The Corruption Of The American Dream: The Great Gatsby
New York in the 1920s expresses that the pursuit of the American Dream can be tainted by reality if there is no adaptability. The first look of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is a love story between Gatsby and Daisy. However, the central theme is the desire for happiness in one’s eyes, the American Dream. The American Dream represents the stand for independence and the ability to achieve happiness out of one’s hard work. The Great Gatsby is a novel uncovering what the American Dream is like in the 1920s, with dreams becoming corrupted and destroyed for the desire of satisfaction. In the novel, Myrtle is a motivated person persevering to achieve her life of comfort. Similarly, Gatsby is motivated to earn immense wealth to win Daisy back. The Great Gatsby portrays the theme of the corrupt American Dream through the use of irony and character development.
Myrtle is an example of how the pursuit of a luxurious life gives consequences. To begin with, Myrtle wanted to live with comfort and therefore cheats on her husband, Geroge Wilson, with the prosperous Tom Buchanan. Her affair provokes her from receiving true happiness in her marriage. In the story, reading gossip magazines about the rich and famous influences Myrtle to crave such a life. She cheats with Tom because Tom represents the rich and famous. When Myrtle married George, she convinced herself she loved him. For instance, Myrtle explains, “The only crazy I was when I married him. I knew right away I made a mistake. He borrowed somebody’s best suit to get married in”. Myrtle’s character evolves as she adapts to a greedy and selfish person who only appreciates money. Myrtle looks down on her marriage and George for his lack of money. Wherefore, she looks at Tom differently, since he can afford both Myrtle’s expensive passion and a suit for himself without borrowing. Myrtle yearns to be part of the uppermost level of society, but she is murdered because of her ill-fated commitment to becoming wealthy. Furthermore, Myrtle solely cheats with Tom because of his engagement in the wealthy part of society. She believes Tom is her ideal man who symbolizes the advertisement of the American Dream. Thus, Myrtle dresses to impress, by wearing a cream coloured chiffon, to transform from a hardworking common woman to a wealthy, spoiled wife. Nick describes Myrtle in Gatsby’s party, “With the influence of the dress, her personality had also undergone a change… The intense vitality… so remarkable in the garage was converted into an impressive hauteur”. Although Nick describes Myrtle as part of the working class, she possesses expensive items, likely purchased by Tom, that indicate her upward mobility. In chapter two, Nick recounts how by changing her dress, Myrtle transforms from a poor garage owner’s wife to a wealthy man’s mistress. A significant change in behavior accompanies the change in appearance. What Nick had previously perceived as a working-class “vitality” he now sees as an upper-class “hauteur.” Myrtle develops disdainful pride because of her achievement of prosperity through the American Dream. Ironically, her desire shows how the American Dream has the potential to destroy the person pursuing it.
Furthermore, Gatsby is another character who falls prey to the corrupted American Dream. Gatsby is undoubtedly the best representation of the American Dream, as poor farmers raised him from North Dakota, and he later raises to be notoriously wealthy. With the traditional American Dream, people achieve their wealth through honest work. Nevertheless, Gatsby quickly acquires a large sum of money through crime. He does try the hard work approach with years of serving Dan Cody, but Cody’s ex-wife ends up with the entire inheritance. Therefore, Gatsby turns to crime to achieve his coveted wealth. “He and this Wolfshiem bought up a lot of side-street drug stores–and sold grain alcohol over the counter”. Gatsby’s life resembles a traditional rag to riches tale, but since he earned his money immorally, it corrupts the idea of pursuing the American Dream. He gains his wealth immorally by bootlegging in New York. With his vast, falsified wealth, Gatsby is mistakenly killed by Geroge Wilson because of an accusation of him sleeping with George’s wife, Myrtle. The corrupt American Dream unintentionally kills the man pursuing it. Moreover, Gatsby’s alteration as a character contributes to his demise. Gatsby’s ambition is to reunite with Daisy, which transforms her into his American Dream. The green light on Daisy’s East Egg dock symbolizes Gatsby’s hopes, money, and dreams that motivate him to change to the picture-perfect man every girl desires. Gatsby grows as he becomes an attentive man who cares about how people perceive him and his appearance towards others. For example, Gatsby ensures everything is perfect when Daisy arrives because he wants her to portray him as the ideal man. “There was a sharp line where my ragged lawn ended, and the darker, well-kept expanse of his began”. The theme of appearance versus reality shows when Gatsby meets Daisy after five years. He wants everything to be beautiful and presentable when she arrives. Consequently, Gatsby becomes corrupted with his intention of being perfect for Daisy. Nevertheless, the American dream blinds Gatsby, preventing him from achieving his dream. Later, his shining fraudulent wealth creates a misunderstanding of a false affair involving Gatsby’s death. All his unnecessary wealth and efforts to woo Daisy results in his demise.
Ironically, both Myrtle and Gatsby’s ambition to live a better life ends up killing them in the end. With irony and character development, the American Dream corrupts Gatsby and Myrtle because of their drastic change in person to match their ideal dream of luxury or love. Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby shows that in New York in the 1920s, the pursuit of a corrupted form of the American Dream is a central cause for the downfall of the characters.
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