gatdream Exploding the American Myth in The Great Gatsby

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Exploding the American Myth in The Great Gatsby

    The American Constitution declares the freedom and equality among all people. On this declaration was built the collective dreams of a nation as well as millions of personal dreams. F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, The Great Gatsby, exposes the American Constitution for the myth that it always was by revealing the existing class distinctions. The Great Gatsby provides the petty details of the aimlessness and shallowness of the idyll rich, the extravagance of their parties, and the illegal sources of the funds that fueled such mindless activities.


Myrtle's attempt to become a "member" of Tom's group is predestined to fail, because he is of the wealthier, more "sophisticated" class. Taking advantage of her animation, her lively nature, she tries to elude the rest of her class. She gets involved in an affair with Tom, and inherits his values, and his way of living. By doing so, she only demoralizes herself, and becomes corrupt like the rich are stereotyped to be. She belittles people from her own class, and loses all sense of honor that she once had. And for all her social desires, Myrtle never does find her place in Tom's "high brow" world of the rich.


Fitzgerald portrays Myrtle's condition, obviously, as a minor reflection to Gatsby's more substantial struggle. While Myrtle's ambitions come from her social desires, Gatsby's are linked more to his idealism, his strong belief in life's opportunity. For sure, his desire is influenced by social considerations as well; Daisy, who is beautiful and rich, shows a lifestyle that is distant to Gatsby's and therefore is more attractive to him, because it is so far out of his reach.


However, social status is not his premier reason for loving Daisy. It only leads him, and makes him subject to believe in life's great opportunity. Like Myrtle does, Gatsby fights to fit himself into another social group, the one of old money, but his attempt is more significant, because his whole faith in life is rested upon it. Therefore, his failure is much more frightful to him, as any larger dream's failure turns out to be. His whole objective, his confidence in life and himself is completely smashed when he fails to win Daisy's love. His death, when it arrives is nearly meaningless, for, with the defeat of his dream, Gatsby is already spiritually murdered, and would lose all faith in life.

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For the novel as a social critique, The Great Gatsby is a critique on moral decay in contemporary American society. The idea of corruption of values and the decrease in spiritual life, is directly tied in with the American Dream. The novel brings forth the idealism of the early settlers who founded America.


Fitzgerald relates Gatsby's dream to the early Americans; at the end of the novel, Nick recalls the former Dutch sailors and compares their strong sense in wonder and Gatsby's optimism.


The story also brings out a good point, that Americans lose their purpose in life as material achievements delete all meaningful goals. The Buchanans are great characters to choose to represent this point. Their sheltered lives, filled with material possessions and luxuries, yet empty of purpose proves how people with all the material needs, tend to lose sight on what is truly important in life. Daisy's lamentation is very characteristic of this:


"What'll we do with ourselves this afternoon? And the day after that, and

the next thirty years?" (Fitzgerald 125)


Fitzgerald clarifies that hopes and dreams are needed to give man's efforts a meaning, or a purpose. Pushing towards some ideal is how man can feel a sense of his own identity. Obviously, Jay Gatsby, with the great gift of hope, placed in comparison to the aimlessness of Tom and Daisy, reaches heroic nobility. It is also said that the corruption of dreams, the corruption of the American Dream itself, is inescapable, not only because reality is never the same as the greatness of ideals, but because, the ideals are too perfect to become a reality. Gatsby is naive in that he dreams the impossible, he attempts to repeat the past, setting himself up for the predestined failure that inevitably comes with great expectations.


Works Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. England: Penguin, 1990.

Lehan, Richard. "The Grotesque End Product of the American Dream." In Readings on The Great Gatsby. edited by Katie de Koster. San Diego, California:

Greenhaven Press. 1998. 104-110.

Rowe, Joyce A. "Delusions of American Idealism." In Readings on The Great Gatsby. edited by Katie de Koster. San Diego, California: Greenhaven Press. 1998. 87-95.

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