The American Dream

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It can be said that chasing the American Dream is a never ending journey. In F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, Gatsby seems to undertake great efforts in pursuing the life he wants to live, the so-called American Dream. The novel is Fitzgerald's vessel of commentary and criticism of the American Dream. As he paints a vivid portrait of the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald defines this dream, and through Gatsby's downfall, expresses the futility and agony of its pursuit. Through Gatsby's longing for it, he depicts its beauty and irresistible lure in a manner of which any philosopher would be proud. The aspects of the American Dream are evident throughout Fitzgerald's narrative. Take, for example, James Gatz's heavenly, almost unbelievable rise from "beating his way along the south shore of Lake Superior as a clam-digger and a salmon-fisher" to the great, i.e. excessive, Gatsby, housed in "a colossal affair by any standard... with a tower on one side... a marble swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawn and garden". The awe in which Fitzgerald presents his awakened phoenix clearly conveys the importance of improvement, or at least what one thinks is improvement, in the American Dream; it is not necessarily a life of excesses and wealth Fitzgerald defends as the Dream, for the audience sees clearly their detriments in the novel through Tom and Daisy, but rather a change in the style of life, reflecting the equally-American pioneering spirit. Love represents the other side of the coin of wealth: as opposed to material wealth, it refers instead to emotional wealth. Whatever its plane of existence, love plays a pivotal role in the American Dream, in Gatsby's Dream. Perhaps love is the most valuable of the aspects presented thus far of the Dream. For example, it is said that Gatsby revalues everything in his house compared to response of Daisy's "well loved eyes. Sharing the same side of the coin is the need for social acceptance. Gatsby prides himself on his openness; his lavish parties where strangers came and went without having met Gatsby at all. Gatsby certainly wants the people on his side: from his house labeled a Norman "Hotel de Ville," or City Hall, open to the public, to Lucille's replacement dress from Croirier's, courtesy of Gatsby, no expense is too great in his quest to win others support. Gatsby needs as much popular support as he can get, in the face of such random acts of contempt as "he killed a man once" to "he was a German spy during the war." Improvement, wealth, love, popularity: all contribute to the definition of the American Dream. What is missing from the preceding list is, however, perhaps the most important quality of all: that the American Dream is exactly that, a mere dream. Unfortunately, the quest for satisfaction and happiness is unending, like eternally chasing one's tail. It is a vicious circle, one of many traps laid out by Fitzgerald for the sake of educating his audience of the perils of imagination. Indeed, given the thin line between the intrinsic desire for self-improvement and the waste and futility of pursuing mental illusions, and the consequences of the latter, the peril is quite extreme. Just as Daisy re-enters Gatsby's life and sets the circle moving, does she fulfill the reverse: she, in an equally shocking and abrupt manner, flees Gatsby, his eyes still scintillating in the reflection of the Dream, thus bringing this aspect full-circle and pounding in the first nail in the Dream's coffin. The second nail to further seal the coffin is the revolving door quality of the rise and fall from rich to poor as the pocketbooks of the Dreamers lines with money, their moral character is chipped away. Once the conscience is destroyed, one can predict that as the money runs out, character returns. Proof of this circle is offered towards the end of the novel: heading back into East Egg from the city after a tense incident on a scorching summer's day, Gatsby and Daisy spend their last moments together in the car; upon her return to East Egg, Daisy, Gatsby's most valued possession, the standard against which "he revalued everything in his house" leaves him and returns fully to Tom, thus leaving Gatsby "bankrupt." As this decision transpires, Gatsby selflessly accepts the blame for the accident where Daisy, in control of the car, is at fault. The beauty of the American Dream is that, as an unattainable yet seemingly plausible goal for all intents and purposes, it continues to inspire humanity of all nationalities to stretch to a new level of existence, regardless of their current social status. The quest for happiness is perhaps the most venerable of all human institutions due to the natural human desire for a hedonistic existence: a simple pursuit, hardly; a palpable pursuit, possibly; a consuming pursuit, definitely

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