The American Dream

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The American Dream – Great Gatsby Essay, Research Paper The “True” American Dream In his novel, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald paints a vivid portrait of life in the Jazz Age. Taking place in between World War I and the Great Depression, people during this time were all trying to achieve their own version of the American Dream. If it meant becoming rich as quick as possible, or the old fashioned way, everyone had their eyes set on the same prize, money. People would do anything to get it and morals were all but lost in this frenzy to become rich. Fitzgerald uses his novel as a way to demonstrate and criticize different versions of the American Dream. He gives us a variety characters and with each of these characters he offers different means of achieving the

American Dream. Although many of the characters in the novel have corrupted views of how this dream should be achieved, Fitzgerald does offer one person who goes about things the right way. His means of becoming rich being corrupt, but Jay Gatsby justifies his actions by having honorable reasons for wanting to achieve the American Dream. Fitzgerald uses Tom Buchanan to illustrate the wrong way to go about achieving the American Dream, Tom does so by surrounding himself with material possessions. Living what many would consider a perfect life Tom Buchanan seems to have everything, money, a fancy house, and a beautiful wife. Although he may have all these things, it is the mentality that goes with having them that makes you happy and not the actual ownership of them. Treating

everything as a possession, Tom bases all of his happiness on what he does or does not have. Tom even treats his relationships with women as thought they are possessions. As you would smash a punching bag or a pillow Tom takes out his aggression on Myrtle, his lover, “Tom broke her nose with his open hand” (41). This view on the treatment of women is also visible in his relationship with Daisy. Myrtle Wilson tries to duplicate the life she has seen many others live, by hitching onto Tom Buchanan she feels she will be lifted out of the valley of ashes and achieve the American Dream. Myrtle is unhappy with her marriage to Wilson and feels it is not going to take her anywhere. Therefore she knows that she is going to have to find another man to bring her out of the valley of

Ashes. Initially Myrtle thinks that Wilson is the man who she had been looking for, when she first saw him in a suit she thought for certain he was the kind of man who she was looking to marry. Only later does she find out that the suit was not his “Crazy, the only crazy was when I married him” (39). While still married to Wilson, Myrtle does everything in her power to try and imitate the life she sees Tom and his friends living. She attempts to throw parties, similar to Gatsby, but they are almost all failures that demonstrate how much lower in class then Tom she really is. In fact, it is her lowness in class that is what keeps Tom from forming a real relationship with her. Although Tom tells Myrtle that the reason that they cannot form a solid relationship is that Daisy is

catholic, “its really his wife that is keeping them apart ” (38) everyone, with exception to Myrtle and her sister, knows that is not the real reason. A person of Toms stature would never marry a women from the Valley of Ashes, and Myrtle is too na ve to realize that. Myrtle is another person who puts all of her hope of the American Dream in material items and doesn’t emphasis the importance of the ideas behind the items. Toms wife, Daisy, is given an opportunity to achieve the American Dream, despite her chance she places her class and power before her true love. Daisy grew up in the South, she was instilled with good morals and taught right and wrong. Unfortunately all this seems to go to waste once she meets Tom Buchanan. Daisy then begins to live the high-class life,