Comparative Study Of Texts Module For Preliminary Hsc English "American Beauty" And "The Great Gatsby"

1169 words - 5 pages

The ‘American Dream’ is the belief that through hard work, courage and determination, an individual can achieve prosperity and wealth. In pursuit of this ‘dream’, individuals become unsatisfied, and discard values and morals in exchange for a materialistic façade.Through the reading of Fitzgerald’s novel, ‘The Great Gatsby’ and the viewing of Mendes’ ‘American Beauty’, an interpretation of this situation becomes apparent. Though set in different time periods, with one being a film and one being a novel, they present the same ideas of the failure of the shallowness of the ‘American Dream’, and the materialism and consumerism society that evolved from the pursuit of it. Each composer does this through the use of various techniques and values held by main characters in each story, and how they are influenced by their historical context.‘The Great Gatsby’ was set in the 1920’s. In this time period, often referred to as the ‘Roaring Twenties, was a disillusioned and broken society, tarnished by the effects of World War One. The novel represents the importance placed on wealth and social status in American society at the time. A vulnerable society, they placed higher priority on material satisfaction than personal satisfaction to compensate. They soon became reliant on this ‘material wealth’, and the obsession was usually funded by illegal or immoral methods.Mendes’ ‘American Beauty’, was set in the 1990’s. It too is a product of the values and attitudes present in the historical context in which it was set. Mendes perfectly satirizes the contemporary American ideals of the perfect family, house and job of the 1990’s. Similar to the 1920s, the choice of occupation of individuals in American society was purely based on its material benefits, not the personal fulfillment one would gain.Fitzgerald symbolizes this in his novel, through the character Jay Gatsby. Gatsby, whose life-long pursuit of Daisy’s love had failed once before, vows to regain her love. His acquisition of material wealth is an attempt at doing this, believing he can ‘buy’ Daisy’s affection with it. Gatsby’s pursuit of his ‘dream’ is ultimately unsatisfying of the spiritual happiness he requires.To further emphasise the materialism of Gatsby’s dream, Fitzgerald uses Gatsby’s extravagant parties as a symbol of his material wealth, and another way for Gatsby to each Daisy, “in a way, his ostentatious house and expensive parties are an elaborate advertising display designed to impress Daisy”. This quote from Nick, expresses how Gatsby’s pursuit of the American Dream has failed, as he has ultimately gained nothing. It shows how the desire to achieve the American Dream influenced American Society to disregard personal satisfaction in order to achieve prosperity and material wealth.Mendes charaterises this idea in...

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