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Corrupted Morals and Degraded Dreams in The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby presents a vivid chronicle of the Jazz Age and is a tightly constructed work of literary genius. In the novel, Nick Carraway tells the story of Jay Gatsby, a handsome bachelor who has amassed a fortune as a racketeer in order to build a Long Island mansion and give fabulous parties that he hopes will enable him to win back the love of the married Daisy Buchanan. With the help of Nick, a reunion is arranged between Gatsby and Daisy, but in the end Daisy returns to her husband. Gatsby is killed through a misunderstanding, and Nick retreats to his native Midwest, disillusioned.

The novel is a story of the American Dream. Near the end of the novel, a deathly ill Gatsby awaits a call from Daisy that never materializes, but he dies an incurable romantic, still clinging to an ideal conception of his sweetheart that she can never fulfill in reality. Nick is left with the knowledge that the dream of getting ahead and winning the perfect girl is corrupt at its very core. Nick, though, also realizes that without the dream, life is barren and worthless.

The characters in this short novel are all very interesting because of the distinctive and well-defined features Fitzgerald endows them. The main characters-Daisy, Gatsby, and Nick-each are especially articulate. Nick, the narrator and “arbiter”, throughout most of the novel remains outside most of the action and reserves judgment until late in the novel when he reaches the symbolic age of thirty and voices the author’s moral verdict-that an ideal based on materialism is a corruption of the American Dream, but the selfless devotion to a corrupt ideal is morally superior to the complete selfishness that motivates all except Gatsby. Gatsby himself…

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…erialism as its means. The substitution of false albeit attractive goals such as Daisy as the fulfillment of the promise of America has changed the east, “the fresh, green breast of the new world”(189) as the Dutch sailors saw it with all its trees and flowers, into a grotesque moral waste land represented by the “valley of ashes”(27) between West Egg and New York where only the morally irresponsible can survive. Fitzgerald believes we are in a vicious circle, the established wealth is corrupt but the new rich adopt to the same ideals as the old rich and they become corrupt and join the established wealth and then the new group aspires to the established rich values and so on. Both sides, when seen from the proper perspective, are as corrupt and as morally irresponsible as the other and, even though they move in different circles, they are as similar as two eggs.

gatjay Failure of Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Failure of Jay Gatsby of The Great Gatsby

A society naturally breaks up into various social groups over time. Members of lower statuses constantly suppose that their problems will be resolved if they gain enough wealth to reach the upper class. Many interpret the American Dream as being this passage to high social status and, once reaching that point, not having to concern about money at all. Though, the American Dream involves more than the social and economic standings of an individual. The dream involves attaining a balance between the spiritual strength and the physical strength of an individual. Jay Gatsby, of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, fails to reach his ultimate dream of love for Daisy in that he chooses to pursue it by engaging in a lifestyle of high class.

Gatsby realizes that life of the high class demands wealth to become priority; wealth becomes his superficial goal overshadowing his quest for love. He establishes his necessity to acquire wealth, which allows him to be with Daisy. The social elite of Gatsby’s time sacrifice morality in order to attain wealth. Tom Buchanan, a man from an “enormously wealthy” family, seems to Nick to have lost all sense of being kind (Fitzgerald 10). Nick describes Tom’s physical attributes as a metaphor for his true character when remarking that Tom had a “hard mouth and a supercilious manner…arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face…always leaning aggressively forward…a cruel body…[h]is speaking voice…added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed” (Fitzgerald 11). The wealth Tom has inherited causes him to become arrogant and condescending to others, while losing his morals. Rather than becoming immoral from wealth as Tom has, Gatsby engages in criminal activity as his only path to being rich. His need for money had become so great that he “was in the drug business” (Fitzgerald 95). Furthermore, he lies to Nick about his past in order to cover up his criminal activity. Gatsby claims to others that he has inherited his wealth, but Nick discovers “[h]is parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people” (Fitzgerald 104). Gatsby enters a world where money takes precedence over moral integrity. Materialism has already overshadowed a portion of his spiritual side. A quest for true love is doomed for failure in the presence of immorality. Once wealth has taken priority over integrity, members of the high social class focus on immediate indulgences, rather than on long-term pleasures of life such as love.

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