Picture this, a person graduates from high school with honors, goes to collegeand graduates at the top of his/her class. After college, he/she is offered ajob in the field he/she wants with an annual salary of about $400,000 a year.
He/she marries the person of his/her dreams, has two children and moves into alarge, elegant house. Forty years later that person retires with a pension andlives the rest of his/her life in luxury. This is the American Dream. F. ScottFitzgerald had this dream and worked his entire life to fulfill it, with noavail. Fitzgerald was a sensitive young man who idolized wealth and luxury. Hefell in love with a beautiful young woman named Zelda while stationed at amilitary camp in the South. Several years after meeting Zelda, he reached a highenough social standard that she agreed to marry him. Shortly after the wedding,Fitzgerald published his first big novel. He became a celebrity and fell into awild, reckless lifestyle of parties and decadence. Fitzgerald thought he hadachieved his dream. Unfortunately, his beautiful wife was the first part of hisdream to crumble. In 1930, Zelda had her first of many mental breakdowns. Soonafter Zeldas breakdowns began, Fitzgerald published his novel Tender is theNight. When this novel was not a success Fitzgerald also started to have mentalproblems. When his novels started failing, he retreated to Hollywood where hebegan writing screenplays. On December 21, 1940, Fitzgerald died as a drunk inhis lovers Hollywood apartment. Throughout his career, Fitzgerald publishedmany books, but The Great Gatsby is the one that became a classic. The fourthparagraph from Encartas Encyclopedia on F. Scott Fitzgerald best summarizeshis novel: Written in crisp, concise prose and told by Nick Carraway, it is thestory of Jay Gatsby. Gatsby becomes a bootlegger in order to attain the wealthand lavish way of life he feels are necessary to win the love of Daisy Buchanan,a married, upper-class woman who had once rejected him. The story endstragically with Gatsbys destruction. Although the narrator ultimatelydenounces Daisy and others who confuse the American dream with the pursuit ofwealth and power, he sympathizes with those like Gatsby who pursue the dream fora redeeming end such as love. In F. Scott Fitzgeralds novel The Great Gatsby,the upper classs carelessness with their money, the myth that hard workalways equals success, and the lack of true love in marriage all show adistortion of the American Dream. One would think that people with money shouldknow how to use it properly. Unfortunately this is not so of the upper classcharacters in The Great Gatsby. The following paragraph from the novel is anexcellent example of how Gatsby wasted money on his upper class friends. Therewas music from my neighbors house through the summer nights. In his bluegardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and thechampagne and the stars. 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 89) The previous quoteshows how Gatsby went through much turmoil just to make it seem as though he hadenough money to do as he wished. In the upper class, one person would try tooutdo another by buying gifts that are more lavish and by throwing parties thatare more extravagant than their friends last one. Robert Douglass wrote anarticle in 1938 about society at that time. In it, he described how people tookso much for granted. The following is an excerpt from his article: The peopleliving in the little town have a richer life than their parents did. They canreach a motion-picture theater by a twenty-minute drive, they have radios, andthey think nothing of jaunts to Atlantic City, Boston or Canada that many of theold residents never made in an entire lifetime. (19) As one can see, peoplethroughout the Twentieth Century have thought nothing of the modern dayconveniences they now have. The same is still true in todays society, butpeople seem to be more aware of luxuries than people of the 20s. One ofthe largest and most talked about parts of the American Dream, is that when oneenters the real world he/she will enter the workforce as an employee in his/herdesired career. In this career, he/she believes that if he/she works hard,he/she will earn great success. Sadly, in the novel The Great Gatsby and in the1920s this is, and was almost a myth. George Wilson is a mechanic, and in thenovel it is unclear if that is what he always wanted to be. For the sake of thispaper, one can assume that being a mechanic is his dream job. Unfortunately,George Wilsons business seems to be on the brink of bankruptcy. One can alsoassume that his business has been like this for a long time and that he and hiswife Myrtle have been saving every cent they earned just to get by. Thefollowing quote is from The Great Gatsby and it gives Nick Caraways view ofGeorge Wilsons business: The interior was unprosperous and bare; the only carvisible was the dust-covered wreck of a Ford, which crouched, in a dim corner.
The proprietor himself appeared in the door of an office, wiping his hands on apiece of waste. When he saw us a damp gleam of hope sprang into his light blueeyes. (Fitzgerald 25) From the above quote, one should notice the bareness ofthe garage, and how eager George is, as he sees potential customers approaching.
Although George does not receive much business from Tom Buchanan, he is verycourteous to him. He believes Tom might send his rich friends to becomeclients of his. Stanley Lebergott of Wesleyan University explains in the book,Americans: An Economic Record, the distribution of wealth in the 1920s. Those inthe upper 5 percent of the income distribution increased their share of thenational income. Labors share of the national income did not rise at all, andworkers suffered from unemployment. By implication, then, the decade differedlittle from earlier ones (431). This shows why George Wilson and others like himremain in a slump and do not prosper in business, whereas people like TomBuchanan, have an increase in their yearly earnings. It almost seems that thestatement; hard work does not always equal success was a false statementin the 20s. If a person only looks at the top five percent of the incomebracket, they may be right. However, if a person were to look at the otherninety-five percent, this person would see that the statement is true. The onlyway anyone made money in the 20s was by participating in speakeasies orby bootlegging and both were illegal. Another distortion of the AmericanDream in the novel is through marriage. Generally, when people get married it isbecause they love one another, but in The Great Gatsby, the upper classsweddings are mainly for social purposes. In the upper class, weddings aresimilar to how high school seniors pair up for prom, they make sure the PromKing and Prom Queen attend the Prom as a couple. Seen as the perfectcouple, these two people compliment each other in every way. In the novel, whenNick Caraway is visiting his cousin Daisy and her husband Tom Buchanan, it isobvious that they are not truly in love but they are married because theirsocial standings make them perfect for one another. While Nick is visiting,Daisy and Tom invite him to stay for dinner. While dinner is going on, Tomreceives a telephone call. Daisy knowing who it is becomes very upset and leavesthe table. It is then that Jordan Baker, another guest, informs Nick aboutToms affair. She tells Nick that, Toms got some woman in New York(Fitzgerald 15). Tom having a mistress in New York shows how unfaithful he is inmarriage. Adversely having an affair was not uncommon in the 20s, knowingthis one can tell that the morals of the time were not very strong. Shown in themovie Night after Night, are the loose morals of the 20s. The once-richsociety flapper, with whom Raft falls in love, is roughed up by him and toldthat she is just another dame with a skirt on. The only difference betweenher and a cheap girl is how she manicures her nails. (Allen 87) Throughout the20s, men used and disrespected many women because they felt they womenwere inferior. Women have long since risen above this and can be very demandingof the respect that they deserve. Throughout the novel, Fitzgerald is trying toconvey that there is more to life than one could possibly understand. He showsthat not everyone can be successful, have a happy marriage or even have enoughmoney to survive in life. He is showing that the American Dream is notattainable when one sets it as a dream, but if one sets it as the AmericanReality, it is possible. One should set realistic goals for life, not ones thatare nearly unattainable. Instead of wishing, to be like Bill Gates when onegraduates college, one should set his/her goals to becoming an above averageworker. One should also never give up his/her goals once they are set. Anexample of never giving up on your dreams/goals stated in the novel is:Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by yearrecedes before us. It eluded us then, but that is no matter tomorrow we willrun faster, stretch out our arms fatherAnd one fine morning—–(Fitzgerald 182). Americans today still believe in the Dream to some extent.
They believe that if they work hard and apply all of their effort, they canbecome a great success in life. However, today there is still a distortion ofthe American Dream. Everyday there is thousands of marriages. These marriagesare to symbolize the true love that two people show for each other. In marriage,one promises to stay faithful and to remain with their partner through allexperiences. Nevertheless, to counter the bonds of marriage, there are hundredsof divorces each day. According to the Stepfamily Foundation, one out of twomarriages ends in divorce. Another distortion of the Dream is peace. Thefollowing quote comes from a trivia box in Russell Ashs book The Top 10 ofEverything 1997. There are countries with worse murder rates than the UnitedStates, but nowhere in the world has as many murders each year (68). In 1997there were approximately 24,000 murders, giving the United States a murder rateof nine murders per 100,000 people. Still today, many people are under theimpression that the American Dream is unattainable. These people are correct.
The American Dream has always been unattainable, thus the word dream. If peoplewould create an American Reality rather than an American Dream many oftheir goals could and would be achievable. Americans need to understand that noteveryone can become a multi-millionaire overnight or even in their entire life.
They need to think realistically and set their mind on practical goals.
Hopefully, one day, people will understand that impossible goals are impossibleto reach and that is why those goals are called the American Dream.
BibliographyAllen, Frederick Lewis. Only Yesterday An Informal History of the 1920s. NewYork: Harper & Row, 1931: 87. Ash, Russell. The Top 10 Of Everything 1997.
New York: DK Publishing Inc., 1996: 68 Douglass, Robert. For Granted. NewYork Times, 5 March 1938:19 Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York:Macmillan Publishing, 1986: 18, 25, 89, 182 Lebergott, Stanley. The Americans AnEconomic Record. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1984: 431. Lofas,Jeannette. The Statistics are Staggering. N.P. Online. 7 Dec. . Marc, David. Fitzgerald, F(rancis) Scott (Key) Microsoft EncartaEncyclopedia 99. 1993-1998 Microsoft Corporation: N.P.