The American Nightmare: Money's Hidden Curse

1006 words - 4 pages

The American dream stands as a symbol for hope, prosperity, and happiness. But F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, examines the American dream from a different perspective, one that sheds light on those who contort these principles to their own selfish fantasies. Fitzgerald renders Jay Gatsby as a man who takes the Dream too far, and becomes unable to distinguish his false life of riches from reality. This 'unique' American novel describes how humanity's insatiable desires for wealth and power subvert the idyllic principles of the American vision.

Jay Gatsby is the personification of limitless wealth and prestige, a shining beacon for the aspiring rich. Nick Carraway declares that there is "something glorious" about Gatsby, and that he is filled with "some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life"(8). It appears to mere mortals who are not blessed with riches, that Gatsby fulfills the American dream of achieving fame and fortune. But instead of being content with his greenbacks, Gatsby believes that he can replicate the "Platonic conception of himself" (89) and become the flawless god of wealth that he depicts. The American dream has many interpretations, but Gatsby latches onto the concept of wealth alone, failing to see that he can improve his character through hard work and toil as well. One understanding of the American dream, bettering oneself to achieve a higher social status, sadly spurs people like Gatsby to achieve social superiority through money, but never finding true happiness. Gatsby believes in this "unreality of reality" that "the rock of the world [is] founded securely on a fairy's wing" (89). Embedding himself within his dreams, Gatsby finds solace in his fantasy of wealth and the false joy of having it. Taking pleasure from such a materialistic item dulls Gatsby's soul until it is as cold as the cash he covets so much. For Gatsby, like many upper class Americans, fails to realize that the American dream is not merely about wealth, but finding contentment in living, one luxury that Gatsby never achieves.

Instead of following the American dream of 'pursuing happiness' Gatsby focuses on using his assets to bring consummation to an otherwise empty life. This perversion of the American dream serves only to improve his 'image' to a society that initially rejects him when he is impoverished. It is Gatsby's belief that wealth makes him a "son of God", a deity that carries out his "Father's business" through the "vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty" (89) of possessing material objects irrelevant to happiness. To get these earthly treasures, he exploits the 'Land of Opportunity' and dabbles in illegal activities, a practice akin to modern corporate scandals. The true purpose of the American dream is lost upon Gatsby, as it makes "no sound" of warning upon his conscience, fading into an omen that becomes "uncommunicable forever" (100). Jay Gatsby's indecent ascension as a king of society depicts America as a land of the...

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