The Great Gatsby and the Destruction of the American Dream



The Great Gatsby, a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald,
is about the corruption of the American Dream, and the
downfall of those who attempt to attain its illusionary
goals. As the novel shows, the 20th century is a moral
wasteland and a corruption of the original idealistic
American Dream of the past.
Fitzgerald\'s moral wasteland is shown physically
in the "valley of ashes" scene of the novel. This
\'dismal\' and \'desolate\' wasteland exists side-by-side
with the white and unreal dream of Daisy and her world.
Even the colors of this landscape have correlations to
Daisy: the "yellow" of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg\'s spectacles
and the brick of the houses on the street is a color of
decay, but also of riches like sunlight and gold. Also,
the ashes in the valley form figures (to Nick) which
disintegrate at the slightest puff of wind. Gatsby is
incapable of recognizing the "ashes" of what Daisy
represents and takes her emptiness for substance.
Although Nick sees the moral desolation of the
Buchanans\' world, Gatsby cannot and tries to find in
this world a dream worth holding on to. As shown in
Gatsby\'s parties, nothing is tethered to reality;
there is laughter without amusement, \'enthusiasm\'
between strangers, "friends" without friendship, and
life without meaning.
Gatsby\'s dream is that through wealth and power,
one can acquire happiness (Daisy). Throughout the
novel we see that Gatsby cannot see that the past is
over and done with and he therefor can have no chance
with Daisy. He is sure that he can capture his dream
with wealth and influence. Nick attempts to show Gatsby
the folly of his dream and tell him that he cannot
relive the past, but Gatsby confidently replies, "Yes
you can, old sport." There are many connections between
Gatsby\'s dream with the American Dream. A big part of
both is the pursuit of material things and both have a
touch (or more than a touch) of unreality about them.
The American dream used to be self-betterment,
wealth, and success through hard work and perseverance
or "luck, pluck, and virtue", as Alger would put it.
However, in the modern era, all that changed. The
American Dream shrunk from self-betterment, wealth,
and success through hard work and perseverance to
\'success\' through wealth by any means possible, just
as Gatsby\'s dream, his Platonic conception of himself,
shrunk into Daisy. The corruption of the American
dream can be illustrated by how Gatsby came by his
fortune. Through his dealings with organized crime,
he didn\'t adhere to the original American Dream
guidelines. His very dishonesty that allowed him to
get the wealth and connections to be near Daisy is
also the very thing that would make it impossible for
him to live in Daisy\'s world or she in his. In effect,
pursuing his dream without thought to honesty or
morality, Gatsby guaranteed that his dream would not
come true. This is true also of the American Dream.
Those who try to attain the American Dream without
thought to honesty or morality are doomed to have
their dreams remain unattainable or, if they achieve
wealth, to have the dream become meaningless due to
their very immorality (like Jordan\'s cheating takes
the meaning out of her \'wins\'). Also, in the novel all
the immoral and dishonest people (Tom, Daisy, Jordan)
have all the money. This concept of the corruption and
destruction of the American Dream is also physically
illustrated by how the \'fresh, green promise\' of the
world was displaced by the \'gloomy\', \'gray\' Valley of
Ashes.
The Great Gatsby illustrates how the pursuit for
happiness through materialism cannot be successful
without accompanying morality. Cut off from their
mid-West traditions and ethics, the characters in the
novel live in a sort of sick parody of the American
Dream. They cannot be truly happy because they lack
the inner reserves for such an emotion. This parallels
modern society\'s rootlessness and accompanying
corruption of the American Dream. Without something to
believe in, to hold on to, we can not attain anything
of genuine worth.





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