The American Dream, And All Its Splendor (Great Gatsby)

779 words - 3 pages


The 1920s were a decade of rebirth characterised by the founding of the "American
Dream" -- the belief that anyone can, and should, achieve material success. The defining
writer of the 1920s was F. Scott Fitzgerald whose most famous novel, The Great Gatsby,
has become required reading for present-day high school students. We study Fitzgerald's
novel for the same reason we study Shakespeare. The literature composed by both authors
contains themes and morals that continue to be relevant to modern society. As a result,
this novel could have easily been written in modern times. In his novel, Fitzgerald criticises
the American Dream by describing its negative characteristics: class struggles between the
rich and the poor, the carelessness of the rich, and the false relationship between money
and happiness.
“The Great Gatsby ... describes the failure of the American dream, from the point of
view that American political ideals conflict with the actual social conditions that exist. For
whereas American democracy is based on the idea of equality among people, the truth is
that social discrimination still exists and the divisions among the classes cannot be
overcome” (Internet 1). It is impossible for all people to become rich, since wealth is
based largely on social position, and classes prevent the poor from becoming successful.
“One thing’s sure and nothing’s surer / The rich get richer and the poor get -- children”
(Fitzgerald 101). Myrtle’s attempt to break into the class which the Buchanans belong to
is doomed from the start. She enters into an affair with Tom, takes on all the negative
qualities of his social group, and not only becomes corrupt and immoral, but she scorns
people from her own class. “I thought he knew something about breeding but he wasn’t fit
to lick my shoe” (Fitzgerald 39). The adulterous behaviour of Myrtle and Tom, as well as
the carelessness of Daisy and Jordan, illustrates the corruptibility of the rich.
Both Tom and Daisy are morally corrupt, having little concern for how they treat the
people around them. “Daisy and her husband display their indifference to human values in
episodes involving sexual exploitation and careless violence” (Fahey 72). The Buchanans
are not the only shallow ones, Jordan is “incurably dishonest” and her opinion that “‘It
takes two to make an accident,’”(Fitzgerald 63) is an attempt to justify of her
thoughtlessness. ‘“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy -- they smashed up things
and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or
whatever it was that kept them together, and let...

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