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.