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Two American Dreams

In The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, many themes are enclosed; the most salient of these themes is related to the American Dream. The American Dream is based on the idea that any person, no matter what they are, can become successful in life by his or her hard work. The dream also embodies the idea of a self-sufficient person, an entrepreneur making it successful for themselves. The Great Gatsby is about what happened to the American Dream during the 1920s, an era when the dream had been corrupted by the relentless pursuit of wealth. In this novel, the pursuit of the American Dream and the pursuit of a romantic dream are the ultimate causes of the downfall of the book’s title character, Jay Gatsby. Throughout the story, Jay Gatsby avoids telling the truth of his hard, unglamorous childhood. He does this to keep his superficial image of himself and to save himself from the embarrassment of being in a state of poverty during his youth. His parents were lazy and unsuccessful people who worked on the farm, and because of this Gatsby never really accepted them as his parents. Jay Gatsby’s real name is James Gatz and he is from the very unexciting North Dakota. He changed his name to Jay Gatsby when he was seventeen years old, which was the beginning of his version of the American Dream. In all realities Gatsby arose from his Platonic view of himself, the idealistic self-view that a seventeen year old boy has of himself (Fitzgerald 104). Though concealed for most of the story, Gatsby’s embarrassing childhood is a major source of determination in his attempt to achieve the American Dream. During Gatsby’s early adulthood, he joined the army. He first met Daisy when he was at Camp Taylor and he and some other officers stopped by her house. He initially loved Daisy because of her extraordinary house and because many other men had been with her already. One evening in October, during 1917, Gatsby fell in love with Daisy Fay, and in turn she fell in love with Gatsby. ?Daisy was the first ?nice’ girl that he had ever known? (Fitzgerald 155). Their love was an uneasy one at first for Gatsby to comprehend because he wasn’t rich by any standards and he felt that he wasn’t worthy of Daisy’s affection, but his uneasiness was uplifted when he and Daisy fell in love and when he found out that Daisy knew a lot because he knew a variety of things that she didn’t. Their month of love was physically ended when Gatsby had to go to war, but their emotional love never ended. As Gatsby performed brilliantly throughout the war, they wrote each other frequently. Daisy couldn’t understand why Gatsby couldn’t come home. She wanted her love to be their with her, she needed some assurance that she was doing the right thing. It didn’t take long for Daisy to get over Jay because in the Spring of 1918 she fell in love with a rich, former All-American college football player named Tom Buchanon. This broke Jay Gatsby’s heart. His love for Daisy was a strong one and he was determined to get her back. This first love with Daisy had a great impact on his idea of one of the aspects of achieving the American Dream. Throughout the novel, the reader is mislead about how Gatsby became wealthy. Gatsby claims on several different occasions that he inherited his parents’ immense fortune. This is a story that Gatsby made up in order to keep his self-image up by not letting people know about his childhood. The truth is that Gatsby got rich by illegal measures. He was friends with the notorious Meyer Wolfsheim. Meyer Wolfsheim was the racketeer who supposedly fixed the World Series of 1919. He was Gatsby’s connection to organized crime, in which Gatsby became rich. Gatsby’s true sources to richness were selling bootleg liquor in his chain of drug stores and creating a giant business to get rid of and sell stolen Liberty bonds (Mizener 188). Gatsby’s methods of gaining wealth corrupt the morality of the American Dream although they help him to achieve it. It did not take long for Gatsby to attempt to win Daisy back after he returned from the army. Jay Gatsby had this romantic view of Daisy and himself together and happy forever. He felt the best way to achieve this idea would be for him to become at least as rich as Daisy’s husband Tom Buchanon. He knows that the best ways for him to pry Daisy’s affection away from Tom are gaining wealth and gaining material possessions. Daisy is a shallow woman who is easily overwhelmed by material items. Gatsby’s main way to show off his wealth and material possessions were to throw lavish parties. His parties featured the finest drinks and live jazz bands. The parties were so huge that Nick Carraway, Gatsby’s best friend and the narrator of the book, alluded to them as the World’s Fair. Not only did the parties fulfill Gatsby’s reasons for having them, but they also showed his grand sense of pride that stemmed from his richness. Gatsby and Daisy are finally reunited by Nick at Gatsby’s request. This is Gatsby’s second chance for him to show off his wealth and to win Daisy back. Gatsby uses this meeting to show Daisy what he has become through his possessions (Way 103). Daisy is amazed when she experiences the extravagance of Gatsby’s house. When Gatsby throws his imported shirts all around the room, she begins to cry because she realizes that she has missed out on so much of Gatsby’s life. It is at this moment, when the dream that he has strived for is right in front of him, that he realizes that Daisy isn’t as perfect as he imagined her to be. This is clearly evident to Nick who thinks that: ?There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy fell short of his dream- nor through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything.? (Fitzgerald Chapter 5) This is the first point in the novel which shows that Gatsby’s dream can never be fully achieved, yet it is also his dream being achieved because he is finally back with Daisy again even though she is still with Tom. The beginning of the downfall of Gatsby’s dream occurs when Tom suspects that Daisy is cheating on him with Gatsby. His hypothesis is proven correct when he, Gatsby, Daisy, Nick, and Jordan Baker, are at a hotel in New York holding a conversation which breaks out into an argument. It is during this argument that Tom finds out that Jay Gatsby and Daisy have been in love for five years and that they have never stopped loving each other. As Tom and Gatsby argue it becomes evident that Daisy does not know which man she wants to be with because she is in love with both of them because both of them are rich. All Gatsby wanted was for Daisy to tell Tom that she never loved him, but she could not do that. She knew that it would be a lie if she said that so she simply said to Gatsby, ?I did love him once- but I loved you too.? This statement opens the well into which Gatsby’s dream will eventually fall because it shows that Daisy is not Gatsby’s woman alone Tom begins the undermining of Gatsby’s idealist concept of himself by making Gatsby realize that he isn’t what he has made himself out to be. He makes Gatsby see that he does not appear to people in the way that he thinks of himself. Tom describes Gatsby as a ?bootlegger, cheap swindler, and a crook.? These few comments shattered Gatsby’s self-identity because of it’s fragileness (Way 99). Tom washed all of the effort and determination that Gatsby had put into becoming what he was and earning what he received, even though his methods were illegal, with a few minutes worth of speaking. After the argument, Gatsby can feel a minor sense of victory because Daisy refuses to speak to Tom and when they are leaving, Daisy leaves with him. On the way back to the suburbs, Gatsby allows Daisy to drive his car. While driving, Daisy hits and kills Myrtle Wilson, the lady Tom is having an affair with. Gatsby and Daisy keep on driving and they act like nothing ever happened. Later that evening, Nick learned from Gatsby that Daisy had been driving when Myrtle was killed in the hit-and-run accident. Gatsby’s love for Daisy causes him to be willing to take the blame if the blame if the death was traced back to his car. If Daisy’s love for Gatsby was based on true love, instead of wealth and material items, then she would have stepped up and confessed to her crime especially since she was riding in Gatsby’s car and it could easily be assumed that he was the killer. Daisy was not concerned with the well- being of Gatsby and this is shown when she is back at home conversing with her husband, over cold chicken and ale, instead of worrying about what might happen to Gatsby. Gatsby, on the other hand, worries that whole night about Daisy. He worries that Tom might beat on Daisy when he gets home. These things never happen but it is the fact that Gatsby was concerned about her well- being and Daisy was not concerned with Gatsby’s well- being that is important. She is just a shallow person who does not know the meaning of the word love. She is caught up in the times and in living the moraless and careless lifestyle that she leads. She could care less about what happens to anyone except for herself. This whole situation proves that she is definitely not deserving of the high pedestal that Gatsby has placed her on (Internet 1). This is the greatest blow to his romantic dream of him and Daisy being together forever because she chooses Tom over Gatsby in a time of crisis. It shows that the man that she truly wants to be with the most is the man she is living with now. Gatsby realizes this and his life begins to be pointless. This is his dream brought to reality. The dream is completely dissipated and will knows it will never be achieved. It did not take long for George Wilson, Myrtle’s husband, to trace the yellow car which killed his wife back to Jay Gatsby. Because George Wilson wants revenge for his wife’s death, and he believes it is Gatsby who killed his wife, he goes to Gatsby’s estate and kills Gatsby and then himself. This is the tragic end of Gatsby’s life. All of his heroism, his rapid rise to the top, all brought to a calamitous end because Daisy did not love him as much as he loved her. Although Gatsby’s romantic dream was already dead, his version of the American Dream was still alive and beaming. He still had everything going for him; his youth, money, and personality. Gatsby is morally superior to his fellow East Eggers and Nick acknowledges this when he tells Gatsby, ?You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together. (Fitzgerald 162).? To have it all taken away for something he had not even done was the greatest misfortune of the entire novel. Gatsby’s death is made even more saddening at his funeral. Nick tried to make Gatsby’s funeral respectable but only he, Gatsby’s father, and one of Gatsby’s acquaintances attended the funeral. None of Gatsby’s racketeering friends came, nor did the ?love? of his life, Daisy. Nick truly cared about Jay Gatsby although nobody else did. He exemplified what a true friend is and did what only a friend would do for another friend. Daisy did not seem to feel a tiny bit of sadness over Gatsby’s death. This is shown in her not attending his funeral and instead going away with Tom on a vacation. ?In the end, the most that can be said is that The Great Gatsby is a dramatic affirmation in fictional terms of the American spirit in the midst of an American world that denies the soul (Bewley 46).? Gatsby’s strong desire for wealth and Daisy, the American and romantic dream respectively, prove to be the greatest reasons for his grave downfall at the hands of a ruthless society. Works Cited Bewley, Marius. ?Scott Fitzgerald and the Collapse of the American Dream.? Modern Critical Views: F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1985: 32-45. Mizener, Arthur. ?F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby.? The American Novel: From James Fenimore Cooper to William Faulkner. Ed. Wallace Stegner. New York: Basic Books, Inc., Publishers, 1965: 180-191. Scott Fitzgerald, Frances. The Great Gatsby. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1925. ?The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.? Online: School Papers, Microsoft Network, November 19,1997. Way, Brian. ?The Great Gatsby.? Modern Critical Interpretations. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986: 87-105.
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