Essay on Pursuit of the American Dream in Great Gatsby and Death of a Salesman

Essay on Pursuit of the American Dream in Great Gatsby and Death of a Salesman

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Comparing the Pursuit of the American Dream by Jay Gatsby and Willy Loman
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People from all around the world have dreamed of coming to America and building a successful life for themselves. The "American Dream" is the idea that, through hard work and perseverance, the sky is the limit in terms of financial success and a reliable future. While everyone has a different interpretation of the "American Dream," some people use it as an excuse to justify their own greed and selfish desires. Two respected works of modern American literature, The Great Gatsby and Death of a Salesman, give us insight into how the individual interpretation and pursuit of the "American Dream" can produce tragic results.

Jay Gatsby, from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, built his "American Dream" upon the belief that wealth would win him acceptance.  In pursuit of his dream, Gatsby spent his life trying to gain wealth and the refinement he assumes it entails.  Jay Gatsby, lacking true refinement, reflects the adolescent image of the wealthy, and "[springs] from his Platonic conception of himself" (Fitzgerald 104). Gatsby is a watered down version of a member of the true social elite. Therefore, he uses the phrase "old sport" because he feels it exudes the proper upper crust upbringing he lacks (134). Furthermore, Gatsby makes the pursuit of wealth and refinement an obsession.  As a child, Gatsby kept a list of "General Resolves" that outlined his plans to gain wealth and refinement (181).  When exposed to the society during World War I, he becomes obsessed with members of the wealthy upper class, such as Daisy, whose voice is "full of money" (127).  Finally, Gatsby feels that wealth is the only su...


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A. Gatsby believed wealth would win acceptance, Willy believed being well liked would get financial success

1. "no real right to touch her hand" lacked real resources, "he let her believe that he was a person from much the same strata as herself" (Fitzgerald 156)

2. Well "liked ... you will never want" (Miller 33)

B. Gatsby set concrete long-term goals, Willy looked for the quick fix

1. Gatsby developed self-improvement activities "elocution [and] poise," physical exercises, and the study of technology (Fitzgerald 181)

2. Willy proclaims "I'll knock' em dead next week [in Hartford] ... I'm very well liked in Hartford" (Miller 36)

C. Willy lacks the ability to comprehend opulence ofGatsby

1. Nick awed by Gatsby's mansion (Fitzgerald 96-97)

2. "First time in thirty-five years we were free and clear" (Miller 137)

Conclusion:

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