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The Great Gatsby And The American Dream

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In the United States' Declaration of Independence, our founding fathers "Ð'...held certain truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." This sentiment can be considered the foundation of the American Dream, the dream that everyone has the ability to become what he or she desires to be. While many people work to attain their American dream, others believe that the dream is seemingly impossible to reach, like F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby examines the "Jazz-Age" generation's search for the elusive American Dream of wealth and happiness and scrutinizes the consequences of that generation's adherence to false values.

In the years following World War one, many American writers, known as the "Lost Generation," were disillusioned with American society and they rejected the values of American materialism. "The generation was lost in the sense that they believed its inherited values could no longer operate in the postwar world and because of its spiritual alienation from a country that seemed to be embracing a hedonistic lifestyle as the path to fulfillment of the American Dream" (DISCovering Authors). Many writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote literature criticizing society and its "pursuit" of the American Dream. Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby presents the belief that the American Dream can be attained only by compromising the ideals that make it worth pursuing (Lathbury 21).

During the 1920's, America experienced a prosperity it had never before encountered (American Decades 88). The economy was booming, and with the prosperity, more people in the middle class were moving up on the social ladder. They began to move away from the traditional view of the American Dream (attainment through thrift and hard work) and towards the notion that one should try and "get rich quick" (Harris 30). Many of the "lost generation" writers began to criticize what they saw as a "dangerous move to a frivolous lifestyle" (Harris 31).

The central character and the namesake of The Great Gatsby is Jay Gatsby, a self-made, wealthy man with a mysterious past, but nevertheless, a living version of the American dream. It is alluded to in the novel that Gatsby has obtained his wealth illegally as a bootlegger of illegal alcohol. He is "coerced" by the scandalous nature of society to climb the social ladder as quickly as possible, even if the so-called "American Dream" is achieved through illegal or immoral means.

Gatsby is a tragic figure in that he is unable to see the world for what it really is, and as an unfortunate result of his naivety, he is killed. Gatsby views the world the way he wants to perceive it, which in tern, leads to the protagonist's demise. Not only is Gatsby the embodiment of American life in the "Jazz-Age," "he is an heroic personification of the American romantic hero" (Bloom 16). Essentially, Gatsby is the epitome of the "Jazz-Age" idea of a person living the American Dream. He is wealthy and self-made and appears to embrace the materialistic values of the era. Though he has wealth and fame, "Gatsby's insecure grasp of social and human values, his blindness to the pitfalls that surround him in American society, and his compulsive optimism ultimately lead to the flawed hero's demise" (Harris 27).

Gatsby never succeeds in seeing through the sham of his world or his acquaintances very clearly (Bloom 14). He throws wild parties that many people he does not even know attend. "I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby's house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited - they went there."(Fitzgerald 31). The people at his party are drunken, vulgar ingrates, and they take advantage of Gatsby's hospitality:

On Mondays, eight servants, including an extra gardener, toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers and garden shears, repairing the ravages of the night before. (Fitzgerald 59)

Fitzgerald is basically criticizing the selfish nature of the guests at Gatsby's party. They show no remorse for destruction of Gatsby's property and they take advantage of his optimistic view of human nature. Pressured by the image of an "ideal" American, Gatsby looks the other way when his guests take advantage of him. His own individual happiness is not important in a society of individuals (Bloom 17).

Another aspect of Fitzgerald's criticism of the American dream is Gatsby's desire to gain the love of Daisy Buchanan, Gatsby's object of affection and his "holy grail" (Fitzgerald 160). Daisy on the outside is beautiful, pure, and seemingly perfect. Nick Carraway describes her as wearing white clothes and driving a white car. Her name itself is a white flower. But in actuality, she is as false and shallow as the rest of the society (Lathbury 20). The narrator Nick comments about the foul nature of Daisy and Tom Buchanan who were Americans living in the



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