The Great Gatsby

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The Great Gatsby

To many people, America represents second chances and opportunities to make wealth. Many people come to the country to realize the American dream. They believe that they can accumulate wealth and live comfortably if they work hard. People tend to value the wealth they have accumulated through hard work. On the other hand, those who get money easily are bound to spend it carelessly. This was the case in the Great Gatsby. The roaring twenties had created many opportunities for people to acquire wealth. Some chose to try their luck at the stock exchange while others engaged in various businesses. Because of the prevailing economic conditions, many people were able to become wealthy. This represented new money. However, some of the people had inherited their wealth. They were the aristocrats, and they represented the old money. The two categories of wealthy individuals had different perspectives of wealth and of the American dream. Other people did not manage to acquire the same measure of wealth but they worked hard. Fitzgerald shows how the American dream has lost its meaning since people do not have to depend on their natural abilities or hard work. The people are not interested in the sense of dignity and achievement that one acquires once he has attained the American dream (Gross and Gross 9). In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald shows the extent to which people will go to attain the American dream as well as the negative effects that it can have on individuals and the society.

People have become so much disillusioned by the American dream that they are willing to overlook the ills that plague their societies. This has encouraged corruption and breaking of the law as well as immorality within the society. People will overlook the corrupt nature of others and they will even excuse the corrupt and those who commit crime. In the novel, not every person acquires his or her wealth through legal and moral means. This is the case with Gatsby. He acquires wealth through dubious means such as organized crime. Many people suspect him of trading in illegal alcohol but few question him about his wealth. Instead, they attend his parties and they have a good time. Gatsby invites the powerful and wealthy people to his parties. In addition, he seems to have the law in his hands, as he is even able to bribe the police officers (Bloom and Hobby 69). People seem to derive more pleasure in speculating where he gets his wealth rather than in trying to find out the actual means that he acquires it. Married people have affairs, and this seems to be the unspoken code in the society. Nobody seems to care too much about strengthening the marriage institution as it is. Nick is aware of Tom’s affair and he even arranges for Daisy and Gatsby to meet. Tom makes his affair public that he even has an apartment where he meets with his lover.

The desire to achieve the American dream can drive people to be materialistic. Gatsby enjoys flaunting his wealth to all the people, including those who are already wealthy. He does this by holding lavish parties where he gets a chance to show all his guests the things he has acquired. As Bloom and Blake observe, the parties are another metaphor for the greed, material excess, and unrestrained desire for pleasure that resulted in the corruption and disintegration of the American dream (74).” He gets more pleasure in accumulating things than in using them. For instance, he does not attend the parties and he only watches his guests in silence. He does not derive any meaningful satisfaction from them and neither does he show any interest in people. He has a well-stocked library, which he does not use, as he is not a keen reader. In addition, he has an extensive collection of expensive English shirts.

Gatsby knows that he lives in a materialistic society, and this informs the decisions he makes. For instance, he holds the parties as a way of enticing Daisy. He understands that people are concerned about money and they esteem wealth highly. He hopes that he can capture Daisy’s attention by showing her all the wealth that he has accumulated over the years. He later finds out that he was right in his perception. Daisy is so impressed by his wealth to the extent that she sobs when she sees his English shirts. This shows the nature of her materialism. Moreover, she begins developing feelings for Gatsby again when she realizes that he is wealthy. She had made the decision to accept the marriage to Tom based on his ability to provide for her.

One of the factors that define the American dream is individuality. Those who are interested in attaining the dream are interested in the self and not in others. They do not have a desire to unite the community or improve its state (Bloom 102). They want to improve their self worth and many of them think that they can only do this by acquiring wealth. They are interested in their personal liberties as well. This is evident in almost all the characters in the story. Tom is not interested in his wife or family because he chooses to have extramarital affairs in public. He does not make much effort of hiding it. He is more interested in the sense of power he gets when he has affairs with women who are only after his material wealth (Bloom and Blake 73).

When Daisy and Gatsby meet, they only seem interested in obtaining individual satisfaction. At one point, they even forget that Nick is in the room. Myrtle does not realize that she has a good husband who loves her. She is only interested in improving her social standing in the society, hence her decision to have an affair with Tom. Gatsby gets so engrossed in attaining the American dream that he forgets his origins. He is only interested in self and not in the people he left when he decided to become wealthy. Nick seems to think that he is exempt from the moral decay, individualism, and indecency that possess others. However, this is not the case. He demonstrates his individuality in different ways. He has a desire to get along with the people that he meets. He knows the intimate details about Tom’s affairs, including where he meets his mistress but he chooses to keep quiet about it. The fact that Tom reveals this to him even though he is Daisy’s cousin shows how much he trusts Nick. Moreover, Nick agrees to arrange for the initial meeting between Gatsby and Daisy. He wants to get in the right standing with all the people regardless of the conflicts of interest.

The decision to attain all the wealth that a person can acquire and have all the physical things that one wants tends to leave a person empty and without much expectations in terms of seeking personal fulfillment. The main female characters in the story demonstrate this by the way they live their lives. They are not interested in promoting any positive attributes. They are represented as conniving, dishonest, and greedy. The women are “fickle, bored, selfish, and materialistic” new women of the time (Bloom and Blake 74). They are willing to use whatever means they can to get what they want. They will put on appearances if that will help them achieve their goals.

Daisy knows that her husband is having an affair but she is more interested in her social standing. She chooses to abandon Gatsby in the end, and she lets him take the blame for her husband’s affair. Moreover, she does not show any genuine interest in her daughter’s welfare, and she says that she will raise her like a beautiful foolish girl. “I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool-that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool (Fitzgerald 21).” This shows her indifference towards her daughter as well as her lack of intelligence capabilities in raising her child.

The American dream can lead to disillusionment and the inability to face the reality and see the situation as it really is. Gatsby has remained disillusioned with his memory of Daisy. He holds her to a high esteem and he refuses to face the reality that she does not belong to him. he believes that he can use his money to get what he wants, including Daisy. Myrtle is disillusioned by Tom’s wealth and money. Although she is married to Wilson, she does not think twice about having an affair. Her husband cannot afford to give her the same privileges that Tom affords her. Eventually, both Gatsby and Myrtle end up dying. They are unable to confront their realities and accept life as it really is.

The American dream can itself be a source of corruption (Tyson 41). Achieving the dream means being in a situation where one is able to live comfortably. He is able to get the wealth that he desires and this controls his actions and decisions. Tom uses his wealth to seduce women. He controls and manipulates them as he sees fit. He leads Myrtle on, and he makes her believe that he is willing to marry her. The desire to attain the dream has made Gatsby what he is. He refused to continue with his college education because he despised the manual job of being a janitor. The opportunities that myrtle and Gatsby have of changing their status reflect the nature of the American dream (Fitzgerald and Davies 247). It does not discriminate in any way and people can get wealthy irrespective of their backgrounds.

Fitzgerald shows how the American dream can be achieved. Many people in his time had the opportunity to become wealthy because of the prevailing economic conditions. However, they were not intent on observing any decency or morality in the way they lived their lives. They let the desire for the American dream corrupt them and they lost their morals. The American dream advocated for self-improvement and the characters in the book demonstrate this. although it was meant to advocate a noble venture where it was possible for people to become wealthy through their hard work and natural abilities, the American dream eventually become corrupt.

Works Cited:

Bloom, Harold. The Great Gatsby. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2006. Print

Bloom, Harold and Blake, Hobby. The American Dream. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2009. Print

Fitzgerald, Francis S. and David, Davies S. The Great Gatsby and the Diamond As Big As the Ritz. London: Collector’s Library, 2005. Print

Fitzgerald, Scott F. The Great Gatsby. United Kingdom: Interactive Media, 2012. Print

Gross, Dalton and MaryJean, Gross. Understanding the Great Gatsby: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998. Print

Tyson, Lois. Psychological Politics of the American Dream: The Commodification of Subjectivity in Twentieth-Century American Literature. Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1994. print

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