Scott Fitzgerald has created a social satire of America in the 1920’s in which he exposes the American Dream as being inherently flawed and merely an illusion produced by idealism.This American Dream has been traditionally associated with the pursuit of freedom and equality. It can be traced back to the original settlers and the hope which the New World brought to them, away from the persecution inflicted by their religion. Essentially it offered the fulfilment of human desire for spiritual and material improvement. However, what became quickly apparent was that the materialistic side of the dream was achieved to quickly and easily and outpaced the spiritualistic development. A state of materialistic well being emerged, but lacking in spiritual life or purpose.
Throughout “The Great Gatsby” we, the audience, are made aware of the flaws of the American Dream through the values and attitudes of western society. Although the dream has established progress, prosperity and democratic principles, there is still rife class conflicts, corruption and exploitation.Jay Gatsby is undoubtedly the most prominent example of both the successes and the failures of the American Dream in “The Great Gatsby”.Most evident from the first references to Gatsby in the first chapter of the novel is the description of Gatsby’s Mansion by Nick Carraway. Its elaborate design would seem inappropriate against the backdrop of Long Island, and yet it appears as a shining testimonial to the materialistic wealth which Gatsby possesses as a result of the dream:”It was a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one s...
ide, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool and more than forty acres of lawn and garden”- for a single occupant this initially seems to be an extravagant waste, put on merely to satisfy the interest of onlookers nad party-goers.
Such a theory is reinforced by the knowledge that Gatsby had never even ‘used the pool once during the summer’ . Perhaps it is fitting that the most elaborate of Gatsby’s material possessions should be involved in his eventual tragic downfall. Although the marble pool may provide Gatsby with an outward sign of his wealth, he derives no satisfaction or pleasure from it.There is an added air of artificiality to his mansion aside from the juxtaposition of its geographical location, provided by the ‘thin beard of raw ivy’ which veiled the ‘spanking new tower’. Such foliage had evidently been contrived to grow over the newly built structure rather than grow there naturally.Similarly, with the example of the Buchanan residence, there is evidence once more of the geographical juxtaposition, in the form of a ‘sunken Italian garden, a half-acre of pungent roses and a snub-nosed motor boat’.
Such features are clearly only a method of establishing the relative wealth of the Buchanans in materialistic form. Tom’s references to his residence help to reinforce this when he says; “I’ve got a nice place here”. Whilst providing his own compliments, Tom has expressed an acknowledgement of his wealth rather than an acknowledgement of the satisfaction which he derives from it (if it all).It is through such an attitude where w
begin to see the hollowness of the American Dream take form. The materialistic element of the dream has been established without the spiritualistic element which should accompany it; humility, grace and generosity have dissolved into greed and conceitedness.The exhibition of material wealth which Gatsby’s mansion represents also forms the location for a series of lavish parties, a feature of the novel which helps to add to our perception of the era a post-war period of gaiety and wild enjoyment.
Whilst the parties are attended by all manner of people from both East and West Egg, this is not supposed to be seen as any reflection of Gatsby’s popularity amidst society, in fact, few people who were in attendance at the parties with Nick Carraway had even met their host and those who were were filled with malicious gossip against him – “a german spy during the war”, “I bet he killed a man”.As conveyed to us through the aspect of Nick Carraway, the parties serve as a device to expose the values and attitudes of society outside the limited focus of the principal characters. Through the coloured variety of society in attendance at the parties, a common element becomes apparent – the artificial, insincere and hollow nature of the guests themselves.We have already touched upon the sheer disrespect which is shown towards Gatsby as the host of the parties, only Nick shows a genuine desire to meet Gatsby out of courtesy. Other guests, upon being asked if they knew the whereabouts of the host merely “stared at (him) in such an amazing way and denied.
. vehemently any knowledge of his whereabouts”. As Nick himself had established upon entering the melee of people at his arrival to the party, ‘few of the guests had actually been invited’. In it’s mildest form, such activity could be described as exploitation, but yet Gatsby allowed this to occur, in the doomed hope that DaisyBuchanan would one day walk upon the acres of garden in revellry.
In a sense, Gatsby’s idealism was ultimately the cause of the parties and the parties themselves are ultimately the cause of the deceit, fraud and self-absorption which thrives there.’ Guests’ at the party seem determined to put Gatsby down, aside from the accusations of illegal activities and involvement with Germany during the war, there is also another striking example of how the American Dream has failed Gatsby. The perception of a rather drunken guest who had found himself situated in Gatsby’s library was surprised that the books therein were actually real. Unaware of Gatsby’s scholarly background at Oxford, he is under the impression that the library would only be another possession and not of any use to him. He even goes so far as to accuse Gatsby of creating fake books “knowing when to stop .
didn’t cut the pages” as if Gatsby had meticulously damaged each and every volume in the hope that they would be seen as having been read. Gatsby has been judged on his outward appearances only and perhaps we cannot blame such a bystander for arriving at such a conclusion. Can we however blame such an incident
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