Francis Scott Fitzgerald is considered to be one of the masters in the field of American literature. The Great Gatsby makes the highest point of his artistic achievement. It shows us a vivid picture of the 1920s with its surface prosperity and underlying sadness. From the view of the narrator Nick, The Great Gatsby shows Gatsbys tragic life, especially Gatsbys love and the break of his dream. The novel represents far more than the fate of a boy who tried to get enough money to marry his true love. The cruelty of the rich, the coldness in a financially booming society and the break of the American dream are all reflected in this novel.
In this essay, the author will make analysis on the theme of the novel, the pursuit and the failure of the American dream, and explore the causes which contribute to the tragedy of Gatsby, the protagonist of the novel.
II.Brief introduction of the writer and the novel
Most writers have inevitably involved much of their life experience in their works, so does Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby, published in 1925, can be taken as a mirror of his early life to some extent.
A.Brief introduction of the writer
Francis Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) is one of the most representative literary figures in the 1920s. He is the literary spokesman of the Jazz Age*, who was also a participant of the time.
Fitzgerald was raised in St. Paul, Minnesota of America. He didnt finish his study in the university and joined the army in 1917, as WWI neared its end. At almost the same period, he met his golden girlZelda Sayre. But Zelda delayed their wedding until Fitzgerald could prove a success for Zeldas desire for wealth. In 1920, Fitzgeralds first novel, This Side of Paradise, was published and it was a great success. Immediately he got his wealth, fame as well as Zelda. In 1925, his masterpiece The Great Gatsby was published and afterwards Fitzgerald fell into a wild and reckless lifestyle, while trying to earn more money by writing. But the dream tottered soon. The 1930s, with a series of misfortunes, Zelda suffered a mental breakdown and Fitzgerald was drinking heavily, which hampered his writing. Therefore Fitzgeralds life ended after continued emotional and physical exhaustion. Just like Gatsby, he died with his broken dream.
B.Brief introduction of the novel
The Great Gatsby exposes the representative figures human nature of falseness, indifference and selfishness under the cult of the gold-worships trend. The story is about a young Midwesterner, Jay Gatsby, who had fallen in love with a beautiful, wealthy ladyDaisy when he was in the army. But at that time as Gatsby was not rich, Daisy left him and married Tom Buchanan, a wealthy but a brute man. In order to get Daisy back, Gatsby achieved a lot of money through illegal way. After reaching his goal to be wealthy, he managed to meet Daisy again several years later. With the help of Nick , his neighbor and Daisys cousin, also the narrator of the novel, Gatsby wanted to win his love back with his extravagant devotion. But he was disappointed when he saw Daisy again and thought she was not his ideal love anymore. In spite of this, Gatsby still treasured her as his golden lady. One day, Daisy hit Mrs. Wilson, her husbands mistress by Gatsbys car. Gatsby wanted to protect Daisy who had reconciled to her husband already. And Tom told Mr. Wilson it was Gatsby that hit Mrs. Wilson. At last, Mr. Wilson shot Gatsby to death in an act of revenge and The Buchanans got rid of the punishment.
III.Definition of the American Dream and the essences ofGatsbys American Dream
As been mentioned in the above, the writer has showed us a young American boy whose pursuit was the ideal American Dream. Then what is the American Dream? And what is Gatsbys dream?
A. Definition of the American Dream
The 1920s is a decade when the outline of contemporary America clearly emerges. World War I creates a new generation, the Lost Generation and a new time, the Roaring Twenties. Modern American culture bursts into full bloom in the 1920s. It is a time of youth, a time of profound cultural and social changes. In a word, the American social system encourages people to pursue the dream of success at all cost.
So it is possible for anyone in America, no matter he is rich, to gain success and wealth through his own effort. If you work hard, you may become a rich man, and you can enjoy the merry life.
B. Essence of Gatsbys American Dream
In this novel, Fitzgerald focused on tow important manifestations of the American Dream in Gatsbythe pursuit of wealth and the true love at the same time.
Gatsby is a heir to the American Dream. He has a lot of brain power and some resolves. He gets rich quickly by various criminal activities and leads a luxurious life to appeal to his gold lady, but he is only a new rich, a poor man with money, who cannot be accepted by the upper-class social circle. And his girl refuses to leave the security of his brute and openly unfaithful husbands established position for Gatsbys precarious wealth. He is lonely with no friends or love.
1.Gatsbys dream of money
Gatsbys dream for money is the romantic idealism that generations of the America have pursued. This shapes his materialism. We can see that Gatsby is very determined from a schedule when he is still young. Gatsby makes use of every minute in an efficient way. The plan is filled with some plans for earnest self-improvement and hard work.
To become rich and to win Daisy back, Gatsby even participated crimes. He becomes bootlegger. Through some illegal business, he makes fortunes. Therefore, he buys a mansion in West Egg and holds lavish weekly parties. We can see the striking description of his parties. In Gatsbys blue garden, between nine in the morning and long past midnight, men and women came and went like moths among the whispering and champagne and stars. That is the party where man and women dance crazily and joyously. On those occasions, we can see various luxuriesmotorboats, aquaplanes, private beaches, Rolls-Royces. His guests come here with or without an invitation just for their weekends. They meet strangers in such noisy parties. They dance crazily, talk freely and behave in a so-called upper class way. But they cannot meet true friends there. Under the unusual noises of the parties, there lies deep sadness of that generation. They even lose themselves in that time and do not know where to go. The result is such a mess as has been depicted in his novel On Mondays, eight servants, including an extra gardener, toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers and garden-shears, repairing the ravages of the night before. The sentence gives an ironic meaning to the novel and implies the tragic ending. These parties reflect the paradoxical meaning of the dream. On the one hand, we could feel the merriment from the music and the laughter. On the other hand, we could see the people who came to the party cannot enjoy the parties heartily since they don not know and dont want to know each other.
People in the 1920s have a strong mind of pursuing money. One important purpose is to show off to others. They want to be admired and respected by others. They innocently believe that happiness lies in wealth and such admiration. But they are completely wrong . Respect cannot be gained on the basis of wealth and money does not equal to happiness. There are so many things which cannot be evaluated, can not be bought, such as love. They pursue a kind of extravagant life, which is attractive with beauties, champagne and expensive cars and clothes. Unfortunately, they lose everything in the end.
Gatsby does not know the meaning of his parties either. The luxurious and grateful life of the upper class appeals to him, and he wants to be accepted by the class to which Daisy belongs. He needs wealth as well as identity to reach his purpose, and all these strengthen his dream for money.
2.Gatsbys dream for love
Another important aspect of Gatsbys dream is his pursuit of his golden girl, Daisy Buchananthe dream of true love.
To Gatsby, Daisy is the representative of perfection. He falls in love with her at first sight, because she has charm, grace, sophistication, and wealth. After being wealthy, Gatsby has always wanted to win Daisy back. He wants to show her he is as rich as Tom. Gatsby buys a house by the shore of the West Egg, so he could see her far away in the East Egg where Daisy lives. The green light in the novel represents hope and future of Gatsby. He also associates the green light with Daisy. he stretched out his arms toward the dark water I a curious way, and involuntarily I glanced seawardand distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away. Gatsby takes the green light as a guiding light to lead him achieving his goal, to win his love back. What Gatsby has done is to show off to Daisy and for the satisfaction of her. So for Gatsby, Daisy is the green light to light his heart. And nobody can replace her position in his heart. Furthermore, Daisy is not only the most beautiful and graceful girl he has met, but also the manifestation of the upper class, the entire good things in the world, so he sees Daisy as his golden girl
To win Daisy back is the essence of Gatsbys American dream, and it is also the motivation for Gatsby collecting a lot of money through some illegal activities. Therefore, to Gatsby the dream of money and the dream of love cannot be separated. The former is the means for the realization of the latter.
IV. The causes contributing to the failure of the American Dream
Although the 1920s saw American becoming independent and prosperous, with the developing of the rich resources and the flourishing of the material civilization, the failure of the American Dream also became inevitable. Despite the surface prosperity, there was a sense of unease and restlessness underlying. This postwar spirit was in sharp contrast to the spirit of idealism. So what Gatsby want is just living in dream, in illusion. But his dream is too far away from the reality and he is definite to fail, to lose.
A.The cold society
There are several factors contribute to Gatsbys tragedy, among which the cold society is an important one.
In the1920, led by a kind of materialism, people pay too much attention to money, which is believed can bring them happiness. They forget or ignore something valuable. That is moral and humanity. They do not care others. They only keep so-called friendship with the people who are useful for their own development. They avoid taking duties and run away after destroying something. Husband and wife are unfaithful to each other and true friends are difficult to find. That is a strange world with the only aim of pursuing money and excitement, with the coldness and evil lying under the surface of prosperity.
The American Dream is so charming that it attracts a large number of people like Gatsby. It is no doubt that people can be successful through their own effort. Unfortunately not only the ability and character, but also luck has been the factors rising from the poor to the riches.
In reality, however, those who can succeed have often been the ones who are greedy, merciless and unscrupulous. In addition, during the adventurous and competitive period, diligent studying and saving money like Gatsby is absolutely not the means to be wealthy. Therefore, people like Gatsby dont have any background will surely be excluded from the potential success.
Fitzgerald presents the restless American society with all the corruptions and crimes, hidden in the determination to change the life, having no context knowledge of what will happen soona recession and decline of America. Therefore we can witness the corruption of the American promise of equality for all.
At the end of the novel, there is Gatsbys funeral which is an ironic scene. Gatsbys funeral is a record of human coldness. Nick has invited some people to come to Gatsbys funeral. These people are all Gatsbys so-called friends. They find a lot of excuses for their absence because they know clearly that Gatsby is no longer useful for them. It is a funeral with only three persons: Nick, Gatsbys father and a minister. Gatsbys generous parties have not brought him even one friend.
B.The cruelty of the upper class
In Gatsbys eyes, the upper class is a place filling with elegance and enjoyment. So he attempts to make his wealth to access to the place. But unfortunately, he does not understand the people of the upper class. In this novels symbolic geography: East Egg represents the established aristocracy, or the old money; and the West Egg magnifies the self-made rich, or the new money. And there is an unbridgeable divide between the East Egg and the West Egg. The West Egg, where Gatsby lives, is a wealthy area that inhabited by the new rich, those who had recently attained the material possessions (through various means, some of which involved criminal activities), but lack the social connections and family background to make them of the most elite social circles. However, the West Eggers are looked down upon by the East Eggers, where the conservative, aristocratic elite, including Tom and Daisy Buchanan live. The East Eggers dont easily admit new members to their fold. In spite of the lavish parties that Gatsby throws in his gigantic mansion, he cannot win the acceptance of the East Eggers. To them, Gatsby seems ridiculous with his gorgeous pink rag of a suit, his preposterous mansion, and his chaotic parties. They are heartless people, and when Gatsby dies, they dont present to the funeral. Furthermore, even though Tom admits to the fact that he is responsible for Gatsbys murder and Wilsons suicide, he continues to claim innocence because he has never known guilt as a member of the established elite. This upper class is shown to be made up of heartless citizens who have achieved success at the cost of dehumanization and the selling of their souls.
The only thing that divides the West Egg and the East Egg, and that divides Gatsby and Daisy is the bay. Even though Gatsby can see the green light from the Buchanans dock from his own yard, the light seems almost unattainable because he has not yet been able to across the bay and become a part of Daisys society. There is a certain rigid social hierarchy, which is too strong to break, regardless of hard work and dedication. Gatsby is the best example that has been refused by the upper class, so the failure of his dream is doomed.
C. Daisys personality
Daisy Buchanan is the central female character in The Great Gatsby. Daisy is a superficial character who considers happiness more of a physical state than a mental state by the scene when she is talking about her daughter and what she said when she was born thats the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool, this show how Daisy thinks about life and how happiness can be bought by not being aware but by having money. The result of her dream and the methods she used to accomplish her dream led to the unhappiness of her marriage. When Daisy has her baby, she is emotionally at a very low point. She realizes that Tom doesnt love her, but stay with her because she is everything that he believes a wife should be. Although she knows her husband has a mistress, her social status is far more important to her than fidelity, and she refuses to give up her lavish lifestyle and breakaway from Tom. This simply because in continuing her marriage, she is able to maintain the status that being attached to the Buchanan name. So Daisy is not a fool. She knows that she is attractive, and she is also aware that Tom hasnt left her because of the social unpleasantness it would cause to them both. She simply looks like she should have money, and have a good background, which at this time was one of the most important attributes a woman could have. However, Daisy seems just as shallow as Tom outwardly appears. Gatsbys downfall was thinking that if he became a rich man, Daisy would love him. Daisy didnt ever really love him, because no matter how much wealth he had, he was from a different social class. Although Gatsby could have been an economic equal to Tom, he would never be a social equal.
The moral decadence and carelessness of the American Dream is also illustrates accurately in Daisy. After her killing of Myrtle, Toms mistress, Gatsby took the blame for her. And she even didnt attend Gatsbys funeral. Tom and Daisy are careless people, They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.
Gatsbys dream collapses when he fails to win Daisy. Gatsby dies spiritually when Daisy chooses Tom over him. The failure of Gatsbys ideals is directly related to the failure of the American Dream in that it is destroyed by reality, in this case by the reality of Daisys rejection.
D. Gatsbys personality
The failure of the American Dream is unavoidable, not only because reality cannot keep up with ideals, but also because the ideals are in any case usually fantastic to be realized. Gatsby is nave, impractical and over-sentimental. It is this that makes him attempt the impossible to repeat the past. There is something pitiful and absurd about the way he refuses to grow up.
Gatsby , the central figure of the story is one character who longs for the past. Surprisingly he devotes most of his adult life trying to recapture it. Finally, he dies in his pursuit. In the past, Gatsby had a love affair with the affluent Daisy. He knows he could not marry her because of the different social status. He leaves her to reach her economic standards. Gatsby has spent countless years obtaining his fortune for one purpose only, to win Daisy Buchanan. Once he acquires this wealth, he moves near to Daisy, Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would e just across the bay, which shows how desperate Gatsby was to buy anything to impress his long time love of Daisy. However, he is attempting to accomplish the wrong way. He believes that Daisy would never go back to him if he were not wealthy. He throws extravagant parties and invites aimless and shallow guests, whom he does not even know. He hopes Daisy may be attracted to one some day. He himself does not attend his parties, but watches them from a distance. Soon he meets Nick, a cousin of Gatsby, who agrees to set up a meeting. He wants to knowif youll invite Daisy to your house some afternoon and then let him come over. Gatsbys personal dream symbolizes the American Dream, where all have the opportunity to get what they want. But he fails to see that Daisy does not want someone who has bought his way into upper class society, with money supposedly from his connections in the bootlegging business. She prefers Tom who was born into wealth. Gatsby can be viewed as typical hero who tried too hard and was broken down from society.
After they met, Gatsby still believes that Daisy loves him. He is convinced of this as is shown when he takes the blame for Myrtles death. Was Daisy driving? Yes but of course Ill say I was. He also watches and protects Daisy as she returns home. How long are you going to wait? All night if necessary. Gatsby cannot accept that the past is gone and he wants to repeat the past. He wants it was the way before he joined the army. Gatsby is sure that he can capture his dream with wealth and influence. But Daisy isnt willing to risk her social status for the man she loved, concluding that she doesnt really love him.
Nick attempts to show Gatsby the folly of his dream, but Gatsby innocently replies to Nicks assertion that the past cannot be relived by saying Yes, you can ,old sports. This shows the confidence that Gatsby has in fulfilling his American Dream. For his, his American Dream is not only material possessions, but also his true love, Daisy. Whats ironic about the situation is that Gatsby can never get Daisy because she now has a husband and a child.
Gatsby is a tragic figure. His tragedy is that his belief that he can buy his dream, that is, to recapture the past. He is the representative of the American Dream, which is based on materialism alone. As to Gatsby, the contradiction between his dream and reality caused him to destroy. And through his tragedy, we can see that material wealth, without a worthy purpose or a viable heritage is ultimately self-destructive.
The Great Gatsby shows us a vivid picture of the1920s with its characters and details. The failure of the American Dream pursuit of money and excitement is reflected by the characters tragic lives. Some other details as the cold society and the cruelty upper class show us the underlying sadness and crisis of values of the financially booming 1920s.