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Allison Winter

Per. 3-4

The Deceitful Illusion of Success

Bernie Madoff took advantage of many people, promising them that he would

invest their money and that they would receive big returns. Instead of doing this, he kept

the money he received from large charities and lots of people. Bernie Madoff in a sense

acts as the current day Gatsby, from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, scamming people

out of their money in order to make it big without considering the huge repercussions.

Bernie Madoff is now headed for jail for life all because of his greed. To many, his

dishonest scamming outraged many people. Madoff is just a mere example of the way in

which the American Dream quickly leads to the corruption of people when they so

eagerly want success. Towards the end of the novel, Fitzgerald allows the readers to

glimpse into Gatsby and Daisy’s relationship through a flashback on page 149 where he

recalls his original goal to love her and leave her. Ultimately, the plan failed. In this

passage, Fitzgerald’s stylistic choices illustrate his concern with the American Dream

acting as an illusion that leads our country to destruction.

Juxtaposition between positive and negative diction choice is used to reveal the

false identity that the American Dream holds for individuals living in America. Gatsby’s

change of American Dream represents the possible negative and positive consequences

that come with pursuing the Dream. Primarily, Gatsby focuses on succeeding in the

original way which the American Dream implied, but results in committing himself to
chase after Daisy, who would represent the new American Dream. Individuals living in

America automatically assume the ability to obtain anything they strive for, but The

Great Gatsby proves this belief of the American people wrong. After attempting to win

Daisy, Gatsby realizes that she “vanished” but remains “extraordinary” (149). To vanish

connotes an action to disappear from sight rapidly, just as Gatsby’s dream tricks him by

appearing “so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it” (180). “Extraordinary” describes

the highly unusual or exceptional, and extraordinary is not a concept which can be fully

conceived by individuals on this Earth—only by god. Daisy, as Gatsby’s American

Dream, remains only a figment of his imagination, although she appears obtainable,

when he tries too hard, he sets himself up for failure resulting in “nothing” (149).

Nothing describes a feeling of loneliness with no connection to society or any

importance. Ultimately, Fitzgerald juxtaposes positive and negative diction choices to

reveal the corrupt, fake identity of the dominant discourse. For example, in the 20s, old

money status found they could literally kill and face no consequences. People of old

money status “smashed up things and creatures…and let other people clean up the mess

they had made.” (179). Wall Street also found they could create fake numbers and

perform insider trading without consequences until the stock market crashes. Once the

stock market crashes, Americans lose their money and taxpayers need to clean up after

the old money Wall Street investors.

Although many representations of the American Dream relate to the story of The

Great Gatsby, the use of the Holy Grail as an allusion illustrates ‘the Dream’ as well as
the inability to acquire it. The Holy Grail itself is a cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper

that it may possess magical powers. Available to all, it only remains fully attainable by

those who prepare themselves spiritually. The Holy Grail has yet to be found, and when

found, the individual who drinks from it will receive eternal life. Throughout the book,

Gatsby clearly lays out his objective—to earn old money status. Although two very

different social statuses keep the two apart, Gatsby believes that once he gains equal

attention from Daisy and establishes a more predominant relationship with her, he gains

his own eternal life of happiness and endless love. When a person follows a goal he takes

the same route behind another person, which describes Gatsby exactly as he spends his

life “following a grail” (149). Though the term “to follow” is often perceived as simple to

understand, it also takes on the meaning “to have somebody’s movements under constant

surveillance,” or to constantly wait for the right opportunity to pounce on the object of

pursuit. Gatsby never knew, however, that he was unable to cater to Daisy’s demanding

needs and that they were each from two worlds only separated by a seemingly small bay.

The eyes of Dr. TJ Ekelberg on the billboard act as an image of G-d, who strategically

watches the actions of each character in the story, and acts as the prime judge of their

morals or their lack thereof. The use of the billboard in the story, not only as a clear

representation of symbolism, but in addition, gives life to a new statement that G-d’s eyes

see truth in the poor, which becomes evident throughout this part of Fitzgerald’s novel.

Just like the Holy Grail, Gatsby completely commits to a woman whose love remains

unattainable. Daisy neglected to come to Gatsby’s funeral. Both Daisy and Tom “had
taken baggage with them” (164) and fled to Chicago without saying “when they’d be

back” (164) after Gatsby dies. Wealth distribution during the 1920s acted as a grail.

People of the old money status owned 80% of the wealth. The marginalized want to own

property but are unable.

Fitzgerald uses dashes to show a separation from the true difference between two

distinct American Dreams. Throughout the novel, a reader will find dashes scattered

throughout the book, from beginning to end. A dash indicates an abrupt change in

thought or a break in the sentence flow. It can also be used to introduce a phrase or clause

that summarizes what has gone on previously. Gatsby originally intended “to take what

he could and go―…leaving Gatsby―nothing” (149). The dash denotes a metamorphosis

between the two dreams, and to display the consequences of pursuing an unobtainable

object. Daisy, who represents the unobtainable object, is regarded as an extraordinary,

nice girl who is not commonly found in Gatsby’s social class. Gatsby lived a fast life,

throwing rowdy parties that lasted through the night, but at his own funeral, “nobody

came” (174). The only people that attended were his father, Nick, Owl Eyes, and a few

servants. No one from the old money status attended his funeral. The dominant discourse

only interacts within their group. Gatsby could buy all the things he wanted, but he was

quick to learn that money could not acquire someone he could love from his own status.

In the story, certain techniques are used in order to give life to the thoughts of the

characters. Dashes allow for more of a pause than a comma in writing, indicating a

greater change in thought or feeling of a specific condition. Separating the two clauses
literally makes them isolated from each other, just as Gatsby realized the vast difference

of his dreams and the loneliness it causes him. As the story concludes, Gatsby dies alone

in his pool on the last of summer as a result of his greed. In chapter 9, Nick finds a

schedule that Gatsby had from 1906. It is a literal example of the original dream, which

was to wake up early and perfecting oneself. One of his improvements was to “be better

to parents” (173) which is a statement supported in the Ten Commandments. In a greater

conclusion, Gatsby gives up on the moral, perfect, original dream, only to find a life of

partying and dependence on money. This new lifestyle which Gatsby establishes for

himself proves that the dream our founding fathers began with is now dead and buried far

in our history.

In reality, Bernie Madoff remains one of many people who led Americans to a

faulty grail. Americans follow any deal that promises benefits which will make them rich

and leads them into a blind destruction. Obama now holds our responsibility to clean up

after our messes when we remain obligated to take control of our own faults. While

Bernie Madoff sits in his jail cell, perhaps he should pick up a copy of The Great Gatsby

in order to learn from the messes he caused.

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