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A Comparison Between Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" And Mendes' "American Beauty"

1193 words - 5 pages

Task: You have been asked to present a student's point of view at an educational forum about why the contexts, issues and language of these two texts have so much to say to students about the Great American Dream and how the authors viewed that idea.Format -EssayThe Great American Dream was and still is a popular concept amongst literary cynics; the belief that working harder now would earn you the things that you've always wanted, the things you've dreamed of. For most people, this was a two storey house on a 500 m² piece of land, a loving partner, and 2.3 children. However, Fitzgerald's novel "The Great Gatsby" and Mendes' film "American Beauty" shatter this illusion of perfection and show the reality of the Great American Dream, a hollow, materialistic lifestyle in which one is judged and judges on the basis of the things that they own. Each text depicts the Great American Dream in its own way due to the differences in context, but both illustrate the futility of aspiring to the Great American Dream. The major difference in the texts is that where the Great Gatsby is about the erosion of a dream, American Beauty is about the realisation of a dream.The Great Gatsby, set in the 1920s, was greatly influenced by the context at the time. The roaring twenties, as they were called, was a time of radical change in which the youth were breaking away from their parents and conformity, rebelling against society's norms and becoming "modern". It was around this time that the concept of the 'American Dream' was born. Daisy is a direct representation of everything 'modern' and 'beautiful', being the untamed girl that she was in her teens. Gatsby is attracted to this superficial 'beauty' of hers and she becomes his aspiration.In the same way, Angela becomes Lester's aspiration when he realises that he is unhappy with his life. American Beauty is set in the 1990s, a time of prosperity for America, which was portrayed as the idyllic place to live. We can see through the zooming in of the camera that the neighbourhood is an idyllic place to live, as is his house. Lester is literally living the Great American Dream, right down to the white picket fence. However, he is unhappy, and the film depicts his quest to find his own dream that is a very different view from the Great American Dream.In both texts, there is a concern with all things tangible and "beautiful", although in both texts, one can see beyond the outer illusion. Daisy and Tom in Gatsby are superficial and careless. The reader clearly realises this when Nick states that they had "retreated back to their money". Angela and Carolyn show similar materialistic qualities to Tom and Daisy and are obsessed with the "image" they mask themselves with. We can see this through Angela's obvious narcissistic obsession with her self-image and Carolyn's obsession with her image in correlation with her job. The most obvious scene where this is depicted is the sofa scene where Lester exclaims"This isn't life....

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