One would say the American Dream is somewhat like the sun. On the outside, sometimes it is one of the most beautiful things in the world, but to really know it, and all of the dangers that come with it, one has to dig into the dangerous and corrupt insides. In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald depicts the 1920’s as a time of decay of social and moral values; evidence of this is the greed and the pursuit of pleasure.
Jay Gatsby’s constant parties epitomized the corruption of the American Dream as the desire for money and worldly pleasures overshadowed the true values of the American Dream.
After WWI ended in 1918, veterans found that life was not as rosy as it had been before. The war led to an economic boom as more and more people were buying materialistic items that they would have never bought. With this economic boom it became apparent that any person of any social status could become wealthy.
This created the social rift between the families that had just found new money and the old wealthy industrialists. Fitzgerald intricately places characters in these types of social trends.
Meyer Wolfshiem is one of these intricately placed characters; he is a man that one would say is the epitome of the underground mafia.. Also, Gatsby’s need to climb the “social ladder” shows the need of wealth of the individuals in this era. If one reads the passage in which Fitzgerald characterizes Gatsby’s house as an “amusement park” (41), it is also said that there are guests that attend without even meeting the host. This shows the need for “new money”, people trying to socialize with others to climb this “social ladder”.
Also the rift between “old money” and “new money” is quite evident with the geographical placement of the individual characters; East Egg, “old money” individuals, who have been wealthy for generations past, and West Egg, “new money” representing self-made individuals. The original idea of the American Dream as described in chapter 9 is about moral values and the pursuit of happiness. It’s written in the American Constitution that every individual has the right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. This right it seems took a twisted turn in the early 1920’s at the time of this novel.
The pursuit of happiness soon turned into the pursuit of wealth and ultimately to greed. This led to social rifts among the different classes and eventually corrupted the true American Dream. Throughout The Great Gatsby it is shown how social rift came between the love of two individuals, Daisy and Gatsby. This led to the eventual corruption of Gatsby himself, the pursuit of wealth, greed, and illegal deeds. Doctor T. J Eckleburg, one would say is the greatest symbol in the novel that represents more than just an advertisement, but like the sun, inside he represents everything that is corrupt in the new American Dream.
After renouncing his parents, James Gatsby was said to be the “son of God” (98), and the only thing Gatsby believes in is money. Wilson in chapter 8, mistakes the advertisement as an advertisement for God, one would say this in turn means that the advertisement portrays money. On the last page of the novel Nick compares the “green breast of the new world” (180) to the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. In the accident which involved Daisy and Myrtle, Myrtle’s left breast had been torn off, this was regarded as Myrtle’s “greatest achievement”.
This achievement was the realization of American society which has torn off the green breast of the new world and replaced it with a morally incorrect and corrupt version. Along with this, Fitzgerald adds in the Valley of Ashes, which is the opposite of the green breast. The green breast represents the true American Dream, and the Valley of Ashes represents corruption, like that of Myrtle and her adultery or Wilson and his killing of Gatsby. Fitzgerald uses an abundant amount symbols to fully satisfy the most rewarding symbol, which is the corruption of the American Dream.
Settlers first came to America with one ambition, a better life. What came of this better life? The American Dream, a life in pursuit of opportunity, freedom, love, equality, family and wealth. These dreams soon diminished as materialistic values seemed to be above all else. These materialistic values consequently led to the decay of the American Dream. The new American Dream described by Fitzgerald portrays a world where greed, the pursuit of money, and the pursuit of pleasure are above all else. Fitzgerald portrays a world that has lost its way in the corruption of the American Dream.
Cite this The Great Gatsby and the American Dream
The Great Gatsby and the American Dream. (2017, Feb 14). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-great-gatsby-and-the-american-dream/