Representation Of The American Dream In The Great Gatsby

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One of the key underlying themes of the now famous and once hated story The Great Gatsby is the now almost cliché idea of “American Dream”, “the ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved.” Many of the character within The Great Gatsby are personifications of different, I suppose you could say fundamental problems with “The American Dream” and the many contradictions it makes. Especially in such a time as the “Roaring 20’s” Which on the surface does nothing but makes the idea seem realistic, with the economy booming anyone thought they could make it. But The Great Gatsby shows that not to be true, most predominantly through its characters.

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Starting with of course Gatsby, who on the surface as many would agree, seems to be the perfect representation of The American Dream come true. Coming from a poor family of North Dakota farmers to reaching a point where wealth becomes a catalyst for power, a true underdog story on the surface, everyone loves a good underdog story. But, upon progressing further through the story we learn that Gatsby did not actually rise up to his position through pure hard work and determination as one would expect to be the case in The American Dream, no. Gatsby attains his position through criminal activities, that being primarily the illegal selling of cheap alcohol. Regardless of the criminal activity through which he attained his wealth, the point is that it was through crime which muddies the water and calls into question the ways in which The American Dream is achieved. Gatsby’s relationship with Daisy is what many view as Gatsby’s “American Dream” the ultimate goal. However, one might argue that Daisy is rather more important than that, I believe that one possible interpretation of Daisy is that she is a sacrifice. To clarify, Daisy representing love and close relationships in this case, cannot coexist with absolute power of notorious wealth and high social status. She represents in Gatsby’s case the sacrifice that must be made to reach “The American Dream”.

Polar opposites to Gatsby are George and Myrtle Wilson. Unlike Gatsby and Tom who I will touch on later, George continues to hard running his own shop, but due to the location in which he lives and his lack of access to money as most who live in his area could not afford the mechanical services he provides let alone would they even own a car themselves. Causes him to become trapped within poverty as some might say beneath the boot of the rich, breathing in the pollution they fund from the factories nearby and the filth they do not clean in the streets much like that of the dirt beneath a shoe. Unlike George however, Myrtle his wife does have access to wealth and luxury due to her affair with Tom, which one could argue she only went through with willingly to because of her poverty ridden state and the place in which she is trapped much like her husband. However, in her position she must pay the price of dealing with Tom’s abuse if she wishes to remain eating crumbs of his wealth. Which is one thing she shares in common with Daisy, the continual and willing disempowerment per se of chasing the wealth of wealthy men, which along with Georges situation calls into question the equality of The American Dream and the obvious fact that within a hierarchy, not everyone gets a seat at the top.

Tom and Daisy, both fundamental problems with the idea of the fair American Dream. Both Daisy and Tom are born into wealth, without the need to work for it they immediately call into doubt the very idea of The American Dream, especially when throughout the story both characters are the catalysts for tragedy. Tom misleading George into thinking that Gatsby was the man Myrtle was having an affair with further stoking the flames that have already been fuelled by resentment and now the loss of all that he was working for Myrtle and leading to Gatsby’s death. Along with Daisy’s recklessness that leads to the death of Myrtle. Daisy as I mentioned earlier along with Myrtle represents the lack of opportunities that were available to women in such a time, as she stays with a man that she clearly loves less than Gatsby because of the material security and comforts he provides.

In the end, The Great Gatsby may have been a disliked and controversial piece of literature in his time due to the reasons its renowned in ours. It clashed with the traditional and contradictory idea of The American Dream, an idea that claims to be stand upon equality of opportunity when in fact it was little more than an unconscious attempt to hide the mass of inequality that laid beneath the feet of middle and upper class America. While America has progressed leaps and bounds compared to whence it came, people like Daisy, Tom, Myrtle, George and Gatsby still exist. People who are blissfully unaware of the resentment they unknowingly fuel as they live in their lucky pot o gold. People who no matter how hard they work, no matter the determination that fuels them they can never rid the stench of the rich man’s boot. The American Dream is a carrot on a stick and America’s the horse.

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