The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald explores the theme of the American Dream. In particular, the author shows the decline of this ideal and people’s disillusionment with it.
This novel provides several examples illustrating this thesis. Much attention should be paid to the characters’ cynicism, their desire for sensual pleasures or wealth, and callousness. These attitudes and values are hardly compatible with the aspirations and ethos of the American Dream. These are the main issues that should be discussed more closely.
There are several characters who exemplify the decline of the American Dream. One of them is Daisy Buchanan. This woman comes from a well-to-do family, but despite the opportunities that she has, Daisy is overwhelmed by boredom and cynicism. These feelings and emotions are the main drivers of her behavior. One can even say that she does not have any aspirations for the future.
This is how she described her expectations for her daughter, “I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool” (Fitzgerald 17). She understands that the world is full of injustice, but she just wants to turn a blind eye to it. Moreover, she does not want her daughter to be different. This mindset contradicts the spirit of the American Dream. This is one of the main aspects that can be identified.
Additionally, this novel demonstrates that the ideals of the American Dream were eventually reduced only to material prosperity and sensual pleasures. In this case, one should refer to the numerous parties that Jay Gatsby holds for his guests. It seems that he just wants to display his wealth, but he takes little or no interest in people whom he invites.
Nick makes a very insightful comment when describing these parties; in particular, he says, “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” (Fitzgerald 34).
In other words, these people are attracted to Gatsby’s wealth, rather than his individuality. Again, this behavior is not compatible with the American Dream that emphasizes individualism. On the whole, one can argue that Fitzgerald was able to make an in-depth observation of the period called the Roaring Twenties.
Moreover, one should take into account that the values and attitudes of many people could be affected by the memories of World War I. On the one hand, this event highlighted the atrocity of war, but at the same time, it diminished the value of human life for many people.
This is how Gatsby describes his experiences during that time, “Then came the war, old sport. It was a great relief, and I tried very hard to die, but I seemed to bear enchanted life” (Fitzgerald 53). This quote is important for several reasons. First of all, Gatsby compares war to a sport, and this comparison can be a sign of callousness. Secondly, one can see that the protagonist of the novel is disappointed with other people.
Overall, this novel suggests that the ethos of the American Dream was no longer relevant to many people. The main issue is the characters’ sense of disappointing. Moreover, one can speak about cynicism, callousness and increasing emphasis on material prosperity.
To a great extent, these attitudes and values are not consistent with the ideals of the American Dream. One can argue that this novel throws light on the development of the society at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Fitzgerald, Francis. The Great Gatsby, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. Print.