The ‘Great Gatsby’ can be regarded as a social satire and an observation of The American Dream
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The Great Gatsby is observed as a social satire of the United States in the roaring twenties, where Fitzgerald exposes the American Dream as a flawed fantasy merely generated by over-indulgence. America was established in the conception of equality, where any individual could have equal opportunities and success on the substratum of their abilities and effort, which can be described as the American Dream. The former president Abraham Lincoln confirmed this surmise, as he himself was an impoverished, disadvantaged little boy who became president through his efforts.
The Great Gatsby is set in the twenties, which was a period of contradictions and inquietude. The ghastly shock of the war was just ended, and it was now time for people to forget their wretchedness and have fun. This created a society obsessed with materialism and prodigality which eliminated moral values and traditional beliefs, and became engaged in a life of pointless extravagance and indulgence. The ‘Great Gatsby’ can be regarded as a social satire and remarks on the downfall of moral values and excessive indulgence of society.
When different characters in the novel are viewed, it is obvious that not all have the same social standings in society. Nick’s father comments on this when he says ” whenever you feel like criticizing someone, just remember that all the people in this world have not had the advantaged that you’ve had (pg. 1)”. The Buchanans were, actually, born into a typically wealthy environment, which is symbolized by the sanctioned affluence of East Egg.
Gatsby and the Wilsons do not belong in the distinguished society; and when Gatsby shows off his affluence and extravagant parties, he is attempting to enter Tom and Daisy’s world but is still ostracized by the people around him and is unsuccessful in upgrading himself to the level of society in East Egg. Therefore, this observation proves that no amount of wealth or power can upraise him into the social circle of the Buchanans. As affluence and success propagated among people, there was an expanding loss of ethics as it was replaced by social rankings and materialism.
The elite group of Gatsby’s time distorted their own moral values in order to gain worldly possessions. Tom, a man from an extremely wealthy background, is an example of a character that obviously does not have an ounce of moral ethics. His character is described as a metaphor by his physical appearance as having “a hard mouth with arrogant eyes and a speaking voice with a gruff husky tenor, which added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed. (pg. 7)” The lack of moral ethics caused people to rely on their possessions and material comforts to give them immediate pleasure.
Daisy demonstrates this in her struggle to occupy herself as she says “what will we do with ourselves this afternoon, and the next thirty years”. This shows that the society in Gatsby’s time rely on material wealth and social standings for contentment and virtually do not have a purpose in life as materialism jeopardizes their goals. Through the novel, we become aware of the failure of the American Dream through the behavior and moral values portrayed by the society. Although the American dream has brought about growth and progress, discrimination and corruption still exists.
Jay Gatsby is undoubtedly the most prominent example of the failures and successes of the dream in the novel. Gatsby is dominated by a world where prosperity is valued more than morals. In his quest for love, Gatsby has allowed his obsession for material possessions to empower him, and shows that he has been already taken over by the flaws of the American Dream. Gatsby might have been close to living the dream as he elevated himself from being a helpless boy with a poor family background to a wealthy, successful man.
Daisy was his ultimate dream, and he chooses to pursue her by living in a world of high standards. He was blinded by the fact that through his wealth, the elite social group would accept him, and thus increase his chances of associating with Daisy and gaining her love. One object Gatsby created in order to win over Daisy was his car, as Nick describes it as being “monstrous in length with supper boxes and tool boxes”. Another possession Gatsby tried to use in order to pursue Daisy was his stunning house, as he says to Nick and Daisy, “my house looks well doesn’t it?
Look how the front of it catches the light? ” . Gatsby’s aspirations were identical to the ideal American Dream and his goal was to use his possessions to gain love and happiness. However, although Gatsby’s assets drew Daisy and Gatsby closer, he could never truly succeed in gaining her heart. No matter how many lavish parties he threw, Gatsby always remained a stranger, never succeeding in entering the elite social circle. Material possessions and money did not earn Gatsby respect or happiness, and he still remains an outsider in death, as he did in life.
Moreover, we see that Gatsby’s dreams gave meaning to his life; as he works very hard to pursue his ultimate goal, however, not gaining ultimate success is inevitable as unrealistic ideals cannot keep up with reality. Gatsby is also extremely nai?? ve, irrational and goes out of his way to be sentimental as he regresses and tries to turn back time when it is crystal clear that the past cannot be brought back to life. The Wilsons are a typical corollary of the corrupted American Dream.
Unlike the Buchanans who live in white palaces in the East Egg, they reside in the opposite side of town; the funereal ‘Valley of Ashes’ , a ‘grey’ environment composed of people who are rejected from the elite society. The Valley of Ashes consists of unrefined and uneducated people, who are subjected to a life long worth of fruitless labor. They portray the side who have un-succeeded to gain the American Dream. Myrtle Wilson is trapped in this desolate environment with her unimpressive husband, and tries to enter the world of luxury and indulgence through Tom.
Myrtle has been overly fascinated by the glamour of Tom’s glorious lifestyle and often impersonates herself as being part of that society. Myrtle seeks happiness and fulfillment in life by trying to imitate some of the characteristics of the affluent. Like Gatsby, Myrtle is just as rejected from the elite world of the upper class; but she still insists in pursuing her dreams of entering this world when she proclaimed the right to repeat Daisy’s name in front of Tom, which resulted in him breaking her nose with his open hand.
Therefore, we see that there is an invisible boundary that separates the two contradistinctive societies with insurmountable force. The American Dream is a well sought for thing, which leads many to go over the limits to achieve it, even in just having the opportunity of being wealthy. The Great Gatsby notifies the decayed moral values and unnecessary materialism brought about by the American Dream. However, it proves that no amount of wealth and authority can pursue acceptance.
A society that relies on wealth, social standings and material possessions head nowhere in life, as Tom and Daisy prove in he novel. The ideal of the American Dream still consists in today’s society, whether it being in the form of possessions, wealth or love. Yet one thing still holds true about American Dream; every individual desires something glorious in life, and each person attempts to gain it, whether being successful in attaining it or not.