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Great Gatsby: The American Dream

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Shayne S

on 13 February 2013

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Transcript of Great Gatsby: The American Dream

What is the American Dream? The American Dream The American Dream is the national ethos of the United States
First established in the Declaration of Independence which states that “all man are created equal and that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”
It implies that all Americans have the opportunity to achieve prosperity The American Dream
& The Great Gatsby In The Great Gatsby, the theme of The American Dream is omnipresent
Fitzgerald ridicules the chase for The American Dream through each of his characters The American Dream Today - We look up to those in Hollywood as having obtained the Dream
- Elimination of "New Money" vs "Old Money" status
- Psychological effects continue (plastic surgery, "Gold Diggers", etc) The American Dream and its Effects New Money Vs. Old Money In the Great Gatsby the issue of the division of societal classes is a main concern
Fitzgerald delves deeper into this theme by exploring the divide that exists within the upper class.
The constant tension between those of “New Money” and those of “Old Money” plays a central role in the novel’s story line
Each class strives to attain the American Dream, which has become a corrupted idea associated with the pursuit of wealth, rather then with the pursuit of happiness. "It's called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it"
- George Carlin "If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him" - Nick Carraway on Jay Gatsby, The Great Gatsby
- Characters such as nick, helplessly in love with Gatsby = the idea of "The Dream" Historical Context Takes place in the summer of 1922, four years after World War I.
Abrupt rise of the stock market increase in national wealth surge in consumerism.
Stock market’s hasty growth = a person from any social background, could make a fortune
Making the sale of alcohol illegal created underground operations = criminal business thrive due to demand for liquor
Aristocratic class disliked the newly rich,
Divide between those of “New Money” and those of “Old Money” was created. The Great Gatsby Clash between “New Money” and “Old Money” is first seen in the novel’s geographical symbolism.
East Egg and West Egg create a divide: East Egg = established aristocracy , West Egg = Nouveau-Riche.
“I lived at West Egg, the—well, the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them. [...] Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water, and the history of the summer really begins on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Tom Buchanans. (Fitzgerald 10-11). Chase for the American Dream = epitomized in Jay Gatsby’s desire for Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby’s longing for Daisy longing for the American Dream.
1920’s definition of the American Dream: Unrestrained desire for money
Daisy = "goddess" of the American Dream
Her voice was “full of money – that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song in it” (Fitzgerald 127).
He cannot see past her sweetness and light, and does not understand that she is really an example of the corruption wealth can bring. Nick is able to see through the Buchanans, saying that “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 had made” (Fitzgerald 170)
Their disregard for human feelings creates a social divide between them and other classes, whom Nick believes to more caring.
Nick tells Gatsby that “They’re a rotten crowd...You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together” (Fitzgerald 162) admitting he believes Gatsby to be a good man Fitzgerald chronicles the 1920s shift of the American Dream from a belief in opportunity and individualism to a belief in material success.
In the last chapter, we see Nick becomes “aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes – a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams” (Fitzgerald 171).
Nick reflects that America once stood for anything a man could dream.
He now realizes that the 1920’s easy-to-come by wealth, dishonest morals and consumer based society has prevented people from truly “dreaming”. New Money versus Old Money is much less of a concern then it was in the 1920s.
Age of internet = onslaught of computer billionaires who all earned their money through hard work, rather then acquired wealth. We applaud those who are capable of finding their fortune through their own means
Fitzgerald would be pleased to hear Herbert Pell, a exclaim that “Property in this country is drifting into the pockets of those who can keep it and out of the hands of those who can merely acquire it. It is obvious that the standards of the ‘keeping’ class will be different from those of the ‘getters’ and on the whole they will be better for the country at large.” Present Day We are still fixated with the idea of money (constant obsession over celebrities, athletes and politicians)
We’ve rejected values of class entirely “The despairing figure on the couch, bleeding fluently, and trying to spread a copy of Town Tattle over the tapestry scenes of Versailles.” - Great Gatsby Chapter 2
- Myrtle's sister puts her Dream before the well-being of her only sister
- Obsession in attaining the Dream "I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby's house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited - they went there. They got into automobiles which bore them out to Long Island, and somehow they ended up at Gatsby's door... and after that they conducted themselves according to the rules of behavior associated with an amusement park" - Nick Carraway on Gatsby's parties, The Great Gatsby

- People will go to any lengths to feel they had achieved "The Dream"
- We find this with Gatsby’s parties (guests never having known him) Both sides have similar amounts of money but the fact that the Kardashians display it in a flashy manner, doesn’t bother us.
America values the self-made– the ones who are smart, innovative and entrepreneurial, and just because something was inherited – doesn’t make it any better. Real Housewives The Kardashians The Kennedy's (Then & Now) Division of the Classes Remains No Status High Status - Those living what appears to be the American Dream are unhappy

Ex #1
We find Gatsby living his life in unhappiness waiting for his chance to fulfill his all time dream. When the time finally comes and Gatsby get’s the last thing he needs to embody the American Dream (Daisy), his life falls apart. Ex #2
Myrtle feeds off of those who have attained the dream. Myrtle goes to Tom to fulfill her desire for the dream.
For Tom he goes to Myrtle to fill the void he is left with. He seeks to find his happiness elsewhere without truly accepting it. Ex #3
When Daisy finds her dream to be crumbling to the ground she speeds her way home, killing a woman. Tom and Daisy flee the situation. Immigration to America After the depression, immigrants had the perception that American was restored to this crystal paradise, and everyone was drawn in by its shimmer
Nick realizes this revelation and the importance of believing in a dream
Quote: “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one...just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had” (Great Gatsby, 1) Were escaping religious, racial, and political persecution, or seeking relief from a lack of economic opportunity or famine still pushed many immigrants out of their homelands
Immigrants crowded into the growing cities, searching for their chance to make a better life for themselves
Between 1880 and 1920, more than 25 million foreigners arrived on American shores
More than 80% of the arrivals after 1890 were so-called "New Immigrants," natives of Southern and Eastern Europe
For the newcomers, happiness could be found in the ethnic neighbourhoods populated by their fellow countrymen New Immigrants Immigration to America Immigrating to New York in 1920 The end of World War 1 welcomed a new era in New York – one in which jazz, illegal booze, gangs, commerce and culture flourishedSkyscrapers began to transform the skyline with both the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building beginning constructionIt was the ideal paradise, the ultimate dream! The American Dream was prevalent in this time period, as the common thought was that hard work would lead to a comfortable life style
“My family have been prominent, well-to-do people in this Middle Western city for three generations. The Carraways are something of a clan, and we have a tradition that we’re descended from the Dukes of Buccleuch, but the actual founder of my line was my grandfather’s brother, who came here in fifty-one, sent a substitute to the Civil War, and started the wholesale hardware business that my father carries on to-day”. (Great Gatsby, 2) Immigration to American View from Ellis Island Cyclical Pattern Vast numbers of Jews began arriving from Eastern Europe during the 1880sThe Italian population of New York City increased from 75,000 to more than 200,000 in the 18 hundreds as wellMigration from the 1880s onward followed a cyclical pattern: as one group dispersed from New York City throughout the state and the nation, it was replaced by a new wave of immigrants. Following the American Dream Nick is trying to follow the American Dream, and live on his “new money”
Gets a common job, lives a simple life, lives in East EggThe main difference between the two Eggs has to do with the type of upper-class people living in each oneQuote: “I lived at West Egg, the—well, the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them. [...] Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water, and the history of the summer really begins on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Buchanans” (Great Gastby, 5) In Reality The significance of the mass immigration to NYC was that in reality, the American Dream became paradoxical
Everyone wanted to live the dream, and make money, and yet there was not enough jobs, or housing to go around
A divide was formed in New York, and those with new money and old money were separated
Ethnic groups broke off into their own sectors, and many lost sight of the “ideal” America Failure of the American Dream The American dream is one of the most important themes in The Great GatsbyThe American success story is that of hard work allowing a man to become incredibly wealthyAfter attaining the material wealth, however, there is no clearly outlined steps to takeFitzgerald shows how the American dream can fail in The Great Gatsby. Gatsby makes his money illegally by selling alcohol during an era of prohibition
His purpose is in attaining the love of Daisy, a girl he dated before the war, who comes from an old wealthy American family In a way, Gatsby’s dream is not actually Daisy, but his past memory of her
His dream also mirrors that of all immigrants to America, who saw the luscious verdant green of the new land as a paradise
In a similar manner, Gatsby watches for the green light at the dock in front of Daisy’s dock. The color green symbolizes the American dream, which is corrupted by the failing morality of the roaring 1920s
“Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had vanished forever. Compared to the great discovery that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one” (Great Gatsby, 98)
It’s strange for Gatsby to know that the green light is still on across the bay, because for so long it’s symbolized Daisy in his mind
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