The Chase for the American Dream Through The Great Gatsby

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The Great Gatsby written by F. Scott Fitzgerald is considered one of his greatest masterpieces and a great lesson/ representation of society’s flaws during the roaring 1920’s which is also present in today’s world.F. Scott Fitzgerald, the author of The Great Gatsby, presents a recurring theme of how money can buy happiness Jay Gatsby, living in West Egg, is presented as rich. The Great Gatsb book presents the dark side of the American Dream and discusses relatable topics and timeless themes such as wealth, class differences, jealousy, and love. Fitzgerald’s story creates an ambience of dissatisfaction, dishonesty, and shallowness of wealth among characters. The economical growth of the 1920’s brought duplicity to the American Dream; many lived lavish lifestyles with their materialistic wealth while others struggled to make ends meet.

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The Great Gatsby takes place in the roaring 20s, Fitzgerald describes Gatsby living a lavish lifestyle with not a care in the world. However, as new characters are introduced, the real complexity of his life, as well as theirs, come into the light. During this time, new money clashed with old money and both played an important role for the characters' happiness and their so called” American Dream”. The idea of the American Dream became prevalent and an ambition for Gatsby his sole motivation to achieving this was so that one day he would marry Daisy, whom he had fallen in love with, and His motivations for becoming wealthy is based off of the sole purpose that one day he will be able to marry the love of his life, Daisy. Becoming wealthy, for Gatsby, is shown to be very ironic. He succeed in attaining great wealth, as part of the dream, however he figuratively becomes more and more corrupted. He believes that buying these materialistic items will allow for him to achieve his one dream in life but, as he does this he becomes more sadder and lonelier in his life. Throughout this, Gatsby throws these extravagant parties inviting everyone from both West and East Egg . Moreover, Nick, the narrator of this story and a friend of Gatsby, gets invited to ne of these parties. As Nick arrives to Gatspy’s house, he starts to observe Gatspy’s party, he explains that, “In his [Gatspy’s] blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars”. He compares the moths to the people coming in and out of the party, drawn to the glitz and champagne like moths to light. He explains how these moths are not real friends to Gatspy, but only are there for the champagne and fun. Fitzgerald describes Gatspy’s garden as sad and full of emptiness and loneliness expressing that these parties, also referring to money, are trying to fill that void for Gatspy. This relates to society because in general many people who are of the upper class are socially viewed as being able to have everything and that they have to be happy because they have no reason not to be. An article written by Carey Goldberg, a journalist for the New York Times, states in her article “ We think money will bring lots of happiness for a long tie, and it brings a little happiness for a short time”.

Another example of “money buying happiness” and achieving the American Dream Daisy realizes early is that she didn't marry her husband because she loved him but rather for his money. Woman back in the 1920’s all married for money, and not necessarily love. 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. “They’re such beautiful shirts, it makes me sad because I’ve never seen such – such beautiful shirts before.” At this time Daisy realizes that she did marry for money and not for love. She figures out that she could have married for money with Gatsby but would have had love too. The chase for the American dream and the ideal man would be destroyed with Daisy’s happiness. Daisy grew up with money therefore does not value it as much as others would yet she still wants to be surrounded by it.

Another example of this materialistic “thinking” Myrtle, whom is having an affair with Tom, Daisy's husband, is married to a man named George and they both come from a lower class compared to Daisy, Tom, Nick, and Gatsby. However the desire for a luxurious life is what lures Myrtle into having an affair with Tom. Making this decision puts her marriage with George in danger leading to her death and loss of pure happiness. Myrtle is willing to take this risk in hopes of achieving her American Dream which includes a wealthy and famous lifestyle. The reason why she wants to be with Tom is because he represents the life of “the rich and famous”, which she strives for. Myrtle talks about her relationship with her husband and says, “The only crazy I was was when I married him. I knew right away I made a mistake. He borrowed somebody’s best suit to get married, and never told me about it, and the man came after it one say when he was out…”. This addresses how materialistic Myrtle is, and that she didn’t appreciate how George couldn’t afford his own suit to get married in. She looks at Tom in a different way. She looks at him as someone who can afford to buy their own suit for their own wedding and can provide her with happiness because he can “pay” for it. Myrtle is attracted to not only Tom’s appearance but his money as well. Myrtle believes that if she sleeps with Tom she can climb her way to upper class. She wants to be able to flaunt her money, drive fancy cars, and have a nice, big houses. This need to be apart of the upper class essentially destroys her life eventually taking it from her. It was later found that Daisy hit Myrtle with her car taking her life, proving that the desire for money, a luxurious lifestyle and wanting the “American dream”, has only provided sadness and destruction in someone's life and not happiness. In the same article written by Carey Goldberg, she states that 'those who value material success more than they value happiness are likely to experience almost as many negative moods as positive moods, whereas those who value happiness over material success are likely to experience considerably more pleasant moods and emotions than unpleasant moods and emotions.' The quote is stating that in today’s society many who don't value money and who values it and other materialistic object more than their happiness, and believe that they are linked, are likely to think less of themselves and be more negative. This was the same thing that was happening to Myrtle in The Great Gatsby because she was sad about her status in society during that time, she cheated on her husband but still was not satisfied at where she was getting at.

Fitzgerald integrates his perspective of the world which also relates to today's society because much of what is prevalent today was prevalent in the 1920’s. Money plays and played a big role in people's lives. Individuals classify money as what makes them happy, the more they have the happier they are. As proven in the book and many successful individuals today (Anthony Bourdain,Kate Spade ... etc) that is not the case. People who have less value money more and are said to be happier than those with more. Money ends up becoming a temporary object to fill the sadness people are experiencing, lasting for a short amount of time.   

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