Free Essay: While there are numerous themes throughout the text of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, the most prominent is that of the American Dream.. .
Table of contents
- Jay Gatsby's Downfall essays
- Corruption american dream great gatsby essay
- Great Gatsby Essay: The Pursuit of the American Dream
- AP English Notes
When Nick left he thought he was moving permanently to the East, but he returns after only a few months. His father's generosity was not withdrawn, but his father's principles, no matter how many times Nick turned them over in his mind, did not equip him to accept what he saw and did during his months away from home:. No sooner does Nick inform us that he takes exception to his father's rule, than he tells us there is an exception to this exception: "Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction—Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have unaffected scorn.
Nick may disapprove of Gatsby and scorn everything he represents, but Nick judges Gatsby with a leniency he does not extend to Tom Buchanan, even though Nick "always had the opinion [Tom] approved of me and wanted me to like him with some harsh, defiant wistfulness of his own. Nick's different opinions of Gatsby and Tom Buchanan are beset by tensions. Even as Nick praises Gatsby, he expresses disdain for him; and, in keeping with his father's advice as he has come to understand it, even as Nick condemns Tom, he allows for Tom's meager ration of the fundamental decencies.
Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan are both immensely rich and are both pursuing, albeit with different motives and sentiments, love affairs with other men's wives. The distinction Nick makes between them is based on finer-grain differences, ones that concern the interplay between the material and the moral. Tom Buchanan was born rich and Gatsby was born poor. The matter is more complicated than saying that Nick approves of the wealthy man who acquires a fortune while disapproving of the wealthy man who inherits one.
Rather, Gatsby has acquired his wealth for a high motive, a motive that expresses an exceptional sensitivity. Tom Buchanan uses his inherited fortune for low motives that reflect his negligible concern for other people. These different judgments are shown in well-known passages about each character. Regarding Gatsby, Nick says:. As for Buchanan and his wife , "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they made If Gatsby were simply a man on the make he would be no better than Tom's mistress Myrtle, who wants to trade up from a husband who had to borrow the suit he was married in to one who "brought down a string of polo ponies from Lake Forest.
His great uncle's wholesale hardware business has put a floor beneath him; no matter what happens in the bond business he won't be living in ash heaps and working in a garage. But the floor is not so high that he needn't work, either in a field that he chooses and succeeds in or, as a fallback, in the family business. Nick feels a palpable repugnance for the Myrtle Wilsons of the world, who have no floor and no fallback.
Nick's confidence about the social distance that separates him from Myrtle allows him to mock the pretensions Tom's money allows her: "Myrtle raised her eyebrows in despair at the shiftlessness of the lower orders. You have to keep after them all the time. Carraway's advice, and Nick's reflections on it, should have prepared him to judge generously.
There is a clear connection between the material disadvantages she has known and the paucity of her allotment of the fundamental decencies. None of this earns her any credit with Nick. At the opposite economic extreme, the fundamental decency denied Tom Buchanan is that his enormous wealth has afflicted him with a plenary sense of entitlement.
He expects his wife to love him, he expects other men's wives to be his mistresses, and then he expects his own wife to be endlessly forbearing when he humiliates her by barely bothering to conceal his affairs.
Jay Gatsby's Downfall essays
Scott Fitzgerald wrote to his daughter, "I didn't know till 15 that there was anyone in the world except me. Gatsby started out living like the Wilsons and ended up living like the Buchanans, but Nick thinks better of him than of any of them. What redeems Gatsby is his love for Daisy. The fact that Nick ends by finding Daisy unworthy of Gatsby's devotion makes him think more, not less, of Gatsby's passion for her.
What recommends Gatsby to Nick is not the quality of his judgment but the intensity of his longing. The impracticality of Gatsby's desire is inseparable from the purity of it, the absence of venal calculations that would sully it. Gatsby has broken laws and done business with gangsters to get fabulously wealthy in the quickest possible way.
He hasn't done this in order to climb socially so that someday, after time has sanitized his fortune, his son might marry Tom and Daisy's daughter. Rather, he got rich quick out of a sense of urgency and desperation and crazy hopefulness, out of refusing to get over a broken heart and give up the love of his life.
It is worth noting that the two senses of the word "romantic" are related. That is, there is a connection between the erotic desire of lovers and the idealistic preoccupation with grandeur, magnanimity, and transcendence of the sordid and mundane. Scott Fitzgerald, in his fiction and his life, was a romantic in both senses. Lionel Trilling made the point this way: "Fitzgerald was perhaps the last notable writer to affirm the Romantic fantasy, descended from the Renaissance, of personal ambition and heroism, of life committed to, or thrown away for, some ideal of self.
Corruption american dream great gatsby essay
Gatsby and Buchanan don't even try. Rather, each takes one of the two most important ideas, and lives as though its opposite doesn't even exist. Gatsby is utterly true to his heart's desire, but foolishly, childishly acts as though the world's ineluctable realities can be disregarded just because they make us sad. Buchanan sees the world clearly, but there is no more a trace of music in his soul than there is of softness in his "cruel body.
Dyson said of Tom, "Being right about the nature of things is no excuse for being inhuman.
Great Gatsby Essay: The Pursuit of the American Dream
He is not enough of a romantic to let a passion like Gatsby's into his own life, but is enough of one to know and admire that passion when he sees it in someone else. And Nick does live in the world, not so massively or brutally as Tom, of course, but enough to be more impressed than scandalized when he meets the man who fixed the World Series. So Nick does have the ability to hold two opposite ideas in his mind at the same time. Whether he retains the ability to function is a separate question.
Nick, hardly ancient, turns 30 on the climactic day of Gatsby's story but regards himself as a male spinster. The one thing he says to Daisy about her two-year old daughter is, "I suppose she talks and—eats, and everything. I don't know which of us hung up with a sharp click but I know I didn't care. Jordan ends by calling him a "bad driver," the sort of careless person a careless person like herself needs to avoid. Nick accepts her opinion of him by not disputing it. His own voice, not full of money but winning us with its beguiling fastidiousness, makes us want to think better of Nick than of the Buchanans.
But it's hard not to wonder if there isn't something to what Jordan says: that in the end he is uncomfortably similar to his second cousin, and she, in turn, is uncomfortably similar to her odious husband. When he first visits the Buchanans in East Egg, and learns the outlines of Tom's philandering and Daisy's misery, Nick's reaction is Victorian. To Tom, Gatsby is just "Mr. Nobody from Nowhere. The fact that they do see Gatsby but still reject him—Daisy as the love of her life, Nick as an inspiration for his—makes their repudiation uglier.
It's not that there was an easy way for Daisy to let Gatsby's love into her life, or for Nick to make a place in his life for a love like it. It's that both were given a glimpse of something exalted and rare, then struggled only a little before choosing to remain earth-bound. Gravity pulls Daisy back to Tom and pulls Nick back to the Midwest, the wholesale hardware business, and his thinning brief-case of enthusiasm.
Holding two opposed ideas in mind at the same time was, for Aristotle, something that required more than just the ability to function and demonstrated a quality larger than a first-rate intelligence. But Gatsby is not Everyman. He is an American, and the struggle to fashion a life guided by practical wisdom in America faces special challenges that make his story even more poignant.
These special challenges concern, again, something moral, the principles on which the American experiment is founded, and something material, the place where it unfolds. John Dewey thought that the solution for the problems of democracy was more democracy. Can democracy encompass human greatness?
Also, according to Jay Gatsby, appearance is a significant factor in his quest to win. He achieves this by wearing the best outfits. To him, these garments are more than just clothes. He, therefore, believes that he is on the right path to achieving his American dream, as he possesses material units that cost lots and lots of money. He, thus, thinks that these possessions will definitely bring him happiness. Jay Gatsby also loves his house very much. During a tour with Daisy and Nick, he proudly shows them each room and its contents. The Great Gatsby parallels to the characteristic of what the American dream is to most people.
On the other hand, Willy also tries his hand in achieving the American dream; however, not by material possession, but by the intangible characteristics; that of being well liked and his personality traits. We are shown that unlike Gatsby, who values material things, Willy only tries to achieve his dream by th different means; through his personality. It is notable that Gatsby planned his life earlier when he was a kid on the way he will achieve the American dream.
We are shown that he had a journal on how he was planning to achieve his greatest dream; the American dream. Willy is shown not to live in reality, but as a greater person than who he really is.
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Willy presents himself as a very important person and his dreams speak volumes of what he thinks about himself. For example, as the play begins, he narrates to his wife about the trip to New York and says that he almost killed somebody, because he was dreaming. Just five minutes later he goes back to dreaming and had forgotten that he was driving and nearly hit somebody.
AP English Notes
His dreams are indicative of a man, who has reached his goal. This is true when, for example, his neighbor gives him an offer. Willy, however, is too proud to accept the offer. He asks Charlie for money despite not accepting the job. Charlie generously gives him the money, because he knows that Willy will not pay back. The end of the two novels shows how the pursuit of the American dream fails for both protagonists. In spite of having many material possessions, such as fancy and expensive car, large house, and lavish clothes, Jay Gatsby missed what he desired the most, Daisy.
This shows that money cannot buy everything.