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Great Gatsby Essay: The Pursuit of the American Dream

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Symbolism and the American Dream in The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald

For the "old money" people, the fact that Gatsby and countless other people like him in the s has only just recently acquired his money is reason enough to dislike him. In their way of thinking, he can't possibly have the same refinement, sensibility, and taste they have. Not only does he work for a living, but he comes from a low-class background which, in their opinion, means he cannot possibly be like them. In many ways, the social elite are right.

The "new money" people cannot be like them, and in many ways that works in their favor — those in society's highest echelon are not nice people at all. They are judgmental and superficial, failing to look at the essence of the people around them and themselves, too. Instead, they live their lives in such a way as to perpetuate their sense of superiority — however unrealistic that may be.

The people with newly acquired wealth, though, aren't necessarily much better. Think of Gatsby's partygoers. They attend his parties, drink his liquor, and eat his food, never once taking the time to even meet their host nor do they even bother to wait for an invitation, they just show up. When Gatsby dies, all the people who frequented his house every week mysteriously became busy elsewhere, abandoning Gatsby when he could no longer do anything for them. One would like to think the newly wealthy would be more sensitive to the world around them — after all, it was only recently they were without money and most doors were closed to them.

As Fitzgerald shows, however, their concerns are largely living for the moment, steeped in partying and other forms of excess. Just as he did with people of money, Fitzgerald uses the people with no money to convey a strong message. Nick, although he comes from a family with a bit of wealth, doesn't have nearly the capital of Gatsby or Tom. In the end, though, he shows himself to be an honorable and principled man, which is more than Tom exhibits. Myrtle, though, is another story. The bleak grey hues of the valley of ashes symbolically reflect the transition between the West Egg and the East Egg, each of them symbolizing certain notions as well.

West Egg and East Egg both stand for money; East Egg is the place for the rich American aristocracy, while West Egg is the domain of the ones who gained the money during their lives, not inherited them. Thus, the valley of ashes shows something in between, something that belongs neither to this world, nor to that. Doubtless, it is associated with the middle class, with the average population, leading a dull and uninteresting life, left out of the entertainments and sparkling luxury of the Jazz Era.

Grey is the color of mediocrity, and so, by depicting the valley where common people live and toil in grey colors, Fitzgerald emphasizes the idea of a contemptuous attitude of the upper class to the lower one. A previously described contrast of the upper and lower classes is not the only one in The Great Gatsby. West Egg and East Egg, situated opposite each other, show the gap between the American aristocracy and newly rich entrepreneurs.

However, by drawing a special attention to the similar shape and size of the islands, Fitzgerald seems to emphasize the idea, that in fact, the difference can hardly be seen from a distance. Another important symbol is the symbol of time. Interestingly, while talking to Daisy for the first time in many years, Gatsby is leaning on a defunct clock, which strengthens the idea of the futility of his aspirations and hopes.

The symbol of defunct clock vividly shows the relationship between Daisy and Gatsby. With a number of subtle hints, Fitzgerald reveals how this ideal turned into the everlasting pursuit of materialistic values. Interestingly, money seems to draw people together or tear them apart, depending on circumstances. A number of tiny details depicting the importance of money and the carelessness in the s society are found in the description of the cocktail parties, expensive evening dresses and jewelry, tremendously ornate houses and new cars.

On the one hand, these things are shown as the attributes of an American dream; though, on the other one, Fitzgerald seems to mock the extravagance of the unnecessary things that do not bring real happiness. Here Daisy and Tom are shown as the vivid examples of the corruptive influence of money and of the destruction it brings upon others.

The tough world of money where the rich could do whatever they wanted to do, while the poor had no other choice but to endure is an undeniable opposite to the values that have been hypocritically praised in the s America. The climax of the story, when Gatsby, originally coming from the lower classes dies for the thing Daisy had done is seen as one more example of the inconsistency of the American dream, and another example of the carelessness of the upper aristocracy.

To sum it up, one should say that though Fitzgerald implies a great number of symbols in The Great Gatsby, the true meaning of them is not in the foreground. Loved this essay about The Great Gatsby? Feel free to use it as an example and as an inspiration source! Gatsby does this in order to reach his dream, however little hope there is left. It is because of this action that he is murdered by Wilson.

In this way, Gatsby's attempts for his dream directly cause his death. In Myrtle's case, there is no direct action that leads to her death. However, it is the combination of Daisy's frantic state and Myrtle's searching for Tom, two things caused by a journey to the American dream, that causes her to be run over.

In this way, the dream indirectly causes Myrtle to be killed. Although Tom and Daisy are on some degree representative of the American dream, they are also in another way a direct antithesis to acquiring the American dream.

They are of the old wealth, and although the goal of Gatsby is to be accepted into their class, it is doubtful that anyone can truly be accepted into the old wealth.

Tom and Daisy were born into it, and therefore did not have to work to become a part of it. In fact, they look down on Gatsby's class and the new wealth of the West Egg. The fact that this representation of the dream is opposed to the advancement of others shows Fitzgerald's pessimistic view and the futility of reaching the American dream. Tom and Daisy's antagonistic nature goes further than their hindering of Gatsby's journey to reach his goal. Juxtaposed to Gatsby, Tom and Daisy are truly lazy, frivolous people who, because of their lack of effort to reach their current position, take everything for granted.

In this case, Myrtle is the smashed up thing, and Gatsby is the one who cleans up the mess, by taking the blame. Tom and Daisy are living what others consider a dream but of course, they take it for granted , and they end up destroying those who wish to become like them and retreating into their carelessness. Moreover, their entire existence shows the unfair nature of American capitalism: There is something positive about his message here: Fitzgerald's tone here uplifts this impossible dream into a place of honor, where the journey is more important than the dream itself.

In these final lines, Fitzgerald states that, regardless as to whether it is possible or not, the journey to acquire the American dream is a fundamental part of the American experience. Through the stories of Gatsby and Myrtle's failure to achieve their dream, Fitzgerald portrays the American dream in a pessimistic way, as one that cannot be achieved.

He emphasizes this by presenting the characters of Tom and Daisy, who represent the buffer that stop Gatsby and Myrtle from achieving their dreams.

However, the final passage of the novel shows that Fitzgerald thinks of the American dream as more than just a futile dream, whose realization is not possible.

Fitzgerald presents the American dream as a need, and one that we will continue to reach for no matter how impossible it seems.

It is this act that Fitzgerald believes truly defines our nature: The casual observer may never know the man behind the mask, but a learned historian can reveal to the world the secrets that some would rather sweep under the rug. Although outside accounts sometimes skim over the less tasteful aspects of his life, Fitzgerald cannot help but betray his true nature to the reader, if only unwittingly.

Perhaps his most acclaimed opus, The Great Gatsby, is actually more autobiographical than fictional. Then, one can use The Great Gatsby as a lens through which to examine Fitzgerald, exposing his disposition to the reader. The Fitzgerald-Hemingway connection is unique and essential for understanding Fitzgerald. The two met in Paris in , and the thriving Fitzgerald gave the young Hemingway a helping hand in jump-starting his career, putting him in touch with his publisher.

Acquainted with Fitzgerald until his death, Hemingway is able to provide a full picture of the growth and decline Fitzgerald experienced. The two exchanged hundreds of letters over the timeframe. Both Gatsby and Fitzgerald fell in love with Southern women, and their respective relationships are strikingly similar. Fitzgerald found his wife, Zelda, at first sight in Montgomery, Alabama, at the tender age of eighteen years old. Although he was deeply infatuated with her, it was unclear if she returned the feelings: In The Great Gatsby, the reader learns that Gatsby too discovered the love of his life at a young age in another southern city, Louisville, Kentucky.

Daisy, his heartthrob, was also a mere eighteen years old just like Zelda. Gatsby knows that he does not have the means to successfully woo her, and must find a way to make a name for himself so he can provide for her. He too knows he cannot hope to compete with the multitude of other men looking to take Zelda for their own, and realizes that he must better himself somehow first.

Fitzgerald does this with the publication of his debut novel This Side of Paradise, which generated enough attention and money that Zelda would deign to resume the engagement. Gatsby conducts similar undertakings: He hopes that this will be sufficient to attract the full attention of Daisy, and he returns to live near her in the anticipation of winning her love.

Nevertheless, the parallel is impossible to overlook. Fitzgerald plays the role of Gatsby, and inserts Zelda as Daisy, cribbing strongly from his own experience of courtship. This is, then, more autobiographical than truly fictional. Despite both Fitzgerald and Gatsby overcoming initial problems with their relationships, they are both confident that when they secure them, they will be set. That is not the case. Hemingway describes her negative influence on Fitzgerald: But the strain proved too much: Instead, he pours his own troubles with Zelda right into Gatsby, playing out the same scenario with Gatsby and Daisy.

Because Fitzgerald could not find love with Zelda, neither could Gatsby with Daisy. Fitzgerald also reveals his enjoyment of lifestyle of the highest extravagance, again manifesting his own inclinations right into Gatsby. Both Fitzgerald and Gatsby idolized the very rich, seeking to join their ranks. At the same time, neither had to work very hard to achieve their goal.

Gatsby, after dropping out of college, receives assistance from his benefactor Dan Cody, who funds Gatsby before Gatsby enters the business world himself. Both men dropped out of school to eventually join the army, but it is clear their goal was always to join the rich.

The lifestyle that both Fitzgerald and Gatsby lead is the epitome of lavishness. Fitzgerald does not know another way to write a book — he has no experience with poor farm boys, for example — so he falls back on what he is experienced with, using that experience to enhance the novel.

Fitzgerald and Zelda were well known in New York City for the grand parties they would hold. Drinking and merriment all night long. Gatsby, of course, was also distinguished among wealthy New Yorkers for the fortnightly galas at his house. This display of wealth and materialism extends beyond just this physical expression.

Both Zelda and Daisy wanted riches and the security of wealth; they were both easily wooed by materialism, and in reality, only after the men displayed their wealth did they consider intimate involvement.

Fitzgerald celebrates materialism, and is able to comment on it so accurately, because it was such a key aspect of his own life. The connection here between Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby is impossible to miss: Gatsby is more autobiographical, not fictional. The third way in which Fitzgerald inserts himself into the story is in the character flaws that he writes into subjects in Gatsby. Fitzgerald likes to think of himself as humble and objective, as he writes Nick, but just like Nick, he reveals himself to actually have multiple character flaws.

Fitzgerald, too, likes to paint a picture of himself as an upstanding gentleman, but as his life progresses, the historian can see that that is far from the truth. Fitzgerald has multiple character flaws that he tries to hide, but that are unwittingly revealed in The Great Gatsby.

Fitzgerald is, undeniably, quite racist — as are the themes in Gatsby. Fitzgerald is a strong proponent of white supremacy: In , Fitzgerald proclaimed, "I believe at last in the white man's burden.

Three Themes in The Great Gatsby

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The Great Gatsby essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Great Gatsby .

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Critical Essays Social Stratification: The Great Gatsby as Social Commentary Bookmark this page Manage My Reading List In The Great Gatsby Fitzgerald offers up commentary on a variety of themes — justice, power, greed, betrayal, the American dream, and so on.

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The Great Gatsby is known as the quintessential novel of the Jazz age. It accurately portrays the lifestyle of the rich during the booming s. Readers live vicariously through the lavish parties and on the elegant estates. Free Great Gatsby Essays: The Truly Great Gatsby - The Truly Great Gatsby Is his novel the Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald creates Gatsby as a character who becomes great. He begins life as just an ordinary, lower-class, citizen.

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Indeed, this topic is a default choice. However, there are other, more creative approaches to this task. For example, you can analyze the notion of the American dream through symbolism in The Great Gatsby essay, or through carelessness in The Great Gatsby essay, or even through wealth in The Great Gatsby essay. Unearthing an Inner Meaning in the Final Lines of The Great Gatsby. In The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, there is a distinct development of emotions and symbols, and one of the key vehicles for illustrating this change is the final line of each chapter.