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Failures Of The American Dream In The Great Gatsby And The Grapes Of Wrath

1290 words - 5 pages

An effortless quote, just a few words put together in a sentence, can often perfectly explain the backbone of some stories. Oscar Wilde's simple, seven worded sentence, "Ambition is the last refuge of failure" perfectly articulates basic ideas of both The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (“Oscar wilde quotes”, 2010). The characters in both books are searching for the figurative Eden of the time, the American Dream. However, in both cases, the characters fall short at achieving the basic ideas of that dream; social development, wealth achievement, and endless opportunity. The Grapes of Wrath and The Great Gatsby imitate the same ideas in the way that all characters fail to obtain the American Dream, and in the process, they fail themselves.
Part of the American Dream is the hope of advancing, in some way, socially; both Gatsby and the Joads’ fail the dream by doing the opposite. Jay Gatsby spends his entire life fixated on winning back Daisy, but when the time comes, he actually pushes her away. His sudden courage to reach out to Daisy causes her to tell Gatsby the truth that "Even alone I can’t say I never loved Tom," she admitted in a pitiful voice. "It wouldn’t be true" (Choat, 2002, chapter 7). The verbalization of that decision is the final straw for their relationship, it is never exactly the same again, and he actually regresses in his relationships from that point on. The Joads have a parallel experience except it is death and absence that pushes them away from the American Dream. When Ma says it “Use' ta be the family was fust. It ain't so now. It's anybody," she means everyone has put themselves first, compared to before they left when they functioned as a family. The deterioration of the family’s bonds is the social failure (Steinbeck, 2006, chapter 30).
In both books, the characters cannot achieve the wealth aspiration of the American Dream. In Gatsby, Gatsby has monetary wealth, but he lacks the wealth of love. Through out the book we learn that nearly everything Gatsby does is connected to Daisy; he even “Bought [his] house so Daisy would be across the bay” (Choat, 2002, chapter 4). Actually, he never even “Ceased looking at Daisy” (Choat, 2002, chapter 4). He uses his pecuniary wealth in attempts to swoon her, take his lavish parties and endless charity. Additionally, Gatsby does something as significant as moving across the bay just to be close to his love; except, in his blindness to achieve the American Dream, he stopped to even think if she still loved him the way he did her. He knows he is missing and looking for the wealth of love, but never actually achieves it. For sometime he believes he has found Daisy’s love and captured it, but it is only for at most, a fleeting moment. The Joads’ situation is similar, but not entirely. They, by no means, lack wealth in the terms of love, but rather in actual money. By following the Dream and crossing the country, they envision...

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