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Behind every nation there is a dream or belief that drives its citizens onwards. It makes them work towards a state that is deemed ‘paradise’ by that society. An example of this is the American Dream. It can be summed up in the statement provided for consideration for this answer “ The American Dream in its true sense is the dream of a land in which life should be better, richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability”. It has been this notion that has been implanted in the hearts of the American peoples for years. It is central to their much-loved system of democracy and that all men are created equal. However like many beliefs borne of idealistic people, the impact of human nature has not been considered with the application of these ideals. The American Dream is a beautiful idea; the thought that people will be judged on themselves and not circumstance, class, appearance, etc. However human nature has the need to feel important and rule over other people. It always wants more and will never be happy with what it already has. These are the central reasons behind the evolution of a class system and it is this system that makes the American Dream little more than a myth. ‘ The Great Gatsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald exposes this myth and therefore focuses on the corruption and death of the American Dream. Fitzgerald implants values and attitudes within the characters of Tom and Daisy Buchanan that he saw as being prevalent in 10’s American and that believed were to blame for the destruction of the American Dream. Via these characters and their actions, the reader is seen the downfall of Jay Gatsby and the American Dream, who by the end of the text are one in the same.

Tom and Daisy Buchanan are the epitome of what Fitzgerald saw as being the ‘old’ money upper class. They are shallow, unintelligent, arrogant, self-serving, and manipulative to say the least. Being from families that are already rich, they have never had to work a day in their life and are guaranteed never to do so. They preach to others about the need for respect and morals, but go and do the wrong thing anyway. They find amusement in the smallest things and hate others for the most pointless reasons. Tom and Daisy Buchanan are all these things. The way the two toy around with people and play on their hopes and dreams sickens the reader to the point of hatred. It is their values and actions in the text that destroys Gatsby, and their kind in the 10’s that corrupted and destroyed the American Dream.

Tom Buchanan is represented to the reader as a bigot, hypocrite and womaniser. His affair with Myrtle Wilson, input in killing Gatsby and many statements throughout the text stir feelings of loathing and abhorrence in the reader. Fitzgerald represents Tom Buchanan as a corrupter of the American Dream. His manipulation of people and an utter disrespect for their lives and well being, turn the idea of all peoples succeeding on their own abilities into an illusion. Tom Buchanan gives the people around him a glimpse of success before swiftly pulling it back for himself to toy with. This is no more evident in his dealings with George Wilson. Wilson wants to buy Tom’s car so that he can make some money. Tom says he’ll willingly sell his car yet continually brings excuses for why he can not bring it in. He prefers to hear Wilson beg.

“ ‘ I didn’t mean to interrupt your lunch,’ he said. ‘ But I need money pretty bad, and I was wondering what you were going to do with your old car.’ (p117)

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This is typical of Tom’s behaviour. He is a brutish man who finds delight in others pain. However he does not destroy their dreams otherwise he would not have anything to play on anymore. The role of executioner relies on Daisy Buchanan’s soldiers.

Daisy Buchanan is the single most destructive character in ‘ The Great Gatsby’. It is the shallow and self-serving way she treats Gatsby and eventually leaves him that kills him long before Wilson does. Five years before the events in the text, Gatsby and Daisy were an item. The only reason Daisy would go out with him was that he lied said he was rich. But Gatsby had to go to World War I and while he was away she married Tom. At one point Daisy did in fact love Gatsby. Five years on in the setting of the text, Gatsby is now rich via bootlegging and when he meets Daisy they ‘resume’ their love. During this love affair, Gatsby has realised his American Dream, to have the girl of his dreams. So it is cruel and despicable that she would suddenly not love merely because of his profession and method of obtaining wealth.

“ … he began talking excitedly to Daisy, denying everything, defending his name against accusations that had not been made. But with every word she was drawing further and further into herself, so he gave that up, and only the dead dream fought on…” (p18)

Fitzgerald has used the value of being respected by your peers and the attitude that ‘new’ money was of a lower class overcoming the supposedly unbreakable bond of love to show the way in which the Daisies of 10’s America are responsible for the death of the American Dream.

Fitzgerald illustrates to the reader values and attitudes that he saw as being prevalent in the ‘old’ money class through the characters of Tom and Daisy Buchanan. Both Tom and Daisy are members of this ‘old’ money class and are there to typify and display the role that this class had in destroying the American Dream. Fitzgerald describes both, and therefore the ‘old’ money class, in the following way

“ They were careless people, Tom and Daisy � they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made….” (p170)

The two important words there are money and vast carelessness. The ‘old’ money class had both. They did not care that they destroyed people or kept them from achieving, just as long as they still had all their money and their pitiful notions that they were the most important people on Earth. It was for these reasons that the ‘old’ money class used the American Dream to manipulate people and use them for their own enjoyment or benefit. Their use of the American Dream, as seen by Fitzgerald, ultimately corrupted and destroyed it for all.

For the reader to see Tom and Daisy Buchanan as corrupters and destroyers of the American Dream, they must be seen to destroy someone or something that is representative of the dream. In the text this symbol is the character Jay Gatsby. Gatsby is really James Gatz, son of poor farmers from North Dakota. Under the wing of the mining multimillionaire Dan Cody, Gatsby learnt the way of the upper class. Later on in his life he meet Daisy, the love of his life. He had to lie to her about his financial status for her to see him and after a while their love blossomed and he told her his real status. Before they could wed, he was sent to World War I. When he returned, Daisy had married Tom. So Gatsby embarked on a journey to join the ranks of the rich. With the upper class working against him he was forced to make his fortune via bootlegging. Now in the setting of the text, Gatsby is attempting to regain Daisy love.

Gatsby is a tragic hero. Usually confined to the medium of theatre, the qualifications for the title are evident. Gatsby’s downfall comes as a result of forces he cannot control.

“ … Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams.” (p8)

Just like characters such as Macbeth (Macbeth) and Winston Smith (184), Gatsby was brought down by a force he had no control over i.e. his absolute love for Daisy and the corrupt nature of her and her class. The other factor that allowed such things to destroy him was his own best intentions. For Macbeth, it was his ambition and for Winston, it was for freedom. In Gatsby’s case it was his love and his dream that Daisy would love him to.

“... he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream.” (p15)

Gatsby’s whole life was the American Dream, it was the belief that Daisy would love him because he was who he was. But Gatsby lived too blindly with this belief. The reader can clearly see that the only way Gatsby could possibly get close to Daisy was by gathering wealth. Gatsby should have seen this. In a way he achieved a corrupt version of the dream, he became wealthy via his own means. But his death and the death of the American Dream comes with the foul way in which the values of Daisy and the ‘old’ money class savagely ripped his dream from him, turning it into little more than a myth.

The American Dream in its true sense is the dream of a land in which life should be better, richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability. The reader can see that throughout the text this ideal is corrupted and killed, turning it from the basis for a nation to little more than a hollow myth meant to mislead people for the benefit and entertainment of the higher classes. The picture that Fitzgerald paints of these upper classes is bleak. To him they are shallow, infantile, arrogant beings that are cruel just for entertainment. In the text, the characters of Tom and Daisy Buchanan are shown to be the embodiment of this idea. They are presented to the reader as the corrupters and killers of the American Dream. For him to show these acts and the transition of the dream to a myth, Fitzgerald uses the character of Gatsby. He has built his life on the American dream and in doing so has become one with it. His real death can be seen as occurring when he loses Daisy. For him and the many people who believe in the dream, it has been turned into a myth. This, behind the face of a tragic love story, is the basis of ‘ The Great Gatsby’.

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