The Great Gatsby
Life After September 11
The United States consists of many different races and many different types of people, but our country has the capacity to hold a lot more. Immigration is on the minds of almost all citizens at a time where letting one person in could be the downfall of our country. Bret Stephens, an opinion columnist from the New York Times wrote an article called Our Real Immigration Problem. He talks about the importance of having completely open borders, and the prolonged benefits of it for our country.
America is a country of opportunity and no matter what race, anyone can be beneficial. Immigrants are striving for the American Dream, and everyone that comes to this country can be a part of something while being beneficial to our country. Although I am an opponent to open borders for everyone, it is necessary to understand that not everyone shares the same opinion as I do. Opponents to strict immigration, such as Bret Stephens, believe that opening our borders will be extremely beneficial to the country if all terrorists and criminals stay out (Stephens).
At a time where immigration is a main focal point in our society, congress is split on what do with an immigration bill. Both Republicans and Democrats are split in congress on whether to have more open borders or keep them closed. The Trump administration had been forcibly separating migrant Latin American children from their parents causing a moral outrage within the community (Stephens). The Republicans are endlessly trying to pass a comprehensive immigration bill, so they can solve the immigration crisis (Stephens). The country needs real immigration reform, so it can solve many problems that immigrants face when trying to get citizenship. This comes at an act of decency toward so called dreamers brought to this country as children by their undocumented parents (Stephens). The real problem that is emphasized in the article is that, our country needs more immigrants. The percentage of our population that consists of legal immigrants is extremely low, making it very wise and beneficial to allow a lot more immigrants in. Those immigrants have dreams just like all Americans, causing for many of them to be very successful and have steady jobs throughout their time here. They can support and make our country better off than it ever has been.
Fewer and fewer children are being born every day due to the values that our society has about one another (Stephens). The article brings up multiple different facts about immigration and the effect it has on our country. One of them stating that The U.S. fertility rate has fallen to a record low. In May, The Times reported that women had nearly 500,000 fewer babies than in 2007, despite the fact that there were an estimated 7 percent more women in their prime childbearing years. (Stephens). Having a decline in child births means fewer and fewer Americans who can hold jobs and support the country. The change in child birth over the years will end up causing issues in the workforce, making it necessary to have immigrants come in and fill many of those positions. Many immigrants make just as good of citizens because of their drive for success. Not only are fewer Americans being born, but Americans in general are getting older.
As our country progresses, and our health services get better every single day, it becomes very easy to live over the age of sixty-five. Once someone becomes over that age, they don’t contribute to society as much because of retirement causing a need for others to fill in. Immigrants are some of the best employees who work just as hard (Stephens). Americans are getting older, there were more than forty million Americans over the age of sixty-five in 2010 and that number is continuously rising (Stephens). By 2050 the number will be closer to 90 million, or an estimated 22.1 percent of the population (Stephens). This will be a rising concern in the near future and one way to combat that is by letting immigrants in who believe in the same values that we value on a daily basis. Mostly everyone that is let inside of our borders has the American dream inspired into them which translates over into our labor industries.
Our country is falling short in participation for many different industries, as well as having much of small town/rural community emptying out. There is immense amount of job opportunities available from farming to high skilled jobs which are able to fill the needs of many immigrants that want to come here. The Federal Reserve has stated multiple labor shortages in many different industries, one of them being the farm industry, where nearly 20% of its participants were lost from 2002 – 2014 (Stephens). This accounts for a three-billion-dollar loss in revenue a year, which could be solved by allowing immigrants of all types to take that role (Stephens). Much of rural America is emptying out, which is seen in many rural counties where more people are dying rather than being born (Stephens). This is a major reason why the farming industry is losing ample amounts of participants each year. The drive and determination embodied in a lot of immigrants can solve the problem of our small towns emptying out. The American Values of drive and determination are evident in the lives of outsiders and they would make an incredible fit to much of America that is frowned upon, rural America. There is a major shortage of people in rural America, and our population of immigrants is low compared to other countries.
Other countries around the world don’t have the major conflictions that we do about immigration. Because of our intense immigration laws, it is hard to have a high population of immigrants and that is evident. The immigrant share (including the undocumented) of the U.S. population is not especially large: About 13.5 percent, high by recent history but below its late 19th century peak of 14.8 percent. In Israel, the share is 22.6 percent; in Australia, 27.7 percent (Stephens). Compared to other countries, most of our population consists of true Americans born here. Millions of people have a very tough time making it here from other countries, even though they have the same values and same intentions as every single American.
Of all the people inside our country, the citizens that convey the values of true freedom and democracy are the immigrants who weren’t born here to begin with. Those immigrants legal or otherwise are more entrepreneurial, more church-going, less likely to have kids out of wedlock, and far less likely to commit a crime (Stephens). These are some characteristics that millions of immigrants convey on a daily basis. They care about waking up every day with more than they had before. They have the drive and determination to be successful in any type of job or position and that is evident by each person going through the process of citizenship. It is easy to be born here and take everything for granted, but it is very hard for someone to lack those skills when they grew up somewhere else striving to do so much more. America is a country of opportunity and there are millions of more people that look to come here and achieve that opportunity whether it means working in a grocery store or working with a high-ranking firm in a major city.
As Bret Stephens goes through the article focusing on the importance of Immigration and how beneficial it is to our country, it is safe to say that he is targeting skeptical conservatives. In his underlying beliefs of immigrants achieving the American dream and that all immigrants can be beneficial, he is trying to prove to skeptical conservatives to switch their values on this sensitive topic. He wants these people to understand the values of immigrants and what they can be to this country, so they can show a greater appreciation for liberal values. Bret Stephens has the ability to convince millions of people about the opportunities available for aspiring citizens.
We are living in a country with immense amounts of opportunity and there is plenty of room for a lot more people. Whether it be based on American birth rates, the number of older citizens already, labor shortages, or the lowering number of citizens in small towns, it is necessary to have immigrants who can fulfill the duties of many Americans in a more effective way. Even though I don’t believe in having open borders for all, it is completely in my best interests and everyone’s to understand the importance millions of immigrants can have on our country because of their beliefs and actions. The article written by Bret Stephens shows the underlying characteristics that most immigrants possess. These people are firm believers in our democracy and freedom that we convey daily, as well as the determination and dedication. They are exemplary examples of what a true American should be and there is plenty of room in our country for them. The immigration laws set in place are outrageous to all the law-abiding people aspiring to be citizens and it is necessary to take them away because of the strong American belief’s immigrants have engrained inside of them. If the select few terrorists and criminals were abolished from this world, open borders would be the most important aspect to our success as a country (Stephens). They could make a change for the better and fulfil most of America’s values better than many natural born citizens. Each immigrant is capable of achieving the American dream and they are all extremely useful to the United States.
Stephens, Bret. Our Real Immigration Problem. The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 June 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/06/21/opinion/trump-immigration-reform.html?register=email&auth=register-email.
The Great MIgration and the American Dream
The Great Migration was a push factor towards the American Dream for African Americans to move North to get away from racial segregation and discrimination, poor economic conditions, and job opportunities that opened up which led to the improvement of their lifestyle.
During the time period of 1910 to 1930, the Great Migration had occurred. According to Ryan O’Hare, Over six million African Americans had left the South to escape the poor economic opportunities and social segregation and moved to the cities of the North, Midwest, and West. They were trying to escape racism and Jim Crow laws that were placed in the South. The causes leading to the migration were decreasing of cotton prices, the lack of immigrant workers in the North, increased manufacturing as a result of the war, and the strengthening of the KKK. The migration led to higher wages, more educational opportunities, and better standards of life for some African Americans.
While in the South, many African Americans were facing racial segregation and discrimination. In, 1914 every Southern state had passed laws that created two separate societies: one black, the other white. The combination of constant humiliation and segregated education for their children made thousands of African Americans leave the South. They could not ride together in the same railroad cars, sit in the same restaurants, or sit in the same theaters as whites. African Americans were denied access to parks, beaches, picnic areas, and from many hospitals. There was segregation in hotels, stores, entertainment, and libraries. All this fueled an atmosphere of racism and a rise in lynching, rioting, and the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK continued to create violence during this period. They were murdering African Americans to prevent them from voting and participating in public life. They were lynching for any violation that was committed and had burned them alive, shot them, or beat them to death. Although this didn’t stop African Americans to achieve their dream.
African Americans thought of the North as a place where dreams could be met. They soon started moving to the North to search for the American Dream they knew about. To get to the North, most African Americans traveled by train, boat, and bus. Some African Americans had automobiles that they used and a small number had horse-drawn carriages that were used for migrating. According to Alan Desentis, Economic conditions had also motivated African Americans to the leave the South. Other factors that led them to move were unfavorable terms of trade, unequal distribution of property and income, and the pressure of rural property. Economic conditions such as the exacerbation by the limitations of sharecropping, farm failures, and crop damage from the boll weevil made it difficult for African Americans to live a better lifestyle in the South. In the North, World War 1 created a huge demand for workers in factories, many African Americans took this opportunity to get away from the economic conditions that led them suffering in the South. The need for more workers was urgent as white workers were being sent off to serve in the armed forces. Racial prejudice had kept companies from hiring African Americans, but the profit they stood to make during the wartime economy overrode any hiring prejudice.
Though companies were desperate for workers, many industries central to the flourished war economy like steel mills and railroads actively recruited African Americans. Industrial jobs that had not been previously available to African Americans now became available in greater quantity and variety. The Promise Land was envisioned as a place for anyone willing to work hard, offering opportunities mainly to educate men and women. Despite tensions between new and old settler, relation to differences in age, region of origin, and class, the Great Migration established the foundation for black political power, business enterprise, and union activism.
The American Dream was evident in the Great Migration, for it had shaped the future pathway for African Americans. They overcame obstacles such racial segregation and discrimination, poor economic conditions, and the findings of new jobs. Even though most African American parents didn’t have many opportunities during this time period, their children would have the opportunity to reshape professions such as sports and music to literature and art by proving that anyone can achieve the American Dream no matter their ethnicity or gender.
The Fire Next Time: James Baldwin, The White Problem in America
History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations.
James Baldwin, The White Problem in America (1966)
James Baldwin’s quote extends into many different aspects of our lives, beyond the literary works Salvage the Bones and Baldwin’s own The Fire Next time. It describes the powerful and at times uncontrollable nature of history. We cannot always be in control of what the world throws at us. Like a torrent of water, we are often swept away by the current.
Within the book Salvage the Bones we see many characters each one filled with reference an allegory. Yet I feel that the Water is one of the most important characters. As within James Baldwin’s quote the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, water has always been linked to the history of African Americans. Since their first ancestors were sailed across the ocean to the new world. Rivers like the Mississippi River within literature always shown as one of the greatest barriers to those trying to escape slavery and flee north. Water has been a enemy to African Americans as well as a symbol for the word sweeping them along its current.The water is the embodiment of chaos, and its effects can be seen throughout the novel and touching all of the characters within it. Water is a powerful and all encompassing force. All things can be worn down or swept away by its presence.
In the beginning we learn that Junior fears water, going so far as to avoid taking a bath. Water is seen as a strange and dangerous substance by the children. The looming threat of Katrina brings the threat of more water soon to come. Later on within the novel we see Esch attempt to engage in sex with Manny while they were swimming in the red lake behind their house. Manny rejects her and explains that their relationship is only sexual. It is this moment that Esch comes to the full realization that Manny holds no romantic feelings for her. Randall warns Skeetah about the water moccasins that lurked beneath the waters surface. The waters red coloration obscuring the dangers beneath the waters surface, its crimson color like blood. Esch also sees the water in her pregnant belly liken to the waters sailed by Jason and Medea, who met tragic fates. When the hurricane finally hits, it is not the wind that presents the greatest danger, but the water. Throughout the novel, the father ‘Daddy’ is obsessed with boarding up the home. Protecting his family from wind and flying debris. This is a allegory for preparing for the chaos of the world yet in the end we can do nothing to stop it.
I find that this importance of water is mirrored within the history of the United States and African Americans. The implication is that water has swept African Americans along throughout history. The Africans that were placed upon boats and sailed away to the new world were helpless to stop it. The great ocean separating them from their mother continent impossible to cross. Their suffering could not be controlled no matter what means they tried to employ to mitigate the chaos that swirled around them. The water claims the life of China and the puppies. Even faced with the rising waters Daddy when he learns of his pregnant 15 year old daughter cannot help but try to push her off into the water itself. This act while physically violent also symbolizes him pushing her from the safety of their family into the swirling currents of life. It is also this threat of chaos that brings the entire family together. After escaping the flood, all are brought closer together because they had survived the ordeal. I find many parallels to modern and past African American history. Despite the ever present danger of being swept away, the African American family is all encompassingly important to survive. As was seen in the Antebellum south, extended family units allowed slaves to cope with a ever changing and uncontrollable landscape.
Within James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time we see a similar theme as in Salvage the Bones. James Baldwin attacks the American Dream, referring to it as the American Nightmare. The American dream is a harmful construct, designed to placate the masses. The promise that anyone can rise up despite their circumstances. The American Dream is considered an integral part of the culture of the United States. The Declaration that all men are created equal with the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Baldwin contends that the American dream is only that, a dream. A dream that can be just as harmful as the water within Salvage the Bones, sweeping away reason and leaving one a slave to an impossible ideal. All Americans, regardless of race are living unhappy lives, deluded by the belief of American superiority. He believes that African Americans have a distinct advantage to whites as they understand the true nature of America, having experienced its darkest side. Baldwin is optimistic that despite the difficulties, it is possible for America to uphold the principles set down within the Declaration of Independence. In order to do this both blacks and whites need to acknowledge and love each other to move forwards.
Within these two literary works we see a force that is set to sweep away the characters within it. In Salvage the Bones, it is the water, in The Fire Next time, Baldwin characterizes the American Dream. Histories weight upon our shoulders is marked by moments that we cannot control. Yet both Baldwin and Ward have a central theme of community and working together to survive the struggles of history. It is community and coming together in the face of adversity that is the most important thing. Baldwin states these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. It is working together against the torrential flow of history that will allow freedom and justice to reign within America.
The True Identity Of Gatsby
The Great Gatsby is not the type of 1920s novel that encompasses the American Dream and the glitz and glam that came along with it. Yes, there are multiple examples of fancy cars and extravagant parties which fit the 20s aspect of the book, but this is not a traditional the 1920s were so amazing! novel. It shows the true good, bad, and ugly that usually are absent from other books written at the time.
F. Scott Fitzgerald took a different approach to this era when he wrote his famous novel The Great Gatsby when he decided that the main character, Jay Gatsby, would be a rich man that made his way out of poverty by bootlegging. The main theme that emerges throughout the plot of the story which revolves around Gatsby is that it is impossible to ever wipe out the identity that you were born with, no matter how hard you try to erase it.
The main character of the book that the story follows is Jay Gatsby. He is a mysterious rich man who throws colossal, extravagant parties each weekend, but never shows his face at any of them. The book’s narrator, Nick, lives next to Gatsby’s mansion and watches the parties from his window each weekend. When he finally decides to attend one of Gatsby’s parties with Daisy’s friend Jordan, he does not understand why Gatsby is throwing such lavish parties that upper class New Yorkers travel to attend each weekend, when he is nowhere to be seen. Gatsby eventually introduces himself and him and Nick eventually become friends. Nick had heard many rumors that were constantly floating around New York about how Gatsby got his money, so he was very curious. Nick ended up learning that Gatsby came from a poor family and was born with the name Jay Gatz, but with the help of Dan Cody learned how to act rich. Even though Gatsby was great at pretending to be born rich and faking that he was used to living the lavish and money-filled lifestyle that he has adopted, Fitzgerald makes it clear to the reader that Gatsby is putting up this front and truly is just James Gatz at the core and that identity won’t ever leave him.
While Jordan and Nick wandered around Gatsby’s house, they came across a gigantic room filled floor to ceiling with books. They are quick to notice another man who is described as a stout, middle aged man, with enormous owl-eyed spectacles is along one of the walls of Gatsby’s library examining Gatsby’s books. He notices that Gatsby’s didn’t cut the pages of his books. Back when this book was written, you had to physically cut open a book in order to be able to crack open the book and begin flipping through the pages and in the end get to actually reading it. The rumors that went around were that Gatsby was well read and a very intelligent man, however this was just a front put up by him to seem like he belonged in the upper class. By seeing that the books were uncut, we as the readers find out that he is faking the whole I’ve always been rich act, but won’t be able to keep it up forever because his true identity as a man who is not as well read as he is made out to be and most likely not as smart as he wants others to believe is revealed. The books in Gatsby’s library essentially reveal to the readers that Gatsby is a fraud.
Although Gatsby has done a decent job at keeping up his identity and persona that he has created, his uncut books prove that he is unable to ever keep up with trying to keep up going along with the fasade he has tried so hard to put up. Additionally, to further back up this theme that is prevalent throughout the book, Gatsby’s true identity is revealed when Tom finally tells his wife Daisy who was previously in love with Jay Gatsby (note: not James Gatz) that all of Gatsby’s money was produced by bootlegging. In this particular scene, another aspect of Gatsby’s true identity of coming up from a poor family is revealed because nobody who is born rich, or people that have old money which Gatsby pretends to have inherited, is a bootlegger. At the end of the day, as the book progresses Gatsby is unable to keep more and more of his identity hidden until every single aspect of his upbringing and true identity are revealed. By writing this book, Fitzgerald ends up producing the theme that people cannot hide their true identities, regardless of how hard they try to cover their tracks and put up a fasade.
Colors In The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1925, is often considered one of the greatest American novels of all time. The storyline, and the intricate weaving of the writer’s own thoughts and ideas into the book are quintessential to the development of the story. Often overlooked, however, is Fitzgerald’s usage of simple themes to convey larger ideas. In a prime example of such, Fitzgerald uses colors to convey personality, thoughts and feelings, and background. The usage of colors including green, white, yellow, and blue can portray what a person is really like under their facade.
Green is used throughout the book, and is a metaphor for multiple things. In real life, the spring is short, green, full of life, and is considered one of the best times of the year by many. In the actual story, however, the recurrence of the color green does not represent this rebirth. Instead, Jay Gatsby spends his nights looking across the Long Island Sound at a faint green light on the other side. The light is at the end of Daisy Buchanan’s dock, an ex lover of Gatsby’s, and he sees the light, as well as Daisy, as something he can never reach. A notable addition to this can be drawn from the fact that Gatsby also seems green with envy at Tom Buchanan, Daisy’s husband. Green is the color of money, and it can be drawn from this that green can be used to allude to the things which Gatsby values most in his life. Gatsby tries his whole life to reach what he believe will make him happy, which are represented by the green in the story, mainly Daisy and the green light, green money, and the green grass on the grounds of his house.
Another prominent color used throughout the book is white. White occurs when Fitzgerald is trying to convey a air of purity and beauty. The color is closely associated with women, specifically Daisy, as a daisy is a white flower is often used to portray innocence and fertility. The first time Daisy and Jordan are described in the story, they are both wearing white, which is meant to convey their innocence. At Gatsby’s party, Fitzgerald describes one of the movie stars as a scarcely human orchid of a woman who sat in state under a white plum tree, (Fitzgerald 104).
This furthers the usage of white to describe beauty and purity, also with the description of the woman as an orchid, a fragile white flower. Despite the beauty of the color white as described in the story, the people described as white are actually very ugly on the inside. This is evidenced as Daisy’s toxic and manipulative personality. It shows how Fitzgerald is trying to tell the reader about the dangers and the reality of many people in the upper class.
Jay Gatsby’s Representation of America
It was literary critic Lionel Trilling who quite aptly described the collective entity Jay Gatsby when he wrote, “Jay Gatsby [stands] for America itself.” Jay Gatsby lives his life entrenched in unfathomable wealth. His true roots are rather mysterious, but they revolve around an anti-Calvinistic attitude and what is Jay Gatsby essentially reinventing himself. Through Gatsby’s modest upbringing, domineering drive, and his tragic demise, Gatsby truly is representative of America as a whole.From its very beginnings, America consisted of rather modest individuals who all led simple lives with accordingly simple goals (Bewley 13). Jay Gatsby, or James Gatz, began his life like the classic American ideal, through the idea of rebirth. Originally born to modest farmers, Gatsby receives his first taste of affluence from a man named Dan Cody (Mizener 182). As Fitzgerald himself puts it, “To young Gatz, resting on his oars and looking up at the railed deck, the yacht represented all the beauty and glamour in the world…Cody asked him a few questions (one of them elicited the brand new name). (Fitzgerald 106)” It is Gatsby’s total reformation that aptly reflects America’s reputation as the land of opportunity. Beyond his desire and ability to become reborn, Dan Cody also facilitates the growth of Gatsby’s eternal drive for wealth and glory. Critic Marius Bewley asserts, “[Gatsby] sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God—a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that—and he must be about his father’s business, the service of a vast, vulgar, meretricious beauty” (Bewley 15). Gatsby’s life is dedicated to his pursuits of a lavish lifestyle that borders on, if not enters into, the arena of gaudiness. It is these immensely capitalistic goals that also parallel the pervading mindset of past, present, and future America. Through an effective blend of a personality naturally inclined towards success and the influence of others, Gatsby manages to reinvent his own image in the eyes of those around him, just as America has done in the eyes of the world time and time again.Literary critic Marius Bewley stated, “The American Dream, stretched between a golden past and a golden future, is always betrayed by a desolate present” (Bewley 17). It is this “desolate present” that plagues Gatsby’s life. Primarily, his modest upbringing shields him from the dishonesty present in those surrounding him (Mizener 190) and allows him to be blindly in love with Daisy (Bewley 20). Despite the seeming hopelessness of Gatsby’s desire, this very inability to abandon one’s goals also serves to represent America. Time and time again, America has been made glorious and has reached historic precedents through individuals who refused to abandon their goals. At one point in the novel, Nick states of Gatsby, “There was something gorgeous about him,” but not only was this a catchphrase of the 1920’s, it shows Nick’s envy of Gatsby’s riches and illustrates the American need for superiority and to be looked up to by the rest of the world (Bewley 26). Paradoxically, while striving for indescribable grandeur, Gatsby also inadvertently works towards humility. Most notably, in the scene where Gatsby shows off his imported shirts to Daisy and Nick, Gatsby’s actions are the engenderment of what Marius Bewley refers to as an unconscious “inner vision” Gatsby is unable to formally recognize (Bewley 22). Finally, Marius Bewley asserts that, “Gatsby to us is less an individual than a projection, or mirror, of our ideal selves,” this notion, that Gatsby is the embodiment of all that mainstream America strives for (24) absolutely reaffirms the fact that Gatsby represents America.During an interview, F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.” It is this quotation that embodies all that is Gatsby’s fall and its parallel’s to America. While lying in the pool, moments before his death, Nick aptly describes to the reader the desolate feeling surrounding the fall of the noble: “I have an idea that Gatsby himself didn’t believe [the phone call] would come and perhaps he no longer cared. If that was true he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream” (Fitzgerald 169). Just as with any hero, from John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. to America itself, all figures of great power and nobility eventually find their decline and consequent fall from grace. Gatsby felt alone and Gatsby felt alienated, all feelings of sorrow and failure that are not at all uncommon to the lives of many Americans. After the murder goes unnoticed by Gatsby’s hired help, it seems life continues on a normal course for quite some time before the true gravity of Gatsby’s death sinks in (Hindus 243). This mindset that doesn’t accept change or sorrow is quite similar to the emotionless manner with which many Americans view their lives and the lives of people around them.”[Future dreams] eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms farther” (Fitzgerald 189). The idea aptly portrayed in these final lines of The Great Gatsby is the simple notion that people will forever seek certain goals, American goals. Goals such as power, freedom, love, and wealth; and it is the total amalgamation of these goals that truly represents and describes the vibrant spirit and being of Jay Gatsby.Works CitedBewley, Marius. “Scott Fitzgerald’s Criticism of America.” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York/Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1986. 11-27.Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1925.Hindus, Milton. “F. Scott Fitzgerald and Literary Anti-Semitism.” Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Dedria Bryfonski, and Phyllis C. Mendelson. Detroit: Gate Research Company, 1978. 243-244.Mizener, Arthur. “The Great Gatsby.” The American Novel. Ed. Wallace Stegner. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1965. 180-191.Morris, Lloyd. “Postscript to Yesterday: America: The Last Fifty Years.” Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Dedria Bryfonski, and Phyllis C. Mendelson. Detroit: Gate Research Company, 1978. 244-245.
The Fall of the American Dream
The figurative as well as literal death of Jay Gatsby in the novel The Great Gatsby symbolizes a conclusion to the principal theme of the novel. With the end of the life of Jay Gatsby comes the end of what Fitzgerald views as the ultimate American ideal: self-made success. The intense devotion Gatsby has towards his rebirth is evident by the plans set forth in Gatsby’s teenage schedule, such as “Practice elocution, poise and how to attain it.” Gatsby’s death ironically comes about just as he sorrowfully floats in his pool, witnessing the “youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves” (157) come crashing down. The rhetorical devices employed in the above passage illustrate the demise of the American Dream, the central theme of The Great Gatsby.”Gatsby shouldered the mattress and started for the pool. Once he stopped and shifted it a little, and the chauffeur asked him if he needed help, but he shook his head and in a moment disappeared among the yellowing trees,” (169). Two details in this rather terse paragraph come to the reader’s attention: first, Gatsby’s decline for assistance in carrying the mattress to the pool; and second, the “yellowing trees.” Gatsby’s refusal to accept help with the mattress is just another example of Gatsby’s life, spent working for his own benefit, without receiving help from anyone. Gatsby even had the opportunity to receive $25,000 in inheritance from Dan Cody, but as Fitzgerald puts it, “He never understood the legal device that was used against him, but…He didn’t get it.” The yellowing trees tell the reader that autumn is fast approaching; and most people would agree that swimming in New York in autumn is most likely not the best idea. However, Gatsby’s choice to swim is an exemplification of Gatsby’s refusal to accept the way of life which is dictated to him. Had Gatsby kept along the path of life that was seemingly set for him, he would not have become half of the man he currently was. Ironically, Gatsby’s determination to live outside of the realms of conventional judgment is what also leads to his demise.The next few sentences in the passage are sentences that are written with particularly descriptive similes all calling attention to one conclusion, Gatsby’s unattainable dream of a relationship with Daisy had come to an end. “[Gatsby] must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream,” (169). As Gatsby lay in the pool, he felt forlorn. He was coming to the realization that Daisy had become the one goal he was unable to reach. Gatsby was alone and cold, both figuratively and literally. Gatsby used to envelop himself in the warmth of his wealth, grandeur, and dreams of Daisy; however, as the depressing notion that he could never rekindle what he and Daisy used to have began to sink in, he felt stripped and enervated. “He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass,” (169). With his skewed view of life removed, Gatsby was viewing the world through new eyes. Rather than see the world he had grown accustomed to, Gatsby began to see life and the area around him through a much more realistic and pessimistic stance. Gatsby’s dismal glance fell upon “an unfamiliar sky,” “frightening leaves,” a grotesque rose, raw sunlight, and barren grass. “A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about,” (169). Gatsby viewed this new world as being full of people who are “poor ghosts,” “breathing dreams like air.” The simile between dreams and air proposes a very interesting concept, the idea that dreams are essential to life. Just as people need air to live, dreams are necessary as well; and since Gatsby ceased to have his dream of being with Daisy, he ceased to have a way to live. Fitzgerald’s choice of the word “fortuitously” fixates a notion of Gatsby’s personal character. Always needing to be superior, Gatsby found himself unable to admit defeat in any field, especially that of romance; the idea that these “poor ghosts” drift around by chance signifies that in Gatsby’s final defeat, he did not lose because Tom is superior in any way, but rather because Daisy and Tom’s romance happened by chance.Throughout the course of the passage, Fitzgerald foreshadows Gatsby’s death. Phrases such as “waited for [the phone message] until four o’clock–until long after there was any one to give it to if it came,” “paid a high price for living too long with a single dream,” and “that ashen, fantastic figure gliding toward him through the amorphous trees,” all point to Gatsby’s impending murder. Even the simile regarding dreams being like air, essential to life, hints that Gatsby’s life will soon to come to an end given that he has nothing left to dream for.The last striking bit of irony occurs in the final paragraph of the passage, “The chauffeur–he was one of Wolfshiem’s proteges–heard the shots–afterward he could only say that he hadn’t thought anything much about them.” This sentence says that Gatsby’s butler, the one who could have possibly saved Gatsby’s life, and caught Wilson, heard the gun shots, but didn’t notice them. The irony is this: when Gatsby still saw hope between himself and Daisy, he replaced his original butler staff with assistants from Meyer Wolfshiem, a man who works for the mob. He hired these men so that they would protect Daisy from hearing possible rumors regarding Gatsby’s past. In effect, he hired men to shield Daisy from rumors; however, these men were from the mob and thus accustomed to hearing gunshots, so the very men he hired for his benefit also lead him to a great deal of harm. Gatsby’s success facilitated his ability to hire these mobsters, however, just as with his infatuation with Daisy, Gatsby’s success led to his downfall.The idea that the American Dream is to be successful by one’s own devices is the prominent theme of The Great Gatsby, however, through the use of rhetorical devices, the demise of said American Dream is just as vividly illustrated. If Fitzgerald’s tale is any insight into the fate of those who dare to rise above the life that was dealt to them, these efforts serve futile. As Fitzgerald says at the conclusion of the novel, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Living too long with one dream leads to inevitable destruction, and without anything to dream for, there is no way to truly live.
The Death of a Dream
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is regarded as a brilliant piece of literature that offers a vivid peek into American life in the 1920’s. The central characteristics of the “Lost Generation” of the 1920’s society are shown through the decay of the American Dream. This novel shows that the American Dream no longer signifies the noble idea it once did, but rather it stands for the corruption of the 1920’s society. The decay of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby is shown through the actions of the characters when America, the new Eden, is abused and destructed, when Gatsby cannot attain the success that he desires with Daisy and through the careless and dependent attitudes of the aristocracy.One of the main ideas of the American Dream in Modernism refers to America as a new Eden, a land of beauty, bounty, opportunity and unlimited resources. The characters in The Great Gatsby do not respect or preserve this New Eden; rather they do nothing but corrupt, destruct and abuse it in their desire for money and power. The lives of people like Gatsby, Daisy, Tom and Jordan revolve around material things and money. This becomes a prevalent concept throughout the novel. Daisy especially is extremely caught up in the desire for wealth, so much that her voice is described as being, “full of money” (127), by Gatsby. The society of the 1920’s, like Daisy, is characterized by an endless pursuit of pleasure and a decay of moral values. Throughout the summer months, Gatsby is known for all the extravagant parties he throws. People come from all over New York City to Gatsby’s party, although none of them seem to know Gatsby other than from the rumors they hear. This makes no difference to them because they are only interested in pursuing their own pleasure, which they find at drunken parties such as Gatsby’s. This pursuit seems to be a top priority for most of the characters in this book, with no respect for the opportunity or beauty of America. As one of the guests at Gatsby’s party says, “I like to come, I never care what I do, so I always have a good time” (45). Aside from being a careless group of people, many of the guests at Gatsby’s parties are destructive and abuse the new Eden for their pleasure. As Nick states, “Mondays eight servants including an extra gardener toil all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers and garden shears, repairing the ravages of the night before” (43). These people give no thought to their actions no matter how destructive, as long as they reach their goals of money and pleasure.A spirit of perseverance can characterize the American Dream along with hope, through which one can expect continued success, progress and the fulfilling of desires. While this may have been true for some people, it certainly is not for Gatsby. His ultimate goal in all that he did was to get Daisy. The ostentatious parties, the huge mansion, the lavish clothing are all attempts to win the attention of the cruel and shallow Daisy, who cares only for pleasure and money. Little did Gatsby know that what he desired was something unattainable. He builds Daisy up into something that she is not. She becomes the object of his dreams and desires more than the actual person that Gatsby knows. When Gatsby and Daisy meet for the first time in five years, Nick comments that, “There must be moments…when Daisy tumbles short of his dreams – not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion” (101). This fantasy that he creates could never be attained with the results he desires. “He wants nothing less of Daisy than that she should go to Tom and say: ‘I never loved you'” (116). He desires so much of Daisy that in the end he found that what he dreams cannot be fulfilled. In a way Gatsby is neglecting reality while he chases an illusion. The more Gatsby reaches for his dream, the more it retreats into the shadowy past, taking him further and further from what is real. At the end of the book, after the death and funeral of Gatsby, Nick states, “He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must seem so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it” (189). Gatsby travels far in his life, and always seems to have hope in the future, although that hope came to an end along with his relationship with Daisy and his life.The idea that the self-reliant, independent person can triumph and get anywhere as long as they trust in their own powers is contradicted in the novel The Great Gatsby. The main characters of this book seem to be the complete opposites of those having self-reliant and independence. They are extremely self-conscious and social people who rely on others to maintain their careless existence. At one of the parties, Jordan Baker tells Nick, “I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy” (54). This statement is completely ironic in its meaning since large parties are in no way intimate. The society of the 1920’s desires to float around from group to group at parties, never being intimate in any way, but rather just being social with as many people as possible. At the same party, Nick notices that, “the air is alive with chatter and laughter and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot and enthusiastic meetings between women who never know each other’s names” (44). The entire society appears to be utterly careless with their entire existence, not just at social events. This carelessness is one of the biggest traits of the Upper Class, which comes to be known as the “Lost Generation.” They are unable to be independent, in such a way that when things do not go their way they rely on others to fix them. Nick comes to realize this about Tom and Daisy at the end of the book, “They [are] careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smash up things and creatures and then retreat back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that keeps them together, and let other people clean up the mess they make” (188). This inability to rely on themselves instead of others and their money eventually leads to Nick reaching a new maturity and realizing that these people are no more than children.
Restless in West Egg
To many Americans, wealth and happiness are inextricably intertwined. After all, the democratic ideals of our country are predicated on the notion of the âself-madeâ? man. Ironically, it is sometimes the striving for wealth or the striving for happiness through wealth that leads to our downfall. In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald presents us with a vivid picture of three different strata of society and their common thirst for wealth. We meet Daisy and Tom Buchanan of the âold moneyâ? community of East Egg; they seem to have everything, yet they lead double lives and destroy others in their quest for excitement and self-fulfillment. On the other side of Manhasset Bay in West Egg resides Jay Gatsby, a newly wealthy man who throws lavish parties and seems to encompass the âself-madeâ? man ideal. However, Gatsby also longs for happiness, in the form of Daisy Buchanan. Situated in the middle of the vast wealth of East and West Egg is the Valley of Ashes, home to the utterly poor Wilsons. Although the Valley of Ashes is essentially a despair-inducing locale, the Wilsons, envious of the wealth of their surroundings, go to great lengths to try to attain the âideal lifeâ? that they incorrectly believe East and West Eggers lead. It is thus from these discrete yet connected societies the springs Fitzgeraldâs warning of the superficiality and longing for happiness in the form of wealth that pervades communities of extreme wealth or poverty.Our introduction to the Buchanans begins in their enormous house, a ânice placeâ? (12) that Tom ostentatiously displays to Nick Carraway. Tom and Daisy seem to have everything: secured wealth, a beautiful little girl, and a position in high society. Their immense wealth causes them to believe that they are indestructible and omnipotent; furthermore, they believe that wealth gives them a license to manipulate others. Tom clearly takes Nickâs friendship for granted, for he drags him to the city and expects that Nick will approve of his behavior. With regard to Tomâs insistence that Nick follow him to New York to see Myrtle, Nick remarks, âThe supercilious assumption was that on Sunday afternoon I had nothing better to doâ? (28). Ultimately, when Tom and Daisy leave East Egg in the wake of Myrtleâs murder, Tom decides that he no longer needs Nick as a friend and he moves away without notifying him.The superficiality of Tom and Daisyâs marriage is manifested in a longing for something that is ârealâ? or âtrue.â? Tomâs dissatisfaction and restlessness lead him to pursue an affair with Myrtle Wilson, the poor wife of a gas station owner. In Myrtle, Tom hopes to find adventure or something to ease his boredom. When Myrtle fails to live up to Tomâs expectations, he believes that, because she is more of his property than a human, he has the right to discipline her accordingly. After Myrtle refuses to stop saying Daisyâs name despite Tomâs request that she not, Tom, âmaking a short deft movement [â¦] broke her nose with his open handâ? (41). Myrtle bestows on Tom, her âsweetieâ? (39) much affection and admiration. He, however, shows his arrogance and lack of caring for her when, after Daisy accidentally kills Myrtle, he and Daisy quickly leave East Egg, seemingly without a care for poor Myrtle or Wilson.Across the Bay, in West Egg, Gatsby also leads a superficial life saturated with longing. However, unlike Tom and Daisy, Gatsby knows exactly what will make him happy: Daisyâs love. Gatsby believes that ostentatious displays of wealth and lavish parties will bring Daisy to him. When Daisy visits, he insists on giving her and Nick a tour of his extravagant house: âWe went upstairs, through period bedrooms swathed in rose and lavender silk and vivid with new flowers, through dressing rooms and poolrooms, and bathrooms with sunken bathsâ¦â? (96). All that Gatsby wants is to ârepeat the past,â? (116) a time when he had Daisy. Ironically though, Gatsby won Daisyâs love when he was a poor soldier. Gatsbyâs sustained efforts to win Daisyâs love and his happiness through money ultimately result in his downfall. It is by association with Daisy and Tom that Gatsby becomes embroiled in the killing of Myrtle Wilson, and that Gatsby is killed by Wilson.Between the lavishness of West Egg and East Egg lies a desolate area inhabited by two appropriately depressed people, Myrtle Wilson and her husband Wilson. The Valley of Ashes is preyed upon by its surrounding wealthier communities. The East and West Eggers use the train station in the Valley of Ashes to get Manhattan, but they try to spend as little time as possible in this âterrible placeâ? (30). Furthermore, those living in the Valley of Ashes are corrupted by the envy the have for the surrounding communities. Myrtle Wilson has such a strong desire for wealth and what she believes will be ensuing happiness, that she is instantly willing to destroy her relationship with Wilson when she meets Tom on a train. Myrtle is clearly most attracted to Tomâs wealth: âHe had on a dress suit and patent leather shoes and I couldnât keep my eyes off himâ¦â? (40) When Myrtle spends time with Tom, she too begins to act like a money-driven, obnoxious East Egger. She tells Nick and her sister that she married Wilson because she âthough he was a gentleman,â? (39) but when she learned that he had âborrowed somebodyâs best suit to get married in, (39) she rendered him unfit âto lick my shoeâ? (39). Although Myrtle may think Tom is her âsweetieâ? (39) and be superficially happy when they are together, her desire to sustain her relationship with him ultimately results in her death. As she is rushing away from Wilson to greet the car that she believes Tom is in, with out-flailed arms symbolic of her desire to reach for greater things, she is run over and killed.Through his vivid portrayal of the corruption and superficiality that pervades lives of extreme wealth or extreme poverty, Fitzgerald seems to suggest, through his representation of Nick Carrawayâs middle-class status, what socio-economic class may be âright.â? Nick lives on West Egg in a âsmall eye-soreâ? (10) of a house, sandwiched between Gatsbyâs mansion and other luxurious residences. However, unlike the other residents of East and West Egg and the Valley of Ashes, Nickâs desire for wealth is clearly transitory. He refuses a âfast-moneyâ? scheme presented to him by Gatsby because he has no desire to become extremely wealthy through illegal means. Although Nick is surrounded by money, he remains remarkably free of envy for his friendsâ wealth. Furthermore, Nick is the only character who is not restless and who does not long for something that he cannot have. Nick recognizes the âdistortionâ? (185) and the money-driven corruption that pervades the lives of Easterners, and he ultimately renders himself âsubtly unadaptable to Eastern lifeâ? (184). It is thus that Fitzgerald seems to belie the common wealth-happiness mindset of Eastern Americans, and suggest that happiness cannot be derived from any single concrete factor, but instead from a balanced life.
A Great American Dream
The Great Gatsby and “Babylon Revisited,” both by F. Scott Fitzgerald, are stories about the emptiness and recklessness of the 1920s. Each story has its distinctions, but Fitzgerald’s condemnation of the decade reverberates through both. Fitzgerald explores and displays insufficiencies of the vacuous period, and does so with sharp clarity and depth, leaving no crude, barbarous habit to imagination. Fitzgerald had a deep and personal affliction with the 1920s (most notably in the Eastern United States), and in both The Great Gatsby and “Babylon Revisited,” he hones his conflicts into a furious condemnation. The 1920s were a period of sloth, habitual sin, exhausted illustriousness, and moral despondency; the black mark of a society and world usually tilted more toward attempted civility. Fitzgerald conveys this theme through the use of character, symbolism, and wasteland imagery.First, Fitzgerald uses characters to personify the vast recklessness of the generation. The characters in both are incomprehensibly selfish and carefree, though more noticeably in The Great Gatsby. Tom Buchanan, for instance, is almost flippant in acknowledging his affair with Jordan Baker, a local miscreant golf pro. Tom leaves Nick, Daisy, and Jordan at the dinner table to take a call from her. An exchange between Nick Carraway and Jordan while Tom is gone illuminates the situation. “‘Is something happening’ (Fitzgerald, Gatsby 19), says Nick. To which Jordan Baker replies, ‘I thought everybody knew…. Why-… Tom’s got some woman in New York'” (Fitzgerald, Gatsby 19). Tom Buchanan has an acknowledged mistress in New York, and he politely and confidently leaves the dinner table to speak with her. He is the absolute personification of the reckless actions and attitudes that characterize the era. Duncan Shchaeffer and Lorraine Qualles, appearing briefly in “Babylon Revisited,” also represent reckless and selfish behavior. They burst in to a private meeting at the Peters residence just as Charlie is coercing Lincoln and Marion in to granting him custody of his child. Fitzgerald describes their behavior: “They were gay, they were hilarious, they were roaring with laughter…. They slid down another cascade of laughter” (Fitzgerald, Babylon 385). This after bursting in to the house of a stranger. They are drunk, juvenile, reprehensible in behavior, and acting more like children than adults. Fitzgerald asserts, however, that their actions characterize the generation of lost souls, and these characters are only used to articulate his condemnation of it.Secondly, Fitzgerald uses symbolism to convey a feeling of futility and hopelessness throughout the novel and short story. Doctor T.J. Eckleburg, especially, symbolizes the distorted perceptions and priorities of the decade. Eckleburg watches over the gray ash-heap near Mr. Wilson’s garage with what Wilson thinks an all-knowing eye. Wilson has an unusual reverence to Dr. Eckleburg: he considers him God. In a conversation between Wilson and Michaelis, Wilson discusses a conversation he had previously with Mrs. Wilson just before she died:’I spoke to her [about her affair with Tom Buchanan]…. I told her she might fool me but she couldn’t fool God. I took her to the window—‘ With and effort he got up and walked the rear window and leaned with his face pressed against it, ‘–and I said ‘God knows what you’ve been doing, everything you’ve been doing. You may fool me but you can’t fool God.’ Standing behind him Michaelis saw with a shock that he was looking at they eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg. (Fitzgerald, Gatsby 167)Wilson is hopeless and disillusioned, and his connection to Dr. Eckleburg exemplifies the widespread futility of the era.Lastly, Fitzgerald uses wasteland imagery to show how society circa 1920 was dysfunctional and reckless. The apartment of Myrtle Wilson’s relation, where Tom and Myrtle usually conduct their affair, is the perfect example of this. Fitzgerald describes the scene at the apartment:The apartment was on the top floor—a small living room, a small diningroom, a small bedroom and a bath. The living room was crowded to the doors with a set of tapestried furniture entirely too large for it so that to move about was to stumble continually over scenes of ladies swinging in the gardens of Versailles…. Several old copies of “Town Tattle” lay on the table together with a copy of “Simon Called Peter” and some of the small scandal magazines of Broadway. (Fitzgerald, Gatsby 33)The apartment’s amenities are showy and overdone, and somehow seem more representative of conformity than affluence. The whole generation is caught up in the times, an unthinking, unknowing mob of followers, riding the unenviable wave of recklessness2E The apartment is empty, devoid of any substance at all, a perfect example of the wasteland image. It is where forbidden lovers meet to flirt and cackle, and where people get drunk for only the second time in their life, where people smoke, drink, and live recklessly together, and the only place where none of it matters: the wasteland.The 1920s were an era of lost personality. The people were caught up in the teaming exuberance, riding the inertia or recklessness further in to itself. Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and “Babylon Revisited” are fitting and definitive condemnations of the irrational time, and critics are right in deeming them so. Fitzgerald, too, is right: The 1920s were wasted years, and fit for condemnation.