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The Great Gatsby and Downfall of the American Dream

Both F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck wrote about the downfall of the American dream in their famous novels. The attempt to capture the American Dream is central to both novels. This dream is different for different people, for Jay, the dream is that through wealth and power, one can acquire happiness, for George and Lennie, the dream was to make enough money to buy their own land. Jay Gastby, Lennie and George all dreamt the same American dream of success and wealth and yet as the plot progresses in the different books, their dreams shimmer and disappear.

Jay Gatsby, the central figure in the novel The Great Gatsby one character who longs for the past. Surprisingly he devotes most of his adult life trying to recapture it and, finally, dies in its pursuit. In the past, Jay had a love affair with the affluent Daisy. Knowing he could not marry her because of the difference in their social status, he leaves her to amass wealth to reach her economic standards. Once he acquires this wealth, he moves near to Daisy, “Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay (83),” and throws extravagant parties, hoping by chance she might show up at one of them.

He, himself, does not attend his parties but watches them from a distance. When this dream doesn’t happen, he asks around casually if anyone knows her. Soon he meets Nick Carraway, a cousin of Daisy, who agrees to set up a meeting, “He wants to know…if you’ll invite Daisy to your house some afternoon and then let him come over (83). ” Gatsby’s personal dream symbolizes the larger American Dream where all have the opportunity to get what they want. Later, as we see in the Plaza Hotel, Jay still believes that Daisy loves him.

He is convinced of this as is shown when he takes the blame for Myrtle’s death. “Was Daisy driving? ” “Yes…but of course I’ll say I was. ” (Fitzgerald, 151) He also watches and protects Daisy as she returns home. “How long are you going to wait? ” “All night if necessary. ” (Fitzgerald, 152) Jay cannot accept that the past is gone and done with. Jay is sure that he can capture his dream with wealth and influence. He believes that he acted for a good beyond his personal interest and that should guarantee success.

Nick attempts to show Jay the folly of his dream, but Jay innocently replies to Nick’s assertion that the past cannot be relived by saying, “Yes you can, old sport. ” (Fitzgerald, 161) This shows the confidence that Jay has in fulfilling his American Dream. For Jay, his American Dream is not material possessions, although it may seem that way. He only comes into riches so that he can fulfill his true American Dream, Daisy. “Me an’ Lennie gonna roll up a stake. ” (Steinbeck, 50) This was Lennie and George’s dream from the start. Their dream is their only hope, the only thing that keeps them motivated to work.

To them, their goal becomes the light of joy and freedom in the dark world of injustice and misfortune. George plans carefully so that their plan is watertight. Lennie constantly thinks of the land of which they dream. He asks ” how long it’s gonna be til we get that place . . . and rabbits? ” (Steinbeck, 56). George had thought aloud to Lennie, and the promise in his ideas became a desire, a goal that George and Lennie were determined to reach. With money saved and the land picked out, (p. 59) the goal that had long been only a dream seemed to come within reach.

Yet some dreams are just castles in the air, just illusions. When Lennie accidentally kills Curly’s wife, the dream starts to crumble. George shoots Lennie to end all the trouble. In doing so he ends all dreams, he extinguishes the spark of joy ahead. “I got to thinking maybe we would. I think I knowed we would never do her” (Steinbeck, 94) George says, asserting that all hope has fled, leaving no room for dreams. Just as Lennie and George were reaching out to grab the land and fulfill their dreams, the opportunity dissolved into thin air.

Lennie was dead; George was to live in despair, hopeless, without friends or dreams to encourage him in the harsh world of labor. Even Gatsby doesn’t rest until his American Dream is finally fulfilled. However, it never comes about and he ends up paying the ultimate price for it. The idea of the American Dream still holds true in today’s time, be it wealth, love, or fame. But one thing never changes about the American Dream; everyone desires something in life, and everyone, somehow, strives to get it. Gatsby, Lennie and George are prime examples of character pursuing the American Dream.

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