The Corrupted American Dream in The Great Gatsby

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The American dream, by definition, is the traditional social ideals of the US, such as equality, democracy, and material prosperity that is obtained with hard work. This idea was popularized by the big corporations in the 19th and the 20th century encouraging the workers and immigrants to work efficiently and with great diligence in hope to become a wealthy, successful man. The masses were informed and had this idea embedded in their minds because of the ‘rags to riches’ stories that were being presented. This idea is not necessarily true, and have been achieved by very few people. Jay Gatsby, in the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is one of the few that achieves this American dream. But the story’s tragic ending shows that the American dream is corrupted and that it does not grant happiness, as stated in The American dream by LuElla Putnam, “American dream as being a destructive force rather than a beneficial one” (1). Throughout the novel, the belief of the American dream is specially emphasized as corrupted through social classes, ambition, and materialism.

Social class in a society creates a division of power. The wealthy men controls the society while the poor works diligently in order to survive and reach their dreams. The ‘rags to riches’ stories like Ben Franklin’s testimony explained in The American dream by Luella Putnam gives hope to the young workers that one day they will become living a life of luxury and happiness. The three distinctive classes that are pointed out in the novel are the ‘new money’, ‘old money’, and the ‘no money’. Gatsby falls under the category of ‘new money’. “Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn” (Fitzgerald ch.1). He was seen as a ...

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...wait for Gatsby and married Tom. “Of course, Daisy did not wait; she married Tom, who was her social equal and the choice of her parents” (Fitzgerald ch.8). This shows that materialism breaks promises and trusts. Not only did it ruin the Wilson’s family but it also ruined the chances of Gatsby having a life of happiness.

American dream is thought to bring happiness and success in life, but the novel, The Great Gatsby, says otherwise. Throughout Gatsby’s life the American dream fueled his passions but it lead to devastation and failures. Not only that, the social classes, ambitions, and materialism of the other characters show the corruption of the American dream. Overall, the American dream is depicted as corrupted and alludes the reader that it is an illusion that the society creates.

Works Cited

Fitzgerald, Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 2004.
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