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Great Gatsby- Is the American Dream a Myth?

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Is the American Dream a Myth?

Florence King, a famous American novelist, essayist and columnist once critiqued the American Dream by stating, " People are so busy dreaming the American Dream, fantasizing about what they could be or have a right to be, that they're all asleep at the switch. Consequently we are living in the Age of Human Error " (Stocks 3). Like Fitzgerald's famous work of literature The Great Gatsby, Florence King is able to juxtapose the realistic and unrealistic nature of achieving the American Dream by depicting how human society has corrupted its meaning. Both King and Fitzgerald engage in a process of social criticism by evaluating literature. They study the aspects of societal relationships, and social mores of a particular historical era in American life. Unlike King however, Fitzgerald's failure to attain the wealth and social status he desires strongly impacts the sentiment in his writing. There is no hiding both his resentment and envy of "old wealth " and his skewed notion of the true meaning of the American Dream. In other words, he associates the American Dream with wealth rather than hard work and morality. He also describes his characters in a less than flattering manner tending to portray them as greedy, self-indulgent and self-centered. A similar sentiment is also conveyed by many of today's contemporary musicians. For example, in Neil Young's song, American Dream, he writes a scathing satire of past political scandals involving such "pristine" personalities as former presidential candidate, Gary Hart as well as televangelist, Jimmy Swaggert. The intent of his message is to argue how greed and corruption have replaced ethics and morality. A second example of this would be the song written by Big Sean, The Final Hour. In this song, he describes a society that is inundated with both honorable people as opposed to those who simply yearn for materialistic objects. Both artists argue against the traditional blue-collar idea of hard work and morality being the ultimate key to success. Likewise, Fitzgerald contends that society is strictly ordered and that the belief that one can work to attain the noblest and most respected hierarchal position is nothing more than a façade.

As the reader gains increasing insight into Fitzgerald's thinking, the paradoxical sociological standards of the masses becomes more apparent. In addition, the reader observes a complex environment that is both primitive and civilized through the lens of a particular social group. Also, by observing this novel through a sociological standpoint one can conclude distinctions and similarities amongst various historical eras. For instance, the first explorers of America immigrated here in an attempt to escape the corruption of their native countries and pursuit a better life in the new world. They traveled from east to west in the pursuit of freedom and wealth. However, because America itself has become corrupted due to the adulterated American Dream, individuals are now looking to travel west to east as means of connecting with the "old wealth" (Ved 2). Fitzgerald refers to this eastern region as a "valley of ashes". This has resulted in creating instability in the west as well as a "wasteland of morals" (Millet 5). Furthermore, Fitzgerald comments upon the myth upon the American ascendency in the Jazz Age by utilizing fictional characters and placing them into the wealthy and opulent Long Island environment. As a consequence, all of the characters' dreams ultimately become nightmares (Tunc 1). In his analysis of The Great Gatsby, Frederick C. Millet comments on how the fall of the American Dream highlight the spiritual vacuity of the elite crowd of Long Islander's portrayed in the story. He sites Fitzgerald's attitude as suggesting that the materialistic nature of the Long Island elite have left nothing but a shallow, self-centered society. Narcissism and greed have engendered a delusional environment in which material wealth is perceived above all else (2). The differences between the characters in this story is best illustrated in this so-called environment, because Long Island is seen as a world of deception, which outweighs any sense of morality and ethics. Furthermore, the historical period associated with this time, the Roaring Twenties, is also depicted in a cynical manner. Fitzgerald argues that this is a notorious, depraved period in which American idealism was replaced by immorality and greed. Therefore, Gatsby never had a chance of pursuing the true American dream.

As Fitzgerald's novel evolves, his cynicism regarding the American Dream becomes readily apparent. Support for this is gained by analyzing his main character, Jay Gatsby, other wise known as "James Gatz". His name is highly evident of the façade that Gatsby tries to perpetuate. His real name, "James Gatz", reveals his true roots that of being nothing more than the offspring of poor, unsuccessful farmers (Stocks 3). He goes on further to argue that his family is from the Middle West in San Francisco despite the obvious contradiction here. His fictitious identity is poorly concocted and readily transparent. Gatsby, who embodies the American ideal of Democracy and the Declaration of Independence, believes that anybody can achieve "greatness"(Stocks 1). What unfolds however is that "greatness" is only achieved through the elimination of American ideals (Millet 5). As a result, the quest for obtaining wealth is leading to an immoral environment. This is why the character Nick Caraway stands out in the novel. He is the only character who is truly honest. The character of Nick Caraway is not alone in having symbolic

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