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Unethical Pursuit Of The American Dream In The Great Gatsby

957 words - 4 pages

Within life, there are moments where one begins to question one’s ideals. Whether these beliefs are ones taught through social interaction and experience or are religious in nature, most of us, humanity, come to a time in life where one’s perception of life challenges the foundations of one’s strongest and, often times, longest held convictions. Sometimes, the questioning and examination of these convictions often lead one to a sense of disillusionment, and, in some ways, this individual analysis allows one to gain personal perspective on one’s life. In Human All-Too-Human, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies”, and, within the backdrop of the 1920’s, Fitzgerald makes abundantly clear in the text that the American dream is a conviction that so happens to be based on lies and corruption. Throughout The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald portrays the American dream as an ideal steeped in corruption and deceit through which the attainment of material wealth and the appearance of success justify the methods by which one attains his or her idea of that fabled dream.
Though the appearance of success and happiness usually indicate what many would be tempted to call the American dream, Fitzgerald undermines such idealism by revealing the deceptive nature of Daisy and Tom Buchanan’s marriage. Not only do Tom and Daisy’s marital problems make for a compelling plot but their relationship also represents an important facet of Fitzgerald’s argument: The American dream is not what it appears to be. Nonchalantly, Jordan Baker reveals more about Daisy and Tom’s marital problems to Nick: “I thought everybody knew.” “Tom’s got some woman in New York” (15). Again, deceit appears within the Buchanan marriage. Additionally, Jordan’s statement about Tom’s adultery also unveils moral corruption in the marriage. With this depiction of marital turmoil, Fitzgerald plants a seed of doubt about the American dream. The marriage between these characters that appear to have everything but happiness indicates that the pursuit of the American dream is a pursuit of materialism and social status, not the noble pursuit of self-improvement and the betterment of society.
The idea that corruption is also a reason for the fallibility of the American dream permeates the novel. The corruption that Fitzgerald reveals is of two types: moral and ethical. At Gatsby’s parties, men and women from the class of the social elite gather in the pursuit of pleasure and entertainment, not just to enjoy the company of friends. The sentiment expressed the most at these parties is, more often than not, snobbish apathy. By way of their gossip, the guests at Gatsby’s parties show that their concern is not with enjoying Gatsby’s company but with enjoying themselves and furthering the appearance of living their respective American dreams. Again, Jordan Baker gossips amid the sea of guests doing the same thing. She offers, “I think [Gatsby] killed a man (47)....

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