The Great Gatsby , written by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a portrayal of the withering of the American Dream. The American Dream promises prosperity and self-fulfillment as rewards for hard work and self-reliance. A product of the frontier and the west, the American Dream challenges people to have dreams and strive to make them real. Historically, the Dream represents the image of believing in the goodness of nature. However, the American Dream can be interpreted in different ways. While some may strive for spiritual goodness and excellence, others take the dream to represent purely materialistic values.
This is the case of Jay Gatsby, and Fitzgerald shows through conflict and symbolism that such a materialistic interpretation of the American Dream is the very cause of Gatsby’s downfall. “Gatsbys personal dream symbolizes the larger American dream where all have the opportunity to get what they want. “(Prasad Paragraph 3) This blured version of the American Dream is represented primarily by the conflict between the newly rich and the established rich, the East Eggers and the West Eggers. West Egg is the home of Jay Gatsby and those like him who have made huge fortunes but who lack the traditions that ome with inherited wealth.
The West Eggers live in a crude world, coming from the adoption of wealth as their only standard in achieving the American Dream. The East Eggers, represented in The Great Gatsby by the Buchanans, have the inherited traditions that come with wealth and lack the crudeness of the West Eggers. They have been corrupted by the purposelessness and ease that their money has provided. Due to their inherited traditions, the East Eggers naturally regard any change in the social hierarchy as a threat to the entire structure of society.
An example of this is shown when Tom Buchanan makes a remark about the seperation of the family and eventual intermarriage between black and white. “The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved. It’s up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things. “(17) Thus, the wealth of the West Eggers and that of the East Eggers result in similar human differences, though shown differently. That is why West Egg and East Egg, apppear so dissimilar, are identical. They are both withering away from the promise of the American Dream.
Another example of the corrupt American Dream is the automobile, a classic symbol of material wealth in America. In The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby is obsessed with a life of materialism. He owns a remarkable automobile whose appearance is envied by many. “It was a rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hat-boxes and super-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of wind-shields that mirrored a dozen suns. “(68) Gatsby’s car is n overblown item created by wealth to fulfill the American Dream of personal material success.
It is, however, Gatsby’s car that kills Myrtle Wilson when Daisy runs her over. This indirectly leads to Gatsby’s own death and portrays Fitzgerald’s theme that basing the Dream on materialism alone is ultimately destructive. Along with the automobile, Jay Gatsby himself is a symbol of the corruption of the American Dream. He is a romantic dreamer who seeks to fulfill his life by earning his wealth as a mobster. Gatsby does not change much in the course of the novel because his whole life is devoted to the fulfillment of a omantic dream created that is inconsistent with the realities of society.
At a very early age Gatsby vowed to love and to marry Daisy Buchanan. His lack of wealth led Daisy into the arms of another more prosperous man, Tom Buchanan. Gatsby believed that he could win Daisy back with money, and that he could get the life she wanted if he paid for it. He wanted to do away with time in order to obliterate the four years Tom and Daisy had together. Gatsby wanted to repeat the past, “I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before. She’ll see . . . “. (117) Gatsby’s romantic disregard for reality changes the
American Dream with his dream that love can be recaptured if one can make enough money. The corruption of Gatsby’s dream by adopting materialism as its means and love, beauty and youth as its goal is due to the corruption of the American Dream. Gatsby is not really respected and has no real friends, although a lot of people attends his parties. The people attending his parties are basically using him for his food, and great hospitality. Gatsby throws his parties for the company, and in his way he is also trying to sort-of trying to buy friends, and force people to spend time with him.
Finally, Gatsby literally throws his money away on these extravagant parties because his money is easily made, and therefore, it is easily spent. (Bell Paragraph 2) Nevertheless, the corruption of Gatsby’s dream lies in the dream itself, because the vision of a “vast, vulgar, meretricious beauty” (104) which a 17-year old Jay Gatz invented, was the same as the dream of grown-up Gatsby. As Nick remarks, Gatsby’s identity was based on “a promise that the rock of the world is founded on a fairy’s wing. ” (105) His ideal fails because of his romanticism, in which he elieves that material success is itself an ideal.
Gatsby’s physical death is only a completion of the death of his spirit, when he fails to understand in his essential adolescence that material possessions can never live up to an ideal, and that any ideal can never enable him to repeat the past. On the other hand, we could imagine, that had Gatsby’s life been given a different purpose, a true spiritual ideal without confusion, he could have been a great man. Fitzgerald’s presentation of symbolism and conflict expresses clearly that a life based on aterialism alone is a corruption rather than a fulfillment of the American Dream.
Gatsby’s destruction shows that those who try to maintain a lifestyle based purely on materialistic values are doomed by their self-delusion. Thus, by analyzing Fitzgerald’s presentation and analysis in The Great Gatsby to America as a whole, one can say that peoples thoughts and values are often misplaced in the pursuit of material wealth. “Jay Gatsby, the central figure of the story, is one character who longs for the past. Surprisingly he devotes most of his adult life trying to recapture and, finally, dies in its pursuit. “