The Destruction of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby

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Fitzgerald explores the toxic nature of money in society through his depiction of social worlds where much of the action takes place in. Whereas, Stone demonstrates a more individual experience of the corruption of money in society. The Great Gatsby by Scot Fitzgerald was written in 1925 during the Jazz age. Following the war, America experienced significant economic growth, pleasure and a desire for the American Dream and the latest of technology. All these factors are represented in both Gatsby and Bud. Wall Street by Oliver Stone was released in 1987 and explores the self-serving and social and moral corruption of money in society. Bud Fox entered the world of money by becoming a stockbroker. As he progressed through his career he met Gekko, who was a corrupt businessman and negotiated with Bud to do illegal business. Both texts explore the contaminating influence of money and how it changes and destroys relationships in the name of money and status. The nature of success, belief of opportunity and achieving the American Dream are evident in both texts as both have the one toxic idea of achieving material prosperity over anything else. The influence of material wealth makes people lose old values and relationships. The Great Gatsby and Wall Street both explore the contaminating and toxic influence of money and material wealth which leads to many complications and downfalls throughout.

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Stone and Fitzgerald both criticise the destruction of the American dream due to the importance of consumerism in American society. During the American Dream, America was having a substantial economic boom, which fueled the belief that anyone could “strike it rich” on Wall Street and that it does not matter what status you are born into as there are many opportunities to become rich. This boom is also evident in the historical context of the Great Gatsby. Gatsby was raised by poor farmers who had achieved “no wealth” throughout their life. The Great Gatsby perseveres to escape that class through the ideology of the American Dream and with help from his mentor; Dan Cody, he learnt how to elevate himself in the social hierarchy and also got an insight into Business. Alternatively, Wall Street also explores this concept. Bud Fox was raised into a middle-class family but he still had a desire to “make real money”. Again, through the American Dream, he strives for more material wealth and to “go far”, so he took up the opportunity when Gekko reached out to him and offered him his job. Although Bud realises that Gekko is corrupt, he puts that idea beside him because of his aspiration of one day “being on the other end of the phone” like Gekko. Both texts explore the hedonistic desire of the characters and their urge for achieving the American Dream.

 Money corrupts moral judgement and platonic conception. Bud and Gatsby both lose their “old values”, thinking everything around them is “disposable” which changes their character for the worse. Through the use of symbols in the novella, Fitzgerald explores how contaminating the idea of achieving material prosperity really is. Frequently throughout the novella, symbols such as “glowing” and “yellow” are used to convey wealth and what lies ahead in the near future. Stone uses change in Buds suits shortly after Bud starts to work with Gekko which highlights the privileges and corruption behind Gekko’s business that Bud is involved in. Stone and Fitzgerald demonstrate that money is contaminating and toxic and makes you “do things you don’t want to do”. 

The traditional American Dream claims that anyone can acquire all that they desire, as long as they work hard enough. It is evident that both Gatsby and Bud’s dreams are not realistic and although they did fully achieve the American Dream, their hasty prosperity is what ends their old values and ultimately, leads to their dreams being crushed.  

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