The Corruption Of The American Dream In Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

1571 words - 6 pages

Francis Scott Fitzgerald portrays the American Dream, originally a set of goals that included freedom, settlement, and an honest life with the possibility of upward social and economic mobility earned through hard work, as corrupted and debased by the egotistic materialism of the 1920s, an era which Fitzgerald characterizes chiefly by its greed and lavish hedonism, in his celebrated novel The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald, in The Great Gatsby, seeks to discredit the supposed purity of the American Dream and belief that anyone can attain it through hard work. Instead, he argues that the dream is a mere delusion, altered so significantly from its original form that its pursuers aspire for and achieve nothing more than the hoarding of hollow material goods and empty pleasure. Fitzgerald criticizes the American Dream through his characterizations of Myrtle Wilson, Tom Buchanan, Jay Gatsby, and the people who attend Gatsby’s extravagant parties uninvited.
A minor character in The Great Gatsby, Myrtle Wilson, who lives in the Valley of Ashes with her poor husband George Wilson, represents the degeneration of the once valued American ideals of hard work and honesty as Myrtle attempts to rise on the social scale by becoming the mistress of the wealthy Tom Buchanan. She embodies lucidly the loose morals and hedonism of the 1920s, for, when Tom visits, Myrtle, in front of her husband, walks up to Tom, “[looks] him flush in the eye, [wets] her lips,” and attempts to act as sensuous as possible so as to attracthis favor and interest (Fitzgerald 30). Furthermore, she frequently lies to her husband, telling him that she plans to visit her sister when really, she leaves her home in order to engage in sexual intercourse with Tom, who lures Myrtle with the meaningless promise that he will abandon his wife, Daisy, and marry her instead. Essentially, Fitzgerald elucidates the decay of the American Dream through Myrtle’s futile attempts to rise on the social ladder by committing adultery and deceiving her husband rather than by working hard and being virtuous.
Myrtle’s depraved lover and East Egger who comes from a long-established line of money, Tom Buchanan, also serves as a portrayal of the decaying American Dream in the face of growing immorality. To start, Tom has been cheating on his wife Daisy since their honeymoon, representing again the loose morals of the time. Additionally, Tom, the wealthiest character in this novel, arguably acts the most amorally and strays away, more than the other characters, from the true ideals of the American Dream. Instead, Tom projects the idea that one does not need hard work and honesty to gain entrance to the upper class nor to make a name for oneself. For example, Tom, so rich that he does not even know where his vast wealth originates, does not need to work, content with spending his money on polo horses, maintaining a “lawn [that runs]… a quarter of a mile,” and buying expensive white suits; the white indicates that he does...

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