Misery and the American Dream in The Great Gatsby Essay

Misery and the American Dream in The Great Gatsby Essay

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"No— Gatsby turned out all right in the end. It is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men."

When F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote these words in The Great Gatsby in 1925, he perfectly described the human struggle of the time. This was, by no means, accidental--for Fitzgerald wrote meticulously and very rarely did he leave a line unrevised. No— Fitzgerald knew what he was doing; he was, in two sentences, criticizing American society like no one else had. Oh!, and what that "foul dust" turned out to be: the foundation of our morality, our greatest aspiration and our heaviest of fetters, the American Dream. It is this ideal--which our society seems to have internalized--that renders all humans, not just Americans, miserable and empty. What makes The Great Gatsby the greatest American novel is not the lyrical, charming, and rapturous nature of Fitzgerald's prose style; no-- it is its tenacity, the courage of Fitzgerald to stare look America in the eyes and tell her that she is wrong, that she leads a meaningless life, that she must abandon her innate instincts in order to be truly happy. It is this honesty, as is epitomized in Nick, that makes Gatsby such an amazing statement and such an enduring work of art.

It is impossible to analyze The Great Gatsby without paying close attention to the context in which it was written. The Great Gatsby was written in between World War I and The Great Depression. The former created by an appetite for power and the latter created by an appetite for pleasure. It was this unappeasable appetite for pleasure that The Great Gatsby criticizes. Jay Gatsby is the greatest vi...


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...te in protest, he was a rebel and criticized American society with tenacity. Gatsby was a miserable man. He is in despair, his love is fleeting him and he cannot find happiness without Daisy; he is condemned to be miserable-- all dreamers are. Gatsby criticizes materialism. Gatsby has known Melancholy for too long perhaps, to make himself happy. There is no stronger image in my mind than that of Gatsby walking around New York City, trying to find purpose, trying to find a new way to live, an alternate route toward happiness. Gatsby does not want to "be a root in the dark" but he cannot convince himself that he will be happy. Gatsby's aspirations are too idealistic for him to ever be happy, for him to rid his existence of misery. Gatsby, until he is satisfied, will walk around his existence utterly miserable; his mind will never romp the Earth like the mind of God.

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