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Feb 21, 2011

The Great Gatsby: Fitzgerald

"What distinguishes us one from another is our dreams.......
and what we do to make them come about" (Joseph Epstein)

The Great Gatsby is among the most celebrated pieces of jacket art in American literature, in which F. Scott Fitzgerald portrays the theme of the end of the American Dream. 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald “half black and half old American” portrays the end of the American Dream, that is the end of innocence in the period that the book was set in, the Jazz Age (the phrase was given by Fitzgerald himself) which was literally when Jazz music really came into its own and became the defining music of the people. “The American Dream“: what does it mean? Wealth, material possessions, and power are the core values of “The American Dream.”

The Great Gatsby is highly perceptive analysis of the failure of Jazz Age. The lives of Gatsby, Nick and Buchanan show the final theme “American idealism has been vitiated by the adaptation of materialism”. Gatsby is duped by the dream of material success so equates love with wealth and present with past. He symbolizes America and enslaved, as Fitzgerald points out, in “the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty”. One of the major concerns of the novel is how to face “the promise of loneliness…, a thinning briefcase of enthusiasm,” thinning here.

In Fitzgerald's view of the American Dream marriage is no longer sacred, it is just a bind between two people, this shows how women are being objectified and they are only being viewed as trophy wives with no real interest in their mate, the perfect example is the marriage between Tom and Daisy. Gatsby is a tragic figure because he starts out his life with the view of the American Dream in mind.

The Art of Sacrifice is explored with much detail in 'The Great Gatsby'. There are many examples of sacrifice, as Nick sacrifices his principles. At the beginning of the novel, Nick begins with a piece of advice given to him by his father. He states that his father told him

"Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone just remember that all the
 people in this world haven't had the advantages you've had."

Nick's principles and way of going about things is clearly shown in the introduction to the first Chapter. However, as the novel progresses on Nick's view begins to change. All Americans hope to achieve the American Dream: wealth, status, love and above all happiness, thus, the novel best describes The American Dream, which is inspired by one, but captured by all. Gatsby, like the West Eggers, lacks the traditions of the East Eggers, who:,

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy-they smashed up things and
creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast
carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together,
and let otherpeople clean up the mess they had made...
(Fitzgerald 187-188)..

"Americans easily assumed that spiritual satisfaction would automatically accompany material success." (Trask) Gatsby believed he could win Daisy by the possessions he owned. Although Gatsby never achieved the American Dream, he did not die in vain.

"If ‘one likes the spectacle of fast-living people who care nothing
 for conventions and  know no loyalty except to their own vices,
 one will find it in this novel.'" (Hooper)

His idea of the American Dream could never come true because he was living in the past. Daisy "was as shallow as the other hollow people who inhabited Fitzgerald's Long Island," (Trask) so Gatsby could have never won her over with all of his efforts. His one fault is that he based his whole dream on the past.
"There is something of Jay Gatsby in every man, woman,
or child that ever existed." (Chubb)

"When Nick begins the book he feels the same ambivalence toward Gatsby that characterizes his attitude toward life: a simultaneous enchantment and revulsion which places him ‘with and without'." (Samuels) But by the end of the book, he comes to the conclusion that Daisy is just as shallow as Tom when she leaves the mess to be cleaned up by others. "He has become united with Gatsby, and he judges him great." (Samuels) Societal differences in The Great Gatsby doom Gatsby's dream of a past love and ultimately lead to his death. Although his dream is never met, he can be considered "great" compared to the shallow characters of East Egg. When Daisy leaves with Tom and Gatsby loses her, it is the death of his dream that is symbolic of death Gatsby. If George would not have come along to end his life, Gatsby would have killed himself.

Mark Von Doren called The Great Gatsby “one of the brilliant books of a brilliant decade.” While Eliot, as cryptic as ever, but fulsome in his admiration, wrote to Fitzgerald that it is “a remarkable book…….. The first step that American fiction has taken since Henry James.” Let us end with the philosophical message that the novel gives:

“One thing’s sure and nothing’s surer
The Rich get richer and the poor get-children.
In the meantime,
In between time.”
Or look at this “No ammount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man can store up in his ghostly heart.”

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