jordan further explains to Nick that Gatsby also hopes Daisy would come by one of his parties and be impressed. ‘He wants her to see his house, ‘she explained. ‘And your house is just next door.
’ ‘Oh! ’ ‘I think he half expected her to wander into one of his parties, some night,’ went on Jordan, ‘but she never did. Then he began asking people casually if they knew her, and I was the first one he found. It was that night he sent for me at his dance, and you should have heard the elaborate way he worked up to it. Fitzgerald 77) Gatsby has a blind purist of Daisy and every purchase he makes and party he throws is backing the hopes of attracting her attention.
Obviously, Gatsby highly values Daisy and he goes above and beyond to impress her. This statement is further illustrated as Gatsby hires someone to cut Nick’s grass to impress her, on the day that Daisy is going to visit (Fitzgerald 81). As well, upon Daisy’s arrival, Gatsby shows off his big house to her, brags that it only took him three years to earn the money in the drug and oil business, and takes Daisy on a tour (Fitzgerald 87-89).
Gatsby deliberately excludes the fact that much of Gatsby’s money to win Daisy over comes from organized crime and bootlegging. Breaking the law and lies become daily activities for Gatsby on his quest to win Daisy over. Gatsby also shows off his wealth by throwing expensive and beautiful shirts left right and centre as if they were a dime a dozen (Fitzgerald 89). This is to suggest that Gatsby is extremely affluent to the point that his money can be thrown around without a care. Later in the novel, Daisy accidently kills Myrtle while driving Gatsby’s car.
Nick tries to convince Gatsby that he should flee so that George would not be able to track his car; however Gatsby refuses as Fitzgerald notes, “He wouldn’t consider it. He couldn’t leave Daisy until he knew her next course of action. He was clutching at some last hope and I couldn’t bear to shake him free” (Fitzgerald 141). Gatsby is simply unable to realize that his dream is not a reality, and by being so focussed on his dream he leads himself further and further into a fantasy world. When Gatsby takes Daisy’s hand he describes her voice as a deathless song (Fitzgerald 93).
Evidently, Gatsby’s idealism is replaced by his inability to understand the changing world around him. Gatsby cannot comprehend that time passes and that one cannot keep the past crystallized forever. Fitzgerald uses the clock at Nick’s house to symbolize Gatsby’s delusion. The clock that falls at Nick’s house that was caught by Gatsby before it could hit the ground, suggests that Gatsby feels he could stop the time from passing. Gatsby’s inability to see things for what they really are, are further illustrated by in his remark. “Cannot repeat the past? he cried incredulously, ‘why of course you can! ” (Fitzgerald 106).
Ironically, Gatsby becomes a parody of himself in the sense that throughout The Great Gatsby, he cannot wait to distance himself from his true past, but yet he lives his adult life trying to recapture the past he had with Daisy. Gatsby needs to learn that in order to see forward into the future, one must let go of their past. Both Daisy and Gatsby go about achieving their dream in a misguided manner, and have been corrupted by their strong desire to achieve their own American Dream.
At last, Myrtle, Gatsby, twisted relationships, and cars, serve as symbols illustrating the corruption of the American Dream shown throughout The Great Gatsby. Morals and values decay as the characters seek American materialism driven by self-indulgence. The established and newly rich aim to get even richer and they associate themselves with the high class while looking down on the poor. The working class strive to rise up in wealth and status yet never do as revealed by a song; “the rich get richer and the poor get- children” (Fitzgerald 92). Ultimately, Fitzgerald himself sets up the American Dream to be unattainable by his characters.
A crucial element of the classic American Dream is for individuals to rise up in class based on hard work and merit. In order for this element to be possible, no specific class system may be present. On the contrary, Fitzgerald creates his novel using definite class division systems such as East Egg for the established rich, West Egg for the newly rich, and the Valley of Ashes for the low working class. The dreams of the characters in this novel are to rise in status and class, thus turning their lifelong strive for the American Dream to be paradoxical and consequently unachievable.
Example 5: A Critical Analysis of The Great Gatsby
The beginning of the 20th century was marked with substantial changes including the industrial revolution, WWI and the gradual diversification of moral views as opposed to the uniformity imposed by the clericalism that had dominated the American society from its conception.
The dynamically changing morality first and foremost touched the new bourgeoisie, or the class of people who made their fortunes rapidly and became wealthy at relatively young age.
The Great Gatsby is a famous novel by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. The action takes place on Long Island and in New York City in the 1920s era. The characters of the drama are mostly wealthy, yet young people, going through the stage of the inner morality reformation.
The literary work depicts the stable upper-middle class of the 1920s, who used to live in the West Egg district of Long Island. Contemporary New York City lured people with its countless opportunities to realize oneself and improve one’s material well-being; Nick Carraway, a Yale graduate, is not an exception. He is flexible and intelligent enough and thus moves to New York for the purpose of learning and working in bond trade.
Furthermore, he’s originally solvent enough to afford a flat in the fashionable West Egg district: “My family have been prominent, well-to-do people in this middle-western city for three generations. The Carraways are something of a clan and we have a tradition that we’re descended from the Dukes of Buccleuch […]” (Fitzgerald, 4).
Upon the arrival to New York, Nick soon gets attracted to the fun-driven lifestyle, implying noisy parties, light flirt and false, theatrical love. The family of his cousin Daisy, who lives not far from Nick, is equally wealthy and aristocratic: her husband Tom graduated from a prestigious university and runs a successful business. Daisy is a beautiful, but excessively materialistic woman, who once had a romantic affair with Gatsby, but soon rejected him because of his allegedly questionable ability to provide for the future family.
Instead, she accepted Tom’s proposal and selected confidence in the tomorrow’s day as opposed to the strong, barely controllable emotions she had for Gatsby (Milford, 69). The protagonist of the novel, Jay Gatsby, stands to certain degree apart from the lawful third-generation businessmen he is on friendly terms with. Gatsby is a descendant of a poor family, but, owing to his motivation for learning, he manages to enter St. Olaf’s College, which he, however, soon leaves because of the despair, associated with his janitor’s job (Turnbull, 122).
Driven by his love for Daisy, he fanatically seeks ways of becoming rich and even dares break the law and engages with criminal business. However, the protagonist remains sincere in his attitude towards people and seems extremely kind, generous and broad-minded person: “It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it that you come across four or five times in life… [his face] believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself” (Fitzgerald, 52-53).
As one can assume, wealth, as implied in the American Dream, particularly popular among the middle-class population, is one of the major themes of the literary work: “The Great Gatsby is a highly symbolic meditation on 1920s America as a whole, in particular the disintegration of the American dream in the era of unprecedented prosperity and material excess” (Bruccoli, 73).
Wealth, or, more precisely, its lack, becomes the major reason for the destruction of the beautiful fairy tale romance between Gatsby and Daisy. Financial prosperity is also the main factor motivating Tom’s extramarital lover, Myrtle, for seeing the man on the regular basis. Finally, money becomes a catalyst of Gatsby’s tragic outcome of being slaughtered after taking Daisy’s blame for the accident with Myrtle (Bruccoli, 79; Lehan, 211).
When approaching the theme of wealth from an alternative perspective, it is possible to notice The Great Gatsby contains a comprehensive overview of the sociology of upper-middle class and newly minted rich businessmen. In particular, the western part of the district is inhabited by newly rich, whereas the denizens of East Egg represent nobility and aristocracy: “Fitzgerald portrays the newly rich as being vulgar, gaudy, ostentatious, and lacking in social graces and taste.
Gatsby, for example, lives in a monstrously ornate mansion, wears a pink suit, drives a Rolls-Royce, and does not pick up on subtle social signals, such as the insincerity of the Sloans’ invitation to lunch” (Lehan, 215).
At the same time, aristocratic circles are depicted as mannequins, whose public behavior rarely reflects their true beliefs and attitudes. For instance, Tom is unfaithful in his relationship with wife and starts an affair with a woman, whose background is far from aristocratic and who lives in a poor neighborhood.
Wealth is also close-knit with the theme of moral freedom, which causes the moral degradation of the top society (Lehan, 233). The Buchanans are literally heartless: instead of attending Gatsby’s funeral and demonstrating their respect for everything the dead made for safeguarding Daisy’s reputation, they simply change the place of residence and distance themselves from the tragedy both physically and psychologically.
Even Gatsby, the most “authentic” and open-minded person in the novel, seems adversely affected by his wealth and sinks in the marsh of criminal affairs increasingly deeper so that even his surroundings learn about his illegal alcohol business and murders he committed.
Therefore, by describing the wealthy New York City communities of the 1920s, Fitzgerald prominently illustrates the negative impact of excessive prosperity on human value system and intrinsic ethical principles. The author also proves that money provides great freedom, but really few people are psychologically prepared to accept and successfully manage it.
- Bruccoli, A. New Essays on The Great Gatsby. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
- Fitzgerald, F. S. The Great Gatsby. Wordsworth Editions, 1993.
- Lehan, R. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Craft of Fiction. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1966.
- Milford, N. Zelda. New York: Harper and Row, 1970.
- Turnbull, A. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1962