gatsby essay - F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby...

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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby remains a singular text in its interpretation and deconstruction of America in the Jazz Age. On the surface, the novel is a story of love gone wrong, culminating in disaster. More importantly, it is a novel of America in the turbulent times of the 1920s. Fitzgerald writes about the downfall of the American Dream, a dream not dissimilar to the one expressed by J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur in his Letters from an American Farmer, a dream which supposes that an American can achieve whatever goals they want in life, regardless of their origins, due to the unique nature of America as the land of opportunity. Fitzgerald takes aim in his novel at what America means and what it means to be an American. Through the varied views and natures of his characters, the tragic events of the book, and his portrayal of the lavish culture of the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald exposes the death of the American Dream. Of the characters in The Great Gatsby , none represent the quest for the American Dream more than Gatsby himself. Gatsby starts out as a mysterious figure, his own party guests gossiping that he was “a German spy during the war,” and that perhaps “he killed a man once.” (pg. 44). Eventually, we learn that Gatsby is American born, a self-made millionaire (albeit through illegal means). Gatsby’s father, Henry C. Gatz, contrasts the luxury of his son, showing the humble roots from which Gatsby’s greatness synthesized. Gatz reveals that it was by no mistake of fortune that his son became who he was, that “he knew he had a big future in front of him.” (pg. 172). Indeed, it is only through James Gatz’s determination and will that he is able to become the larger than life Jay Gatsby. By the end of the novel, we see Gatsby as a character who’s every motive in life was to fulfill his dream of not only personal fortune but also his acceptance by the upper class which money cannot buy. Gatsby’s mansion is representative of this, for while it is
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elaborate and beautiful it resides in West Egg, which is seen as the less fashionable Egg and the home of the nouveaux riche. Nothing represents Gatsby’s dream more than Daisy, an upper class girl whose voice, Gatsby claims, is “full of money.” (pg. 120). Gatsby romanticizes Daisy as the ideal woman, a characterization which she proves to be unworthy of. Daisy is Gatsby’s ultimate goal, attaining her is the accomplishment which all his money and resources are focused on, and possessing her in entirety is the only thing which will fulfill his dream. Nick comments in closing on how close Gatsby comes to his dream but is ultimately thwarted. Gatsby fits in well with Crevecoeur’s interpretation of what it is to be an American. He is the descendent of an indeterminable mix of Europeans, and he rejects past customs and manners, embracing the new ones of his affluent life. Crevecoeur writes that one “becomes an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater.” Despite his wealth though, Gatsby is not received by those whom he wishes to
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