The Great Gatsby

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 11th grade February 2008

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If one were to ask a person what they would do with one million dollars, they would have an ample idea of what their answer would be, whether it is to buy a new house or a new car or simply to pay overdue bills. The point is that at least every human being has thought of what it would be like to live in the lap of luxury like the characters in The Great Gatsby. In fact, it has been proven that people would do almost anything to become rich- through lottery, gambling, and even game shows. After they do get rich, though, the question becomes, "Will all this money go to their heads?" Fitzgerald focuses on the corruption of this American Dream for eternal wealth and youth. By analyzing the upper-class society of the 1920s through the eyes of narrator Nick Carraway, the author clearly reveals that the American Dream has transformed from a pure ideal of security into a complicated scheme of materialistic power.

He attributes the depravity of mankind to the wealth that the privileged few do receive. Jay Gatsby, in particular, epitomizes the purest characteristic of the American Dream: everlasting hope.

Gatsby's goal of winning the heart of Daisy gives him a purpose in life and sets him apart from the rest of the upper-class. His dream is pure, while the others like Tom and Daisy Buchanan have become corrupted from their fortune. Fitzgerald intends for Gatsby's dream to be symbolic of the American Dream. He genuinely believes that if a person makes enough money, he can buy anything. He thinks his wealth can erase the last five years of his and Daisy's life and reunite them at the point at which he left her before he went to war.

In a similar fashion, all Americans have the tendency to believe that if they amass a great amount of fortune, they can manipulate time, staying perpetually young, and buy their happiness through materialistic spending. They are completely oblivious to the consequences of being rich. Between the wealth of New York City and the fashionable Egg Islands lies the Valley of Ashes, the symbol of the waste and corruption that characterizes the wealthy. Additionally, the many parties that are given always ended up in waste or violence.

When Gatsby's dream is crushed by Daisy's refusal to forget the past or deny that she has ever loved Tom, Fitzgerald is stating that the American Dream of wealthy and beauty is just as fragile. In fact, history has proven this view to be accurate. The sense of wonder of the first settlers in American turned into an excessive greed for more wealth. The ostentatious, wild lifestyle of the 1920s was followed by the reality of the stock market crash as well as the Great Depression of the 1930s. Where there is great wealth, sadness always follows. The end product is and will always be a valley of ashes.

Throughout the novel, Fitzgerald masterfully unfolds the tragic fate of American values. Gatsby and other characters of his story convey the author's true message- that the American Dream, once a pure ideal, has become buried into the ground by money. The characters emphasize Fitzgerald's key theme: wealth corrupts.