America in the Nineteen Twenties was a world of decadence, carelessness, and wealth. On the surface, it seemed as if the American dream was being completely fulfilled because Americans were experiencing wonderful prosperity and good fortune.
However, underneath of the dancing, drinking, and partying, the American dream was spiraling uncontrollably and unknowingly towards its death. The events preceding Jay Gatsby's death reflect and criticize the decades of the 20s. The American dream and its failure are represented by Jay Gatsby in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.
The Twenties were a time of changing morals in American society when youth's careless freedom ruled over the rigid beliefs of the old. "Loose morals" came to be commonplace, even in the President of the United States. Corrupt activity under the Harding Administration included the Teapot Dome Scandal, in which Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall, who was responsible for conserving America's natural resources leased land to oil men Harry S. Sinclair and Edward L. Doheny. It also included the appointment of Harry M. Daugherty, a crook in the "Ohio gang" as Attorney General, ironically, to try criminals. These events were minor compared to the bootlegging and gang wars brought about by the passage of the 18th Amendment, Prohibition. The scandal and crime which seeped into everyday life also permeated the American dream.
Gatsby, who spent his life striving for that dream had good intentions, and was full of hope and optimism, but he lived in a time in which the American dream was changing and so he changed with it. Nick compares Gatsby's wonder at seeing the green light on Daisy's dock to the wonder of the early Dutch settlers. Both came with dreams- the Dutch of the "fresh green breast of the new world," and Gatsby of the green dock light.
Nick thinks about the trees which have "vanished to make room for Gatsby's house," and had once "pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of human desires." The modern American dream had changed from one of green land to one of green money, because Daisy, with her "voice full of money," represents wealth and all that Gatsby hopes to attain. The happiness once achieved by hard work and honesty could now be achieved by anyone who was intelligent enough to look for it, and willing to be corrupt enough to attain it, but it was a false happiness that was easily lost. Americans did not care if one was a criminal, as shown by the ladies at Gatsby's parties who speculate that he is "a German spy," "a bootlegger," and that he "once killed a man." They continue to drink his finger bowls of champagne and dance to his music. Jay Gatsby was the self made man that the American dream required, but like so many people in the Twenties, he had balanced his dream on an unsteady framework of faith in the power of money, a memory of the past and...