Destruction of Dreams, Failure of Dreamers in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

Powerful Essays
Jay Gatsby, the protagonist of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, is used to contrast a real American dreamer against what had become of American society during the 1920's. By magnifying the tragic fate of dreamers, conveying that twenties America lacked the substance to fulfill dreams and exposing the shallowness of Jazz-Age Americans, Fitzgerald foreshadows the destruction of his own generation.

The beauty and splendor of Gatsby's parties masked the innate corruption within the heart of the Roaring Twenties. Jazz-Age society was a bankrupt world, devoid of morality, and plagued by a crisis of character. Jay Gatsby is a misfit in this world. He tries, ironically, to fit into the picture: he fills his garage with status, his closet with fashion, his lawns with gaiety, his mannerisms with affectation. However, he would never be one of "them". Ironically, his loss seems to Nick Caraway to be his greatest asset. Nick reflects that Gatsby's drive, lofty goals, and, most importantly, dreams set him apart from this empty society. Fitzgerald effectively contrasts the dreamer, Jay Gatsby, against a world referred to by Gertrude Stein as the "Lost Generation", and by T.S. Eliot as "The Wasteland".

Since America has always held its entrepreneurs in the highest regard, brandishing them with praise and mounting the most successful on the highest pedestals, it is almost automatic to predict that Fitzgerald would support this heroic vision of the American Dreamer within his novel. However, to enforce the societal corruption evident in the twenties, Fitzgerald contradicts the notion of the successful dreamer by indicating, instead, that dreamers during this era led the most ill-fated lives of all. Dan Cody exemplifies th...

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...vel, The Great Gatsby.

Works Cited

Piper, Henry Dan. "Social Criticism in the American Novel in the 1920s." The American Novel and the Nineteen Twenties. Ed. Malcolm Bradbury and David Palmer. London: Edward Arnold, 1971. 59-83.

Posnock, Ross. "'A New World, Material Without Being Real': Fitzgerald's Critique of Capitalism in The Great Gatsby." Critical Essays on Scott Fitzgerald's "Great Gatsby." Ed. Scott Donaldson. Boston: Hall, 1984. 201-13.

Raleigh, John Henry. "F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby." Mizener 99-103.

Sklar, Robert. F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Last Laocoon. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1967.

Spindler, Michael. American Literature and Social Change. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1983.

Trilling, Lionel. "F. Scott Fitzgerald." Critical Essays on Scott Fitzgerald's "Great Gatsby." Ed. Scott Donaldson. Boston: Hall, 1984. 13-20.
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