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American Dream Deceit And Lies English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1731 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The American Dream, a long standing ideal embodies the hope that one can achieve financial success, political power, and everlasting love through nothing more than hard work and dedication. During the Roaring 20s, people in America put up facades to mask who they truly were. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald conveys that the American Dream is simply an illusion, that is idealist and unreal, that dances on the waves of hope, but never quite makes it ashore. In the novel, Gatsby, a wealth socialite pursues his dream; Daisy and in the process he destroys himself and betrays his morals. Through the eyes of the narrator, Nick, one sees the extent of the corruption Gatsby is willing to undertake in order to achieve his dream. Although Fitzgerald applauds the American Dream he warns against the dangers of living in a world full of illusions and deceit; a trait common during the Roaring 20s. The language and plot devices Fitzgerald uses convey that lies and facades, which were common during the Guided Age, destroys one’s own character and morals. Through Fitzgerald use of symbolism, expectations, and relationships, he explores the American dream, and how it is an illusion that corrupts and destroys lives.

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Through Fitzgerald’s symbolic description of Gatsby, he explores the extent of the American Dream’s deceptive nature that slowly destroys a person and his/her morals. During the Roaring 20s it was very common for people to project illusions to mask who they truly were; to fit in, it was almost essential to have one to survive in the highly materialistic and deceitful society. Nick is introduced as the objective narrator of the novel. At the start of the novel, after Nick has dinner at the Buchanans’, he sees Gatsby with “his arms stretch toward the dark water in a curious way” and Nick glances at the bay he sees “a single green light, minute and far away” at the opposite side (21). The green light symbolizes Gatsby’s hopes and dreams, an illusion that slowly possesses him; specifically his American Dream, Daisy. Gatsby sees Daisy just as immigrants from foreign countries once saw America; as a symbol of hope, the ideal life, and a future full of opportunity. Gatsby lives solely for this green light, which that gives him a sense of identity and purpose. Gatsby’s dream is initially pure but in the process of pursuing it, the vision becomes tainted. His American Dream slowly takes possession of Gatsby, warping his illusion and dreams into reality. For five years, after meeting Daisy, he yearns and longs for her slowly changing her in his mind into a god. Over time the real memories began to fade and his dreams of what she should be took her place in his mind. When Gatsby finally wins her over, he expects too much of her, leading her to feel distressed and pressured. The rope ultimately snaps when Gatsby pressures Daisy to say that she never loved Tom, her husband, and only loved Gatsby. She wails and protests, that Gatsby “wants too much” and that she can never live up to his dreams of her (134). Because Gatsby had dreamed of her for so many years, he set an illusion of what Daisy should be like in his eyes. The dreams are too difficult for Daisy to meet and she soon collapses under the weight of the pressure, thus shattering his whole dream. By living in a world of illusion, Gatsby does not see that he brought this onto himself by expecting too much for something that very could happen. This illusion ultimately is what destroys Gatsby. Through Gatsby, Fitzgerald explores the deceit and illusions that destroyed so many lives during the Roaring 20s.

According to Fitzgerald, people soil the pureness of the American Dream with their greed, jealousy, and an unrelenting desire for accumulation of wealth various traits common in the Roaring 20s. After Gatsby is killed at the end of the novel, Nick ponders about “Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light” at the end of Daisy’s dock (180). Green can be a symbol of both jealousy and envy. Gatsby could be green with jealousy because another man had stolen the love of his life. Gatsby sole desire is to be the object of Daisy’s affection. Prior to becoming Gatsby, Gatz, a poor farmer boy, was like a lost soldier in search of his love and destiny. Gatz is just a growing man with a deep sense of hope and wonder, who strives for the pure American Dream which he believes in. He exerts all his resources into to obtain this dream, which ultimately warps his mindset to think the illusion is reality. Gatsby commits himself to materialism, which overcomes the spirituality he once strived to attain therefore tainting the pureness of his original dream. Traveling in attempt to reach the green light represents Gatsby’s efforts to pass the social and economic barriers that force him and Daisy apart. Fitzgerald reveals the notion that despite the ideal concept of the American Dream, America is not the land of hope and opportunity. For example, America’s fundamental ideal promotes equality for all, but in reality this is untrue. Gatsby’s sole life hurdle is his struggle to fit into Daisy’s social group, because that holds the key to being able to marry her. Slowly his dream warps his life creating an illusion of what he wants to experience; this thus destroys Gatsby. According to one’s belief in America’s ideals, these social boundaries should not influence Gatsby’s struggle for Daisy. Due to Gatsby’s stubbornness he is thoroughly convinced that this impossible goal is reachable. While reaching for this unattainable light, Gatsby is attempting to shed his past social standings. However, just as Tom and Daisy have their wealth through their ancestral predecessors, Gatsby is still attached to his past. Fitzgerald connotes that the American Dream in and of itself is a fine idea but is impossible to obtain because America cannot liberate itself from the warped ways of an aristocratic society. Through the characters’ past, Fitzgerald explains that the American Dream is simply an unfeasible illusion that crushes both hearts and dreams.

Through Gatsby’s narrow-minded view, Fitzgerald explores the illusions and how they can blind one from the truth. At the end of the novel, Nick laments that “Gatsby did not know that it was already behind him somewhere in the vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled” on under the night (180) Gatsby was unable to realize that his voyage towards Daisy was already over before it started. He was traveling a path he had already covered, as he had already experienced his time with her. Due to Gatsby’s impracticality, he refuses to grow up and move on. He bases his life around a love that is nonexistent. The diction Fitzgerald uses “vast obscurity” represents Louisville; which is were Gatsby and Daisy had their past love rendezvous. The “dark fields” are analogous to Gatsby’s past, his origins. Fitzgerald’s use of the word “field” characterizes Gatsby’s past upbringings on a farm. Gatsby views his origins as being dark and undesirable. He attempts to forget his origins by escaping from them and trying to bury them in the past. Gatsby believed in the green light, the symbol of his love for Daisy and the hope of winning her, had “eluded him then, but that’s no matter- tomorrow [he would] run faster, stretch out [his] arms farther… And one fine morning-” (180). Although Gatsby still believes in the green light and his hope for Daisy, it is receding before him. Gatsby is forced to realize that all of his ambition and efforts had been meaningless. His life is fruitless without her. He is a fool because he was so determined, he blindly poured out all of himself into one dream but the dream failed, resulting in a tragic ending to his purpose. Gatsby’s dreams could only take him so far, he forgot that he would have to face reality when nearing the end of this journey. The words “tomorrow he will run faster, stretch out his arms farther…” represents those living in denial, striving for an illusion, and refusing to accept reality. Due to the walls that he put around himself, his dreams were his reality and thus destroyed him. Fitzgerald demonstrates that dreams, especially the American Dream, can take over one’s life and ultimately destroy a person’s mind body and soul.

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Through Fitzgerald’s use of symbolism, relationships and character expectations, he reveals the harsh reality that dreams can often corrupt and destroy a person. Regardless to his faith in the future, Gatsby is never able to live out his dream. His desire to change himself into something that he is not and disregard to his family is a manipulation of himself, thus creating a façade and false persona. More importantly, Gatsby’s materialism and impartialness for how he obtains it overtakes his inner happiness, thus leaving him with nothing. Fitzgerald analogizes dreams to deceitful illusions, such as the American Dream, saying that they mask reality, leaving people to live in a world of lies; these lies accumulate and come crashing down, often destroying a character. Gatsby is the epitome of the Roaring 20s, a time when deceit and lies were common. Fitzgerald connotes that this ideal, common to the Roaring 20s, is what destroyed many people who were living is such illusions. The concept of the American Dream still holds true today; be it monetary gain, unending love, or glory and fame. Gatsby is a prime example of an American Dream that becomes corrupted and leads to the ultimate failure and destruction of himself. Some say that Americans strive for the impossible goal of perfection; they live, die and do unimaginable deeds to achieve it, and when they do, they may call the product their own American Dream. The American Dream is substantial perfection. In reality, perfection does not exist, but illusions do. Those who live in a world of lies cause their own demise. Life is a series of unending imperfections. Living a dream of perfection is not possible, thus reducing our cherished American Dream to a simple fantasy.


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