Gatsby and the Subjective American Dream
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby can be seen as a multi-perspective exploration of he American ream with varying ideas of what that dream can mean. this thesis lacks clarity about the values of the thesis in terms of the American dream and the novel…the novel is about tragedy, but this essay’s topic sentence mistakenly pretends that the tone may be neutral…the novel ends in tragedy, so the thesis statement must communicate that tragedy somehow…The dream that has been labeled uniquely American is a subjective concept, an idea open to interpretation and based on one’s own background and personal aspirations. In The Great Gatsby, the backdrop of early 20th century America serves as an environment for exploring the dream. Further, the individual characters of the novel demonstrate different facets of that ‘dream’.
First, why and how this universal and fluid concept of human striving for potential and contentment became American is up for discussion and perhaps could be rooted in Thomas Jefferson’s famously celebrated words that help make up part of the theme that is the American constitution; that elusive concept of the pursuit of happiness. topic sentence should be simpler THEN follow with discussion…While happiness itself is not, and cannot, be guaranteed, the freedom to pursue it is held as the high ideal for the state to base its own self-creation on. What is happiness anyway? Obviously for some it is more complex than for others. It could be wealth, fame, or social success. It could be a simple life free from unnecessary hardship. It could be owning a home or a business. It could be falling in love and having a secure life partner. It could be going to college, finding spiritual enlightenment, having children, etc. What it means is less relevant than having the freedom to pursue it. What makes America unique is that it is the only country founded on an idea, as opposed to nationality based on geography or ethnicity. The idea is freedom. Individual freedom that is a God given birthright is set to law in the American constitution. Perhaps this is the big reason for the dream having been titled American. Admittedly, it has taken centuries for this to actually manifest itself in a truly credible way. Jefferson himself was a slave owner who wrote of the black man’s inferiority to white men, even while stating the “All men are created equal.” needs a citation…For this to maintain substance, it cannot be applied selectively to only white men. Women and minorities must be included or the foundation is weakened with a double standard and hypocrisy. It took literally centuries of progress, from women’s rights to civil rights and now to our first black president. But even with all this progress, there is still work to do and a perpetual evolution to be had. Perhaps the dream can exist precisely because it is in its very nature to be free to find evolution without a dogmatic ideological barrier of laws that would permanently prevent this American dream, the pursuit of happiness, from growing and finding its home in the heart of American citizens and of those around the world who admire and respect it.
Second, The Great Gatsby explores different dimensions why different as opposed to all negative…again, the topic sentence pretends a neutrality when the writer should acknowledge that this is a discussion of a tragedy…of this American dream. As the story progresses we see how the dream is subverted by those who seem to possess all the elements integral to the dream, not the least of which is material wealth. For most the dream is something that is pursued, but never attained. For those with wealth, the dream’s promise of happiness is squandered and corrupted with greed, vanity and narcissism. The overall essence of the novel is tragic in that the higher ideals of the American dream are subverted by those who, even with all the elements seemingly in place, still thwart their own potential happiness. One could have health, wealth and a loving spouse, but still find discontentment and misery. Perhaps it is truly a matter of perspective in that those whose wealth is inherited, never experienced the pains and trials of poverty and therefore never learned appreciation, which in itself breeds discontentment. It seems the pursuit of the dream can bring more happiness than the attainment. And when finally attained, happiness is still elusive in the absence of healthy relationships. In a counter-intuitive way, this can be viewed as something positive and inspirational in the sense that we can let go of what we think will bring us happiness, (i.e. – material wealth), in light of the knowledge of those whose wealth not only can fail to bring happiness, but often brings it’s own source of misery. It is a classic assessment of the painful realities of capitalism as it relates to the American dream. In the capitalistic culture, competition and domination are valued over more down to earth human virtues. We as humans tend to forget the things that can truly bring happiness and get caught up in the sacrificial culture, where failure to succeed is seen as weakness and those who play the game differently are outcasts. Even the rich segregate themselves in terms of old and new, with the old rich looking down on the new rich as somehow uncultivated and as primitive as the impoverished culture from whence they came. What we see in the novel is how the old rich subvert the dream with their own aristocratic discontentment and show little interest allowing the dream to manifest for those who aren’t already in their bubble like subculture. This is actually a complete 180-degree subversion of the dream in that a major component in the dream should be the reality that anyone can achieve it. As Jefferson wrote, “All men are created equal…” from which one would conclude that for the dream to exist, it becomes contingent on whether the dream is truly and equally available to all, not just the privileged few.
Third, three characters in the novel, Jay Gatsby, Nick Carraway, and Tom Buchanan, each bring a different …it is not about “different,” but about variates on tragic or negative…example of the dissatisfaction that can come from the subversions of the dream. Set in the roaring twenties, the characters interact in the culture of that day, attending parties, speak-easy’s, and getting rich quick. The ideology of capitalism begun to run amuck is the template from which this story takes us in and out of perceptions of the American dream. Our narrator Nick Carraway speaks in retrospect of his perception of Jay Gatsby’s, stating, “What fowl dust float in the wake his dreams” (6).