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The Great Gatsby: Distortion of the American Dream
The American Dream as it is Portrayed in The Great Gatsby Picture this, a person graduates from high school with honors, goes to college and graduates at the top of his/her class. After college, he/she is offered a job in the field he/she wants with an annual salary of about $400,000 a year. He/she marries the person of his/her dreams, has two children and moves into a large, elegant house. Forty years later that person retires with a pension and lives the rest of his/her life in luxury. This is the American Dream. F. Scott Fitzgerald had this dream and worked his entire life to fulfill it, with no avail. Fitzgerald was a sensitive young man who idolized wealth and luxury. He fell in love with a beautiful young woman named Zelda while stationed at a military camp in the South. Several years after meeting Zelda, he reached a high enough social standard that she agreed to marry him. Shortly after the wedding, Fitzgerald published his first big novel. He became a celebrity and fell into a wild, reckless lifestyle of parties and decadence. Fitzgerald thought he had achieved his dream. Unfortunately, his beautiful wife was the first part of his dream to crumble. In 1930, Zelda had her first of many mental breakdowns. Soon after Zelda’s breakdowns began, Fitzgerald published his novel Tender is the Night. When this novel was not a success Fitzgerald also started to have mental problems. When his novels started failing, he retreated to Hollywood where he began writing screenplays. On December 21, 1940, Fitzgerald died as a drunk in his lover’s Hollywood apartment. Throughout his career, Fitzgerald published many books, but The Great Gatsby is the one that became a classic. The fourth paragraph from Encarta’s Encyclopedia on F. Scott Fitzgerald best summarizes his novel: Written in crisp, concise prose and told by Nick Carraway, it is the story of Jay Gatsby. Gatsby becomes a bootlegger in order to attain the wealth and lavish way of life he feels are necessary to win the love of Daisy Buchanan, a married, upper-class woman who had once rejected him. The story ends tragically with Gatsby’s destruction. Although the narrator ultimately denounces Daisy and others who confuse the American dream with the pursuit of wealth and power, he sympathizes with those like Gatsby who pursue the dream for a redeeming end such as love. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, the upper class’s carelessness with their money, the myth that hard work always equals success, and the lack of true love in marriage all show a distortion of the American Dream. One would think that people with money should know how to use it properly. Unfortunately this is not so of the upper class characters in The Great Gatsby. The following paragraph from the novel is an excellent example of how Gatsby wasted money on his upper class friends. There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. On Mondays eight servants, including an extra gardener, toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers and garden-shears, repairing the ravages of the night before. (Fitzgerald 89) The previous quote shows how Gatsby went through much turmoil just to make it seem as though he had enough money to do as he wished. In the upper class, one person would try to outdo another by buying gifts that are more lavish and by throwing parties that are more extravagant than their friends last one. Robert Douglass wrote an article in 1938 about society at that time. In it, he described how people took so much for granted. The following is an excerpt from his article: The people living in the little town have a richer life than their parents did. They can reach a motion-picture theater by a twenty-minute drive, they have radios, and they think nothing of jaunts to Atlantic City, Boston or Canada that many of the old residents never made in an entire lifetime. (19) As one can see, people throughout the

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