Throughout his novel, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald continuously reiterates his belief that what we view as “The American Dream” is dead, and has been corrupted by wealth, rather than standing for its original ideals of freedom and equality. Fitzgerald brings this nightmarish world of reality to life using imagery, diction, and symbolism in order to prove to his audience that what was once perceived as an attainable goal, is held just out of grasp by the people that did not have to fight to reach it.
Fitzgerald uses imagery while referring to Gatsby’s dock to help the reader visualize the sadness and despair that engulfed the ive years of Gatsby’s life spent gazing across the waters that separated him from Daisy. In Gatsby’s reality, his “American Dream” was Daisy, and the ability to have her as his wife. In the end, no matter how much wealth Gatsby amassed, he never truly had Daisy, and Daisy never fully lived up to the expectations that he impressed upon her. After his death Nick puts himself into Gatsby’s shoes and writes: .
I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere in the back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. (Fitzgerald 180) Fitzgerald uses the imagery of “grasping” to describe that no matter how close Gatsby may have seemed to attaining his dream, it was always out of touch.
Gatsby gave his whole life to a dream that was “already behind him”, or never actually reachable in the first place. By including the description of the “dark fields” the reader feels the despair in the end of Gatsby’s life, and the death of his dream. By including the reader n his reflection, Nick explains how the death of the “American Dream” impacted not only the life of Gatsby, the the lives of all the people that believe in it. Gatsby’s dream is ruined by the unworthiness of its object, Daisy, just as the American dream in the 1920s is ruined by the unworthiness of its object-money and pleasure.
Like 1920s Americans in general, who searched in vain for an era in which their dreams had value, Gatsby longed to recreate a time long ago, where his dream could have come true. A large part of Fitzgerald’s writing is the way that he makes the reader feel about what he has written. Over the course of his novel, Fitzgerald uses diction to allow his audience to sense the tone that he wishes to convey. Fitzgerald also uses diction to emphasize his argument, so that the reader understands his point of view.
At the end of the novel, when Nick meets Tom on the street, Nick reflects on the time that he spent with Tom and Daisy, and how they contributed to the fall of Gatsby. Nick states that: I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they mashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together and let other people clean up the mess they had made… Fitzgerald 179)
Fitzgerald repeats the word “careless” in his writing to emphasize how truly above everybody else Tom and Daisy think that they are, and to reiterate to the reader that they faced no consequences for their actions. Fitzgerald is trying to emphasize his point that rich people do not have morals, and that they never live an honest or full life. Their time is spent in the “vast carelessness” that is heir life. Fitzgerald expresses his anger at the reality of life and uses the word “smashed”, which highlights both the smashing of Gatsby’s dream, and the American Dream in general.
Tom and Daisy are supposed represent the people who have attained the “American Dream”, but when all things are considered, they don’t stand for the morals and values that are supposed to be upheld in the “American” way of life. Tom and Daisy have been corrupted by wealth and the promise of status, so they “retreat” into their wealth to shield themselves from any damage they have caused. Tom and Daisy illustrate the death and corruption f the American Dream, making it impossible to ever achieve as an outsider.
During the 1920s, it seemed possible that any person could work hard and one day they might get a house in the suburbs with a dog and kids, but the reality was far more bleak. East and West are used throughout the novel to express rich versus poor, or new versus old money, but in the end of the novel, East and West symbolize places where corruption has taken root, and where the true values of the American dream still reign. In the end, Nick moves back West to get away from the corruption and greed of the East.
While he meditates on here he comes from and what that means to him he states: That’s my Middle West-not the wheat or the prairies of the lost Swede towns, but the thrilling returning trains of my youth, and the street lamps and sleigh bells… I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all- Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern Life. Fitzgerald 176)
Fitzgerald uses the “prairies” and the “lost Swede towns” to symbolize the simplicity of life out west, and how that directly contrasts to the hustle and bustle of he East. The East is associated with a fast-paced lifestyle, decadent parties, crumbling moral values, and the pursuit of wealth, while the West and the Midwest are associated with more traditional moral values. The East in this novel is seen as the place for dreams to come true, where people can make a living, and where all of the best stories are.
Traditionally, it was the American belief that moving West was the “final frontier”. By switching the traditional roles of the East and West, Fitzgerald makes a statement about how the American dream is no longer what it used to be, and that most of the characters in this book, nd in all likelihood, most Americans, “possess some deficiency in common” which make them unable to attain the American dream.
Fitzgerald uses imagery, diction and symbolism to explain to his readers that the American Dream, or what people perceive as the “American Dream” has been corrupted by wealth, and that because of this, it ceases to exist. By describing Gatsby’s trial and failure to attain his “American Dream” of Daisy, the reader is left feeling hopeless. In the end, the only way that Nick, or anyone can have their “American Dream” is by going back West, and in time, to where freedom and equality were the only virtues.