The great gatsby and the fall of the american dream.


The book 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald was an 'icon of its
time.' The book discusses topics that were important, controversial and
interesting back in 1920's America. The novel is 'an exploration of the
American Dream as it exists in a corrupt period of history.' The main
themes in the book are the decay of morals and values and the
frustration of a 'modern' society. The Great Gatsby describes the decay
of the American Dream and the want for money and materialism. This
novel also describes the gap between the rich and the poor (Gatsby and
the Wilsons, West Egg and the Valley of the Ashes) by comparing the
differences between the Western United States (traditional western
culture) and the Eastern United States (money obsessed values). On a
smaller scale this could be seen as the difference between the West Egg
(the 'new, money) and the East egg (the 'old' money). The 1920's were
a time of corruption and the degradation of moral values for the United States and many other countries. World War One had just ended and
people were reveling in the materialism that came with the end of it,
new mass produced commodities such as motor cars and radios were
filling people's driveways and houses, money was more accessible
(before the Great Depression). Cars were becoming a social symbol in
the 1920s as we can see with Gatsby's five cars, one of which he gives
to Nick and one of which kills Myrtle Wilson later on in the novel.
Herbert Hoover (an American President) said in 1925 "We will root out
poverty and put two cars in every garage." The parties that Gatsby held
every week in the summer were a symbol of the carelessness of the time.
Gatsby would hide in the house while the 'guests', most of whom were
not even invited, would party, eat and drink until the early hours of
the morning without even meeting the guest or even knowing who he was.
People would turn up just to be seen or reported in the local
newspapers "In his blue garden people came and went like moths among
the whisperings and the champagne." This shows the carelessness of the
guests. Another quote about the parties refers to the way the guests
devour the endless supply of food and never give a thought as to who
gave it to them. "Every Friday five crates of oranges and Lemons
arrived from a fruiterer In New York- Every Monday these same oranges
and lemons left his backdoor in a pyramid of pulpless halves." This is
also a symbol; it relates the 'pulpless halves' to the rather 'empty'
guests, soulless people obsessed by image and wealth, a corruption of
the American Dream. Another sign of the fall of the American Dream in
The Great Gatsby is the way Gatsby makes his money. Gatsby gets his
fortune through the illegal sale of alcohol ('bootlegging'). The sale
of alcohol was prohibited in the United States in the 1920s. Gatsby
came from the western United States where there was 'old money.' There
he met Dan Cody who taught him how to 'bootleg.' As Gatsby became
richer he moved to West Egg in New York. Gatsby's house is a rather
artificial place, the house was originally built to impress Daisy with
his so-called wealth, and this is a sign of a corrupt way of 'winning'
love through money and wealth. Gatsby's house is furnished well with
old looking ornaments and (probably) second hand antiques, Gatsby's
house also has a library which is full of 'uncut' literature. The
conversation between Jordan and an unnamed man at one of Gatsby's
parties talks about the books: "Absolutely real - have real pages and
everything. I'd thought they'd be a nice durable cardboard." These
books and antiques are just Gatsby's way of showing off his wealth to
others, however Gatsby doesn't really care for materialism, we can tell
this because his bedroom, the only room he really ever uses, is empty
compared to the rest of the house. Gatsby's love life is also a sign
of declining morals, and also a sign of further corruption of the
American Dream. Daisy has an affair with Gatsby; Gatsby then gets
concerned that Daisy does not tell Tom about her affair with him in
chapter six. Eventually Daisy tells Tom about her affair with Jay
Gatsby. The climax of the story comes when Gatsby tells Tom that Daisy
never loved him. The fall of the American Dream and corruption is also
evident in the position and treatment of children in the story, Daisy
and Tom's daughter, Pammy, is treated as an object to show off rather
than a child to love. "The child, relinquished by the nurse, rushed
across the room and rooted shyly into her mother's dress." The child
does not know her mother very well and is still very shy to go near
her. Gatsby had never really known of the existence of Daisy's child,
as Daisy was probably afraid to tell him about her. "Afterward he kept
looking at the child in surprise. I don't think he had ever really
believed it it's existence before." The word it instead of her also
denotes the child's position as nil. Daisy uses the child as a show
item: "I got dressed before luncheon" said the child, turning eagerly
towards Daisy. "That's because your mother wanted to show you off"
replies Daisy. When the child speaks to Daisy, Daisy never answers or
replies to her. Daisy always changes the subject as if she doesn't even
notice the child is there. For example, when the girl comments Jordan's
dress, Daisy ignores her and asks her what she thinks about her
friends: "Aunt Jordan's got on a white dress too" (said the child).
"How do you like mother's friends?" (Replies Daisy). Also: "Where's
daddy?" (Said the child) "She doesn't look like her father" explained
Daisy. 'Daddy' (Tom) is also never around, he was not there when his
child was born. Daisy thinks that Tom is 'brutish' and she has never
really liked him. The Great Gatsby is a great portrayal of the
corruption of society and the fall of the American Dream. The Great
Gatsby shows us the way people will fall into the hands of money, greed
and power and get involved in illegal activities to get where they want
and what they want. This book is a perfect example of the fall of the
American Dream in the 1920s.


The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald (The school's Penguin edition)

Scott Fitzgerald's Criticism of America - Marcus Bailey

Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby -

And various other photocopied hand out sheets.


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