Does Fitzgerald Condemn The American Dream In “The Great Gatsby?”
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Fitzgerald not only condemns the American Dream but sets the death and downfall of the American Dream as the primary theme of the novel. Throughout the novel Fitzgerald deliberately makes all characters with money appear to be unhappy, dysfunctional, snobbish, and immoral, thus contradicting the stereotyped idea of the American Dream. The American Dream that includes a happy family, living together, having lots of money and living happily ever after.
The unhappiness of the wealthy class is portrayed by Fitzgerald’s very poetic and beautiful style of writing. Gatsby’s love for Daisy is shown when Gatsby is telling Nick some of his past. “His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. The he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete” (117). Can you imagine being Gatsby at this moment? Feeling so passionately for Daisy and at one day, one single moment, losing all contact with her, for what could have been forever? The loneliness, depression, and sadness felt here is not part of the American Dream package. Gatsby is supposed to be this happy, carefree man who has everything in life, but through Fitzgerald’s deliberate approach to indirectly show the reader just how much pain Gatsby is in, the audience begins to see the realism portrayed here.
Daisy is another character in which the unfortunate wrath of unhappiness overtakes her beautiful, money-filled life handed down to her. If all went as planned Daisy would have followed the doctor’s orders to the prescribed American Dream and she would have fallen madly in love with the first bachelor she met. Again, Fitzgerald shows Daisy’s unhappiness and never ending quest for love towards the end of the novel when things are beginning to be made a bit clearer. “She wanted her life shaped now, immediately-and the decision must be made by some force-of love, of money, of unquestionable practicality-that was close at hand” (59). By now Daisy had been with so many men that she is tired of fooling around with every rich bachelor she met. She wanted to end this chapter in her life, get married, and move on to the next luxurious party that awaited her. So she married the next person she met, Tom Buchanan. Was she truly in love with him? Probably not, but she was desperate and lonely; she had no other option. Aren’t the idolized winners of the American Dream supposed to be happy?
Fitzgerald shows the disfunctionality of the rich purposely to show the fakeness and falseness of their lives. All the rich men and women cheat on their spouses without thinking twice. Daisy was aware the entire time that Tom was with another woman. One instance when Tom came back in the room after excusing himself to a mysterious phone call Daisy said very cynically, “Holding down the receiver” (122) inferring that he was talking to his girlfriend and lying to his lawful “Americanized” wife. Is deceiving your wife part of the American Dream? Gatsby is described by Nick as, “his life had been confused an disordered since then, but if he could once again return to a certain place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was.” Confusion and disorder is the last thing that would be in the American Dream guidelines. By Fitzgerald including this observation by Nick, Fitzgerald’s hate and need to condemn the American Dream becomes very strong and apparent to the reader.
Daisy, Jordan, and the other members of the wealthy class appear to be extremely snobbish towards every person they are encountered with; yet another attempt by Fitzgerald to show that the American Dream is not all it is made out to be. At the very end of the novel Nick concludes for the final time, “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy-they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessnous or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people cleanup the mess they had” (187-8). Fitzgerald makes sure to have Nick say this at the conclusion of the novel because he wants the reader to realize on their own that living a life of the rich and famous is not all its made out to be. That the American Dream has been stereotyped and falsified throughout the years. “For Daisy was young and her artificial world was redolent of orchids and pleasants, cheerful snobbery and orchestras which set the rhythm of the year, summing up all the sadness and suggestiveness of life in new tunes” (158).
Fitzgerald is saying that Daisy’s life is comprised of rude people and media which dictate how she is going to live her life. If the media says that all rich women should walk around with their gorgeous dresses on inside out to show the true beauty of the stitching inside of the dress, then so be it. Daisy and every other woman will follow the social law so they can continue living what they call the American Dream. Jordan ended up breaking Nick’s heart like Daisy did Gatsby’s, showing a complete disregard to their feelings or even their own feelings. They did what was politically correct. It makes them feel better to know that they are too good for someone. That the American Dream can apply to them, those who have money, but not to those without.
The immorality shown in “The Great Gatsby” breaks every rule in the American Dream handbook regarding etiquette and the treatment of others. Fitzgerald intentionally uses Nick as a way to show his feelings of the American Dream. Every time a politically incorrect statement is said, it came from Nick. After Gatsby told Nick the history of him and Daisy, Nick retold it to the reader, making sure to highlight Daisy’s moral values or lack there of.. “Through this twilight universe Daisy began to move again with the season, suddenly she was again keeping half a down dates a day with a half a dozen men and drowsing asleep at dawn with the beads and chiffon of an evening dress tangled among the orchids on the floor beside her bed”(158-9).
Daisy shows her lack of morality in two specific places: 1) She plays around with too many men, toying with all their emotions. 2) She shows no appreciation for the flowers (orchids) given to her by all her men. She just throws them on the floor and moves on to the next eligible bachelor. The ideal recipient of the American Dream would not take even the littlest things such as orchids for granted. Also, the simple fact that the rich cheat on each other all the time without caring shows a complete lack of sense and morals.
By the end of the novel the reader is saying to himself, “What American Dream is this? Is this a joke?” This is exactly what Fitzgerald wants you to think. He wants you to understand that he condemns the American Dream with a fervent and unequivocal passion. He wants immigrants from other countries who envy us to think twice before coming to America, and he wants the reader to be left pondering the meaning of this book.