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Essay The American Nightmare: Money's Hidden Curse

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The American dream stands as a symbol for hope, prosperity, and happiness. But F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, examines the American dream from a different perspective, one that sheds light on those who contort these principles to their own selfish fantasies. Fitzgerald renders Jay Gatsby as a man who takes the Dream too far, and becomes unable to distinguish his false life of riches from reality. This 'unique' American novel describes how humanity's insatiable desires for wealth and power subvert the idyllic principles of the American vision.

Jay Gatsby is the personification of limitless wealth and prestige, a shining beacon for the aspiring rich. Nick Carraway declares that there is "something glorious" about Gatsby, and that he is filled with "some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life"(8). It appears to mere mortals who are not blessed with riches, that Gatsby fulfills the American dream of achieving fame and fortune. But instead of being content with his greenbacks, Gatsby believes that he can replicate the "Platonic conception of himself" (89) and become the flawless god of wealth that he depicts. The American dream has many interpretations, but Gatsby latches onto the concept of wealth alone, failing to see that he can improve his character through hard work and toil as well. One understanding of the American dream, bettering oneself to achieve a higher social status, sadly spurs people like Gatsby to achieve social superiority through money, but never finding true happiness. Gatsby believes in this "unreality of reality" that "the rock of the world [is] founded securely on a fairy's wing" (89). Embedding himself within his dreams, Gatsby finds solace in his fantasy of wealth and the false joy of having...


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...(Nigeria tops Happiness Survey, BBC News), and that wealthier nations like the United States rank far lower than third world countries like Nigeria. The study shows that consumerism is a factor that happier nations lack, while the lust for money and possessions still hinders countries like America from basking in bliss. Hopefully, America does not take its materialism to extremes, in such a way that its fate is linked to Fitzgerald's Gatsby. For "the mass of men lead lives in quiet desperation" (Thoreau, Walden), waiting to awaken from the American Nightmare that they have brought upon themselves.


Works Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1953.

"Nigeria Tops Happiness Survey." BBC News Online 2 October 2003 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3157570.stm

Thoreau, H.D. Walden. New York: The Modern Library, 1950.


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