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The Great Gatsby Essay Example: Symbolism and American Dream

Symbolism and the American Dream in The Great Gatsby

❶The Great Gatsby is, among other things, a sobering and even ominous commentary on the dark side of the American dream.

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Then he kissed her. At his lips' touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete. Instead, she stays with Tom Buchanan, despite her feelings for Gatsby. Thus when Gatsby fails to win over Daisy, he also fails to achieve his version of the American Dream. This is why so many people read the novel as a somber or pessimistic take on the American Dream, rather than an optimistic one.

Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

The closing pages of the novel reflect at length on the American Dream, in an attitude that seems simultaneously mournful, appreciative, and pessimistic. But still, he finds something to admire in how Gatsby still hoped for a better life, and constantly reached out toward that brighter future. An analysis of the characters in terms of the American Dream usually leads to a pretty cynical take on the American Dream.

So instead he turns to crime, and only then does he manage to achieve his desired wealth. This couple also represents people aiming at the dream — George owns his own shop and is doing his best to get business, though is increasingly worn down by the harsh demands of his life, while Myrtle chases after wealth and status through an affair with Tom.

So neither character is on the upward trajectory that the American Dream promises, at least during the novel. And on top of that they are fabulously wealthy? The American Dream certainly is not alive and well for the poor Wilsons. But what about the other major characters, especially the ones born with money? What is their relationship to the American Dream?

Perhaps because of this, they seem to directly antagonize the dream — Daisy by refusing Gatsby, and Tom by helping to drag the Wilsons into tragedy. In other words, income inequality and the vastly different starts in life the characters have strongly affected their outcomes. This, of course, is tragic and antithetical to the idea of the American Dream, which claims that class should be irrelevant and anyone can rise to the top.

I'd never understood before. It was full of money--that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it. High in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl. But Daisy, of course, is only human — flawed, flighty, and ultimately unable to embody the huge fantasy Gatsby projects onto her.

So this, in turn, means that the American Dream itself is just a fantasy, a concept too flimsy to actually hold weight, especially in the fast-paced, dog-eat-dog world of s America. But consider the fact that Daisy was already born into the highest level of American society. The expectation placed on her, as a wealthy woman, was never to pursue something greater, but simply to maintain her status. In contrast, Myrtle, aside from Gatsby, seems to be the most ambitiously in pursuit of getting more than she was given in life.

She parlays her affair with Tom into an apartment, nice clothes, and parties, and seems to revel in her newfound status. But of course, she is knocked down the hardest, killed for her involvement with the Buchanans, and specifically for wrongfully assuming she had value to them. Considering that Gatsby did have a chance to leave New York and distance himself from the unfolding tragedy, but Myrtle was the first to be killed, you could argue the novel presents an even bleaker view of the American Dream where women are concerned.

The American Dream as shown in Gatsby becomes even more pessimistic through the lens of the female characters. Focusing the lens on the women is predictably depressing. Was Gatsby's dream worth it? Was all the work, time, and patience worth it for him? Gatsby lost everything, not to mention the Wilsons got caught up in the tragedy and ended up dead!

In other words, Gatsby has a larger-than-life persona and he never would have been content to remain in North Dakota to be poor farmers like his parents. Even if he ends up living a shorter life, he certainly lived a full one full of adventure. In fact, it seems Jay lived several lives in the space of just half a normal lifespan.

How does Fitzgerald examine this issue of deferred dreams? What do you think are the effects of postponing our dreams? How can you apply this lesson to your own life? Apparently, dreams deferred are dreams doomed to fail. Any prompt like this one which has a section of more personal reflection gives you freedom to tie in your own experiences and point of view, so be thoughtful and think of good examples from your own life!

Explain how the novel does or does not demonstrate the death of the American Dream. What does the novel offer about American identity? In this prompt, another one that zeroes in on the dead or dying American Dream, you could discuss how the destruction of three lives Gatsby, George, Myrtle and the cynical portrayal of the old money crowd illustrates a dead, or dying American Dream.

After all, if the characters who dream end up dead, and the ones who were born into life with money and privilege get to keep it without consequence, is there any room at all for the idea that less-privileged people can work their way up? This observation suggests an American identity that is determined by birthplace, and that within the American identity there are smaller, inescapable points of identification. Furthermore, for those in the novel not born into money, the American identity seems to be about striving to end up with more wealth and status.

But in terms of the portrayal of the old money set, particularly Daisy, Tom, and Jordan, the novel presents a segment of American society that is essentially aristocratic — you have to be born into it. In that regard, too, the novel presents a fractured American identity, with different lives possible based on how much money you are born with.

In short, I think the novel disrupts the idea of a unified American identity or American dream, by instead presenting a tragic, fractured, and rigid American society, one that is divided based on both geographic location and social class. Most would consider dreams to be positive motivators to achieve success, but the characters in the novel often take their dreams of ideal lives too far. Explain how characters' American Dreams cause them to have pain when they could have been content with more modest ambitions.

Gatsby is an obvious choice here — his pursuit of money and status, particularly through Daisy, leads him to ruin. In a sense, she seems to be living her ideal life in her affair with Tom — she has a fancy NYC apartment, hosts parties, and gets to act sophisticated — but these pleasures end up gravely hurting George, and of course her association with Tom Buchanan gets her killed.

The Great Gatsby is, among other things, a sobering and even ominous commentary on the dark side of the American dream. Discuss this theme, incorporating the conflicts of East Egg vs. West Egg and old money vs. What does the American dream mean to Gatsby? What did the American Dream mean to Fitzgerald? How does morality fit into achieving the American dream? In other words, you should discuss how the Great Gatsby seems to turn the idea of the American Dream as described in the quote on its head: So instead, Gatsby turned to crime after the war to quickly gain a ton of money.

A major theme in The Great Gatsby is the pursuit of what can be termed the American dream. This represents the idea of the American Dream, where qualities of hard work and ambition are shown. The novel The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald embodies many themes; however the most significant one relates to the corruption of the American dream.

The American Dream is defined as someone starting low on the economic or social level, and working hard towards prosperity and or wealth and fame.

By having money, a car, a big house, nice clothes and a happy family symbolizes the American dream. This dream also represents that people, no matter who he or she is, can become successful in life by his or her own work. The desire to strive for what one wants can be accomplished if they work hard enough. The dream is represented by the ideas of a self-sufficient man or woman, who works hard to achieve a goal to become successful.

The American dream not only causes corruption but has caused destruction. Myrtle, Gatsby and Daisy have all been corrupted and destroyed by the dream. The desire for a luxurious life is what lures Myrtle into having an affair with Tom. This decision harms her marriage with George, which leads to her death and loss of true happiness.

Myrtle has the hope and desire for a perfect, wealthy and famous type life. When Myrtle first got married to George Wilson, she thought that she was crazy about him and thought that they were happy being together.

I knew right away I made a mistake. She looks at Tom in a different way. She looks at him as someone who can afford to buy their own suit for their own wedding. She believes that Tom is the ideal picture perfect man that represents the advertisement of the American Dream.

Myrtle sleeps with Tom to inch her way to an upper class status. People who are upper class are the ones that have money, drive fancy cars, and have nice, big houses. This later on causes destruction, and destroys Myrtle. It was later found that Daisy was the one that hit Myrtle with her car which resulted in the death of Myrtle. It is ironic that Daisy was the one that killed her, since Myrtle was having an affair with her husband, Tom.

This shows how the desire for a luxurious life and having the American dream, only caused destruction in this novel and destroyed someone life. The hope for happiness is something that Daisy hoped to have, but by finding out she married the wrong man changed who she is and her over outlook on life. Early on in the novel, Daisy finds out a secret that Tom is hiding from her. You learn throughout the novel that Tom and Daisy relationship is not to most ideal, happy relationship.

Tom seems to be abusive towards her, and rather does not seem to care much about her. Daisy thinks she has everything, wealth, love and happiness which all tie into the American dream, but then she discovers that she has nothing and that she has been corrupted by this specific dream. She thought she has all she desired for but truly realized she had nothing. She has a child, who does not seem important to her at all.

The child is never around, which shows a lot about Daisy. The baby has to be a beautiful fool in order to be happy and successful.


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The Great Gatsby is a novel that shows what happened to the American Dream in the ’s, which is a time period when the dreams became corrupted for many reasons. The American dream not only causes corruption but has caused destruction. Myrtle, Gatsby and Daisy have all been corrupted and destroyed by the dream.

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Any time students are required to write The Great Gatsby essay, the first (and the most obvious) idea that occurs to them is to write about the American dream in The Great Gatsby essay. Indeed, this topic is a default choice.

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The Great Gatsby American Dream Essay Words | 7 Pages The Great Gatsby is a novel that illustrates the society in the 's and the associated beliefs, values and dreams of the American population at that time. The Great Gatsby is a tragic love story on the surface, but it’s most commonly understood as a pessimistic critique of the American Dream. In the novel, Jay Gatsby overcomes his poor past to gain an incredible amount of money and a limited amount of social cache in s NYC, only to be rejected by the “old money” crowd.

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- The American Dream in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a brilliant illustration of life among the new rich during the s, people who had recently amassed a great deal of . The Great Gatsby is a compelling love story which commonly criticizes the American dream negatively. In the novel, Jay Gatsby gains status and money and thus overcome his troubled past which led to hate and rejection from those who had acquired riches earlier, and later they killed him.