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Money and the Corruption of the American Dream


F. Scott Fitzgeralds novel The Great Gatsby is set in a time when the American dream started to change, the 1920's.  The American dream was an idea that most Americans had and that immigrants followed.  However, this dream did not last long, as money came to corrupt society.  Peoples's needs for material things, changed their priorities and values.

The American dream was an idea to work hard, support your family, and to own land. To have these things gave people a feeling of self worth and satisfaction.  People wanted to own land because it gave them greater opportunities such as voting rights, and it helped them economically.  Usually in the family household, the husband would go to work and make the money, and the wife would stay home and take care of the children.  Then the dream changed, as more people began to want money instead of a good family life.

The new American dream was to have money and be rich.  The dream changed because people saw others with money and they began to want what they had, they had to get rich, quick.  People didn't see how most people with money didn't have good values, and if they did see this they didn't care.  This is because they only saw the good things that came with being rich.  Therefore people stopped caring if their money was hard earned and honestly made, they just wanted to make a lot of money.

Jay Gatsby had this same idea of getting rich quick.  The reason Gatsby wanted to become rich is because he wanted to impress Daisy.  Daisy was his former girlfriend, who broke his heart to marry a rich man.  Gatsby wanted to get Daisy back, and he thought that becoming rich would make her fall in love with him again.  Gatsby needed to get rich quick, and after meeting Meyer Wolfshiem,  Gatsby decided to go into business with Wolfshiem.  Gatsby became a bootlegger.  "He and this Wolfshiem bought up a lot of Side-Street drug stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter."  (141)  This quote tells about how Gatsby made his money illegally.  After Gatsby made his money, he tried to make Daisy love him, but failed.  Money eventually corrupted this dream when Daisy found out where his money came from.

Tom and Daisy had money, but not the American dream.  The reason one might say this is because of where Tom got his money.  Tom's money was old money, which means his money came from his families, and he never had to work for his money.  Another reason one might say that Tom and Daisy didn't have the American dream is because of the way they raised their child.  She was rarely mentioned in the story.  The first time she was mentioned, Daisy said, "How gorgeous!  Lets go back Tom.  Tomorrow."  Then she added irrelevantly, " You ought to see the baby."  (14)  Daisy makes her daughter seem like she is not a real person.  Daisy is talking about going back to Chicago, then she starts talking about her baby, like she is a material thing. 

The second time Daisy's baby is mentioned, Daisy says to her daughter, " That's because our mother wanted to show you off."  (123)  This quote takes place when Nick, Jordan and Gatsby are at Tom and Daisy's house.  Daisy is showing off her daughter to Gatsby because she is planing to leave Tom.  Daisy wants to see if her daughter likes Gatsby.  In a way, money has corrupted Daisy's daughter's life because she will grow up being a material thing and will never know how to work hard for something she wants.

This book has many examples of how money has corrupted the American dream.  These days one doesn't hear about the American dream, and if one does it is to become rich.  People's priorities and values have changed from having good family life to become rich.

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