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Casey 1 Hayden Casey Richard Hoadley AP English Language & Composition 28 May 2013 The Great Gatsby and

the Unachievable American Dream F. Scott Fitzgeralds The Great Gatsby was published during the Roaring 20s, in the midst of an economic boom that brought about a new wave of consumerism. Flappers were partying, Prohibition backfired, and everything was full of prosperity (Bruccoli). This is the best time possible for a novel like The Great Gatsby to be set. Its full of lavish parties, mysterious hosts, and character flaws. However, the most important 1920s occurrence tackled by Fitzgerald is the American Dream, the concept of material prosperity being of much value. The cast of The Great Gatsby, aside from Nick Carraway, is blinded by its possessions, to the point where the American Dream keeps them in a chokehold. For example, Daisy Buchanan, the main object of Gatsbys affection, is as materialistic and shallow as they come. For the entire duration of The Great Gatsby, she wears a sweet face, but behind the faade, she is nothing, just a woman so brutally desiring what the American Dream promises. Amy Green points out that Gatsby leads to the American Dream . . . [finding] itself subject to scrutiny, after having been revered as an attainable, an almost holy icon of American culture (Dickstein). Critic H.L. Mencken believed Gatsby was no more than a glorified anecdote, finding the overall plot arc lacking in depth (Dickstein). This can be considered true when you look at the cast of characters in the novel. It can be inferred, however, that Fitzgerald intended to make these characters so lacking in depth to make a statement about materialism and its harsh effects.

Casey 2 In the novel, it is stated that Daisy and Gatsby had met years before her marriage to Tom, fallen in love, and planned to be with each other. However, when Gatsby went off to fight in the Great War, Daisy was left alone and decided to marry Tom Buchanan after he bought her a string of pearls worth three hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Later in the novel, when Gatsby confronts Tom about his secret past with Daisy, she is unable to say she never loved Tom. Is this because somewhere along the line, she actually developed feelings for Tom, or is it because her shallow, aching heart couldnt bear to separate itself from Toms promising riches that bring her one step closer to living the American Dream? Tom offered Daisy financial security in a time when Gatsby didnt have it, which made her feel that her decision to marry Tom was more justified. An anonymous reviewer of Gatsby believed that the book needed perhaps an excess of intensity to buoy up the really very unpleasant characters, which is a fair opinion, considering the moral injustice of all the characters (Dickstein). The only character not completely corrupted by materialistic New York society is Nick Carraway, the narrator of the story. He is a merely observational character, blandly taking into account the selfish actions of others around him. Surely, he mustve realized the implications of witnessing both Daisy and Tom cheating on each other. In a way, both Tom and Daisys desires to live perfect lives led their marriage to stick like glue. Although the two of them are not even close to faithful to each other, Fitzgerald points out the importance of marriage as a sacrament by not letting them grow apart. At the end of the book, after Myrtle and Gatsby died, Tom and Daisy were still together, disguised behind diamonds and finely-tailored suits, disappearing into the consumerist crowd. Its almost as if their desire to achieve the American Dream caught up to them (Lathbury). Tom and Daisy they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated

Casey 3 back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made (Fitzgerald). Mr. Jay Gatsby is perhaps the biggest victim of the American Dream. Dirt poor earlier in life, he won his riches through hard work and scheming, with a goal to win back the girl hed lost. The green light at the end of Daisys dock represented the goal he ultimately had to achieve, one that was unfortunately in the past, already gone (Parkinson). Daisy was never meant to be Gatsbys, not when a vengeful Wilson shot Gatsby down in his pool. Although Gatsby had a big heart and a soul with an endless capacity for hope, he was fated to die from the start (Fitzgerald). His success was short-lived, if it even existed, because although he won a large heap of money through bootlegging, he would never earn what his heart truly desired: shallow, insensitive Daisy Buchanan. Indirectly, Daisy even led to his demise, driving the car on the night Myrtle was struck down. Gatsbys upbringing and constant life changes led him to create a public appearance for himself. He, in a way, reinvented who he was for the public, so no one would know the complete and utter truth about him (Fahey). So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeenyear-old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end, Fitzgerald wrote about the topic (99). At three points in the novel, Gatsby shared the truth about his life with Nick, and each time, he opened up more and more. When Nick was at Gatsbys first party, he heard a plethora of different rumors about the strange host, because nobody was certain of the truth except for Gatsby himself (Lehan). Nick was the only person to attend Gatsbys funeral after he died because Nick was the only one who knew the real James Gatz, not just the faade he wore in front of the public (Hook).

Casey 4 Although Gatsby met such a cruel fate, he was a brilliant man. Edwin Fussell describes Gatsby as essentially the man of imagination in America, given specificity and solidity and precision by the materials which American society offered him (Fussell). Said Nick, If personality is a series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away (Fitzgerald). Gatsbys sad fate rests hand in hand with his unfulfilled life, full of empty desires and broken promises. Gatsby never won over Daisy Buchanan from her vast carelessness, but in the end, he was better off without her. Daisy and Tom were perfect for each other, both drowning in their money and indifference toward those who cared about them, and Gatsby, the only one with a truly open heart, was better off dead (Fitzgerald). When it comes down to it, you could consider Daisy and Tom as having lived the American Dream. They were rich; they were happy and content with cheating on each other, although Daisy didnt work an hour in her life to achieve high status. They were entitled, and as soon as Gatsby left the picture, they returned to their normal lives as if nothing had happened. Daisy, having been in love with Gatsby once, seemed surprisingly calm when he died, as if her love for him shattered when hopes of economic prosperity disappeared. Gatsby tried so hard to win Daisy back with promises of large mansions and exotic parties, but she wouldnt have any of it. Nick Carraway worked hard for his cardboard box of a house next door to Gatsbys, and by the end of the novel, he realized the lack of depth in Daisys character (Berman). Having achieved his own American Dream, along with hopes of a future with Jordan Baker, Nick Carraway forever said good bye to the legacy that was Jay Gatsby and beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past (Fitzgerald).

Casey 5 Works Cited Berman, Ronald. The Great Gatsby and the Good American Life. Blooms Major Literary Characters: Jay Gatsby. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 2004. Print. Bruccoli, Matthew. Fitzgeralds Era: Social and Political Backgrounds of the 1920s. Literary Masters: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ed. Judith S. Baughman. Detroit: Manly/The Gale Group, 2000. Print. Dickstein, Morris, ed. Critical Insights: The Great Gatsby. Pasadena, CA: Salem, 2010. Print. Fahey, William. F. Scott Fitzgerald and the American Dream. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1973. Print. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Comp. Matthew J. Bruccoli. New York, NY: Scribner, 1996. Print. Fussell, Edwin. Fitzgeralds Brave New World. Blooms Major Literary Characters: Jay Gatsby. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 2004. Print. Hook, Andrew. Tom Buchanan. Blooms Notes: F. Scott Fitzgeralds The Great Gatsby. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1996. Print. Lathbury, Roger. Money, Love, and Aspiration in The Great Gatsby. Blooms Major Literary Characters: Jay Gatsby. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 2004. Print. Lehan, Richard. Inventing Gatsby. Blooms Major Literary Characters: Jay Gatsby. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 2004. Print. Parkinson, Kathleen. Penguin Critical Studies: F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby. New York: Penguin Books, 1987. Print.