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The American Dream is something that everybody strives to achieve

Updated January 17, 2019

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The American Dream is something that everybody strives to achieve essay

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The American Dream is something that everybody strives to achieve. The idea of The American Dream has been around for centuries. People born all over the globe come to America where in their eyes, anything is possible, to fulfill their dreams. Everybody’s Dream is a little different. There is no one specific version of the Dream, but commonly it is tied with wealth and success. The quest of finding the American Dream is a recurring theme throughout F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. During the 1920’s there were three social classes. Better known as, old Money, New Money, and no Money. Old Money families came from a long line of wealthy relatives. New money individuals were self made, usually the first in their families to be extremely wealthy. No money families were the lower class. The Great Gatsby has characters from each social class which helps prove that an individual’s dream will change depending on their background, experiences, social status, and beliefs. Almost all the characters in The Great Gatsby have specific Dreams in mind, and attempt to reach some version of their personal American Dream. By developing characters from different social classes, Fitzgerald shows that one’s social class determines their definition of the American Dream, but in the end everyone misunderstands materialism and fails to realize that there is always more to the American dream than what is on the surface and realize that the dream is unattainable
The American Dream has changed greatly over the years, but the main concept and idea has endured. The Dream is the idea that through hard work and determination, one’s individual success can be gained. Some see it as a life filled with an endless supply of money and fame at their fingertips, while another’s dream is living in a house in comfortable small down with a dog and three kids. The American Dream doesn’t just revolve around materialism and wealth, but also the feeling of advancing in a social hierarchy. No matter what your background and beliefs are, whatever your dream is, it will be reachable with effort and work. As Emily Beller and Michael Hout from the sociology department at University of California, Berkeley put it, “Particularly un-American is the notion that circumstances of birth set life on a course that may be hard to alter through one’s own efforts. So, rags-to-riches stories are popular, and crowds cheer for the underdog. ” (Beller Hout 2). People born into lower middle class or poverty do not have to follow in the previous generations footsteps. If they work hard and take advantage of the opportunities that exist they could potentially see success bigger than generations in their family before them. The nineteen twenties, better known as the “roaring twenties”, where The Great Gatsby took place was a very time full of jazz music, new clothing trends, and a sense a freedom for the youth. There were also countless new inventions such as the radio, television, and the automobile. These and other inventions which were previously only affordable to the rich were now affordable to the middle class, thanks to Henry Ford. The twenties introduced a new set of values which changed the way people see the American Dream forever. Characters such as Tom and Daisy Buchanan have what most people strive for and what they consider to be the American Dream. They live a life full of immense wealth, people working under their order, a healthy and beautiful but ignored young child, as well as everything under the sun with a price tag attached. Both Tom and Daisy were both born into extremely wealthy families which meant they strolled through their childhoods by getting everything handed to them. “When one lost that sense of life or promise- which Fitzgerald characteristically predicted on youth- then life lost its sense of wonder, its splendor, its romantic promise. To desire as, ironically, more important than to have. The man who had great wealth (Tom Buchanan) of the man who was beaten by life (George Wilson) lacked the intensity of experience of a Gatsby who was a “son of God” and who “sprang from his Platonic conception of self”, as the novel tells us” (Leham 30). Many people with great wealth make sure that their kids with follow the path of wealth and success. To ensure their kids know the value of wealth they have made their children work side by side with them. Tom never had to work a day in his life. His life has been the definition of a walk in the park. Tom was spoiled as a child and has been spoiled since. He has looked past his responsibilities of being a husband to Daisy and a father to their daughter. In addition to this, he also has a mistress, Myrtle Wilson. People like Tom and Daisy Buchanan are perfect examples of corruption of The American Dream, they both have not worked a day in their lives, which is a key concept of the dream. Tom and Daisy have lived lives full of dissatisfaction and trying to figure out where they fit in this world. Both Tom and Daisy spent a life running from responsibilities, which in the end is the reason both of them failed to reach their definition of The American Dream.
No matter which angle we view our society as there has and always will be a social class divide. Whether it be wealth, power, family, there is a divide separating each class. “The classes thus correspond to the “ins and outs,” the leaders and led, the rulers and ruled, the elite and nonelite. They define the structures of conflict between clusters of individuals in social space” (Rummel 3).
Fitzgerald does a great job of showing the divide of the different classes by focusing his novel on three different social classes: old money, new money, and then the lower class. Unlike characters such as Tom and Daisy, Jay Gatsby would fall into the new money circle. “Gatsby is a self-made man–a social climber who has reinvented himself and who embodies the American ideal of democracy. In a country where, according to the Declaration of Independence, ‘all men are created equal’, Gatsby attempts to prove that anyone can achieve ‘greatness’ (Stocks 2). Through crime and illegal doings, Gatsby has worked his way to the top of both the social and economic ladder. Even though Gatsby is what society would consider “new money”, he does everything he can to give off the “old money” look, in hopes to impress the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan. “By illustrating social-economic differences between Gatsby and his desire for for Daisy, Fitzgerald depicts the mistaken hype of the corrupted American Dream and the gap of economic class that will never close” (Richards). Fitzgerald makes it clear that one’s social values and geographical location go and and hand together. In the novel this is demonstrated by East Egg, West Egg, and The Valley of Ashes. East Egg is where Daisy and Tom Buchanan live. East Egg is home to the “old money” citizens. East Egg is filled with people just like Tom and Daisy, they grew up with money being an opportunity being served to them on a silver platter. “West Egg is home to the newly rich, those who got rich by leaps and bounds, and Gatsby was a typical representative of those who pretended to correspond to the level of aristocratic people” (Fitzgerald). The Valley of Ashes is located in between West and East Egg. The Valley is where the poorest of the poor lived. In chapter two Fitzgerald gives the reader a strong image of The Valley “About half way between West Egg and New York, the motor road hastily joined the railroad and runs beside it for a quarter of a mile, so as to shrink away from a certain desolate area of land. This is a valley of ashes – a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens…” (Fitzgerald). The Valley of Ashes shows the clear differences between the lives rich and the lives of the poor. In The Valley, life is not as proper as it is in the West Egg, their lives were much more simplistic and filled with a lot less arrogance.
Jay Gatsby spent his time throwing big marvelous parties with loud orchestras and tons of people “buffet tables garnished with glistening hors-d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkey bewitched to a dark gold” (Fitzgerald 49). Gatsby dreamed of being a living legacy, Daisy Buchanan being the motivation. Daisy and Gatsby had met years ago in Louisville, since that day, Gatsby has had an ongoing infatuation towards Daisy’s wealth and beauty. Gatsby is unable to really move forward in his life because he is stuck in the past, he tries to recreate things that have came and left from his past. He does this in hopes of sparking some light in Daisy’s mind about the possibility of them being together. Gatsby is so dedicated to winning over Daisy’s heart he has made his way down the path of crime and illegal doings. Gatsby’s dream is Daisy and being part of her life “shaped of… love, money, and unquestionably practicality” (Fitzgerald 151). Gatsby begins to realize that Daisy has become incapable of truly loving someone from the bottom of her heart and the only thing she truly loves is money. “Her voice is full of money” (Fitzgerald 120). Whether it be East Egg, West Egg, or the Valley of Ashes, Daisy and everyone else have become “products” of wherever it is that they live. Daisy Buchanan changed Gatsby’s life the moment she came back into his life and gained access to his heart. From that moment, his version of the American Dream changed. Gatsby no longer wanted his American Dream to be of money, wealth, and popularity. He wanted to love. Daisy Buchanan’s love. Daisy Buchanan became his personal American Dream. Gatsby uses his new ‘New money’ lifestyles and ways to hopes to win Daisy over, but, falls short and never reaches his Dream.
While Gatsby tries see if the spark is still there with Daisy, Tom has his own love on the side of his and Daisy’s marriage. Tom has an ongoing affair with Myrtle Wilson, a women who lives with her husband, George Wilson, in The Valley of Ashes. Myrtle’s dream is to make her way up the social ladder and todo that If she allowing Tom to use her as his mistress will bring her a step up the ladder, she will remain unfaithful towards her husband. Myrtle looked at by others as vulgar and is unfaithful to her husband as since the beginning of the story she is referred to as “Tom’s girl”. There is an obvious gap between Myrtle and Tom and that gap is caused from them being from two different classes. These two classes are two completely different worlds, which makes this gap obvious. Unlike Tom, Myrtle hasn’t lived a live full of wealth and getting things handed to her, son being exposed to money and opportunity reveals Myrtles demanding and greedy personality. Myrtle is also viewed as rude and ignorant holding little respect for Tom, even though he is of a much higher social class than herself. Myrtles disrespectfulness and rudeness towards Tom is shown in chapter two she mocks Tom by saying “Daisy, Daisy, Daisy” Tom looks at Myrtle as another one of his objects. He treats her like an object of his own personal possession, he feels like he is superior over her because of his high class ways. Similar to Gatsby, she knows that Toms morals consist of himself and money, she does everything she can to try to fit in with his high-class lifestyle and dreams.

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