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Great Gatsby Essay: The Pursuit of the American Dream

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❶In other words, income inequality and the vastly different starts in life the characters have strongly affected their outcomes.

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Symbolism and the American Dream in The Great Gatsby
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The Great Gatsby, a novel written by Francis Scott Fitzgerald in , nowadays is rightly seen as the classics of the American literature. On the face of it, the plot seems to be a usual story of broken hopes and expectations.

However, with a closer look at this novel, one can discern a number of social issues and problems such as inconsistency of the American dream, the destructive power of money and the futility of the upper class. All of these themes are being subtly revealed by Fitzgerald through a number of symbols, such as lights, colors, everyday habitual objects, time, the personality of the characters and, of course, through a symbol of money.

Green has always been associated with hope; however, some imply to it the notion of money being associated with dollars as well.

Perhaps, the most obvious and clear explanation to Gatsby staring at the green light, dreaming of Daisy is the one of his longing for love and making plans for the future. Light, not necessarily green one, but any light, in general, can be considered to have a special meaning in the novel. For instance, Fitzgerald describes a number of colors in clothes and household articles that are to portray the characters according to the symbolic role they play in the narration. Daisy and Jordan, for example, are often depicted in white clothes, which might seem as a symbol of innocence and purity.

Nevertheless, neither Daisy, nor Jordan, are seen as chaste and blameless characters in the novel. Thus, it is possible to suppose that in this novel, white only seems to symbolize chastity, while in fact, it shows false purity and hypocrisy.

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.

Myrtle sleeps with Tom to inch her way to an upper class status. People who are upper class are the ones that have money, drive fancy cars, and have nice, big houses. This later on causes destruction, and destroys Myrtle. It was later found that Daisy was the one that hit Myrtle with her car which resulted in the death of Myrtle.

It is ironic that Daisy was the one that killed her, since Myrtle was having an affair with her husband, Tom. This shows how the desire for a luxurious life and having the American dream, only caused destruction in this novel and destroyed someone life. The hope for happiness is something that Daisy hoped to have, but by finding out she married the wrong man changed who she is and her over outlook on life.

Early on in the novel, Daisy finds out a secret that Tom is hiding from her. You learn throughout the novel that Tom and Daisy relationship is not to most ideal, happy relationship. Tom seems to be abusive towards her, and rather does not seem to care much about her. Daisy thinks she has everything, wealth, love and happiness which all tie into the American dream, but then she discovers that she has nothing and that she has been corrupted by this specific dream.

She thought she has all she desired for but truly realized she had nothing. She has a child, who does not seem important to her at all. The child is never around, which shows a lot about Daisy. The baby has to be a beautiful fool in order to be happy and successful.

Daisy thought she had love when she married Tom, but truly in the long run, only came out with money. With Gatsby, Daisy realized something that broke her heart. When reunited with Gatsby, who she has not seen in about five years Daisy breaks down and starts to cry. She figures out that she could have married for money with Gatsby but would have had love too. The ambition for something has thrown Gatsby over the edge. His love and chase for Daisy has taken over his whole life.

He feels that he has to live up to the American dream to accomplish what he truly dreams for, which is Daisy. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

The closing pages of the novel reflect at length on the American Dream, in an attitude that seems simultaneously mournful, appreciative, and pessimistic. But still, he finds something to admire in how Gatsby still hoped for a better life, and constantly reached out toward that brighter future.

An analysis of the characters in terms of the American Dream usually leads to a pretty cynical take on the American Dream. So instead he turns to crime, and only then does he manage to achieve his desired wealth. This couple also represents people aiming at the dream — George owns his own shop and is doing his best to get business, though is increasingly worn down by the harsh demands of his life, while Myrtle chases after wealth and status through an affair with Tom.

So neither character is on the upward trajectory that the American Dream promises, at least during the novel. And on top of that they are fabulously wealthy?

The American Dream certainly is not alive and well for the poor Wilsons. But what about the other major characters, especially the ones born with money? What is their relationship to the American Dream?

Perhaps because of this, they seem to directly antagonize the dream — Daisy by refusing Gatsby, and Tom by helping to drag the Wilsons into tragedy. In other words, income inequality and the vastly different starts in life the characters have strongly affected their outcomes.

This, of course, is tragic and antithetical to the idea of the American Dream, which claims that class should be irrelevant and anyone can rise to the top. I'd never understood before. It was full of money--that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it.

High in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl. But Daisy, of course, is only human — flawed, flighty, and ultimately unable to embody the huge fantasy Gatsby projects onto her. So this, in turn, means that the American Dream itself is just a fantasy, a concept too flimsy to actually hold weight, especially in the fast-paced, dog-eat-dog world of s America.

But consider the fact that Daisy was already born into the highest level of American society. The expectation placed on her, as a wealthy woman, was never to pursue something greater, but simply to maintain her status. In contrast, Myrtle, aside from Gatsby, seems to be the most ambitiously in pursuit of getting more than she was given in life. She parlays her affair with Tom into an apartment, nice clothes, and parties, and seems to revel in her newfound status.

But of course, she is knocked down the hardest, killed for her involvement with the Buchanans, and specifically for wrongfully assuming she had value to them. Considering that Gatsby did have a chance to leave New York and distance himself from the unfolding tragedy, but Myrtle was the first to be killed, you could argue the novel presents an even bleaker view of the American Dream where women are concerned.

The American Dream as shown in Gatsby becomes even more pessimistic through the lens of the female characters. Focusing the lens on the women is predictably depressing. Was Gatsby's dream worth it? Was all the work, time, and patience worth it for him? Gatsby lost everything, not to mention the Wilsons got caught up in the tragedy and ended up dead! In other words, Gatsby has a larger-than-life persona and he never would have been content to remain in North Dakota to be poor farmers like his parents.

Even if he ends up living a shorter life, he certainly lived a full one full of adventure. In fact, it seems Jay lived several lives in the space of just half a normal lifespan. How does Fitzgerald examine this issue of deferred dreams? What do you think are the effects of postponing our dreams?

How can you apply this lesson to your own life? Apparently, dreams deferred are dreams doomed to fail. Any prompt like this one which has a section of more personal reflection gives you freedom to tie in your own experiences and point of view, so be thoughtful and think of good examples from your own life! Explain how the novel does or does not demonstrate the death of the American Dream. What does the novel offer about American identity?

In this prompt, another one that zeroes in on the dead or dying American Dream, you could discuss how the destruction of three lives Gatsby, George, Myrtle and the cynical portrayal of the old money crowd illustrates a dead, or dying American Dream. After all, if the characters who dream end up dead, and the ones who were born into life with money and privilege get to keep it without consequence, is there any room at all for the idea that less-privileged people can work their way up?

This observation suggests an American identity that is determined by birthplace, and that within the American identity there are smaller, inescapable points of identification. Furthermore, for those in the novel not born into money, the American identity seems to be about striving to end up with more wealth and status. But in terms of the portrayal of the old money set, particularly Daisy, Tom, and Jordan, the novel presents a segment of American society that is essentially aristocratic — you have to be born into it.


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The Great Gatsby is a novel that shows what happened to the American Dream in the ’s, which is a time period when the dreams became corrupted for many reasons. The American dream not only causes corruption but has caused destruction. Myrtle, Gatsby and .

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- The Great Gatsby: A Tarnished American Dream Thesis: In his influential book The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald recognizes and describes many of the less alluring characteristics of the 's and the pursuit of the American Dream including dysfunctional relationships, materialism and classism.

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Symbolism and the American Dream in The Great Gatsby. The Great Gatsby, a novel written by Francis Scott Fitzgerald in , nowadays is rightly seen as the classics of the American literature. On the face of it, the plot seems to be a usual story of broken hopes and expectations. The Great Gatsby is a tragic love story on the surface, but it’s most commonly understood as a pessimistic critique of the American Dream. In the novel, Jay Gatsby overcomes his poor past to gain an incredible amount of money and a limited amount of social cache in s NYC, only to be rejected by the “old money” crowd.

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The Great Gatsby. American Dream Essay. You are asked to write an essay on the American dream. That is an interesting work to do and an extensive analysis to carry out. The Great Gatsby - The American Dream Essay Words | 4 Pages ultimate subject is the character of the American Dream in which, in their respective ways, his principle heroes are all trapped.”, can be justified through Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby and his short story “Winter Dreams”.