As Matthew J. Bruccoli noted: “An essential aspect of the American-ness and the historicity of The Great Gatsby is that it is about money. The Land of Opportunity promised the chance for financial success.” (p. xi) The Great Gatsby is indeed about money, but it also explores its aftermath of greed. Fitzgerald detailed the corruption, deceit and illegality of life that soon pursued “the dream”. However, Fitzgerald entitles the reader to the freedom to decide whether or not the dream was ever free of corruption.
Fitzgerald used several patterns to develop the theme surrounding the lost dream. One such pattern included the emergence corruption in relation to honesty. We first witness the symbolic aspects of this when we meet Jordan Baker. We learn through Nick that she is a golfer and he further indulges that “at her first big golf tournament there was a row that nearly reached the newspapers-a suggestion that she had moved her ball from a bad lie in the semi-final round.”(p. 62) Golf is universally known as the game a truth, a game in which the players record their own performances and are trusted. Through this example we can interpret that all honesty has been destroyed, and cheating is now abundant. Also, it is learned that America’s pastime, baseball, was also corrupted. “Meyer Wolfshiem? He’s the man who fixed the World’s Series back in 1919.” (p. 78) This is significant because a game that was created in America, the land of the honest and the free where the dream first came alive has been tainted. This notion suggests that even the simplest of realities and recreations have long lost their innocence. Fitzgerald even implies that those who serve and protect us have also been corrupted. We learn that Tom has bribed the police. These same men who are known as the cities finest have also had their sincerity tarnished by the same greed that has tarnished the dream.
Another pattern that is rather distinct is Fitzgerald’s suggestion that potential, life and beginnings have also been ruined. Our narrator’s last name, Caraway, is a seed, a symbol of life and beginnings. We also learn that Nick is from the West, which is where the dream originated. However, once Nick Caraway moves to the East he is soon caught up in the corruption and destruction associated with the region. Our setting, the Egg Islands, is also symbolic.
Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and the Protestant Work Ethic
Robinson Crusoe and the Protestant Work Ethic
The story of Robinson Crusoe is, in a very obvious sense, a morality story about a wayward but typical youth of no particular talent whose life turned out all right in the end because he discovered the importance of the values that really matter. The values that he discovers are those associated with the Protestant Work Ethic, those virtues which arise out of the Puritan’s sense of the religious life as a total commitment to a calling, unremitting service in what generally appears as a very restricted but often challenging commitment.
The central concern of Robinson Crusoe’s experiences on the island is work. The great majority of the text is taken up with describing his unceasing efforts at mundane tasks. Robinson Crusoe is clearly eager to persuade his readers that he was never idle. Many of his undertakings may have been futile (like his first big boat, which he could not move to the water), but they kept him busy. We might wonder to what extent he needs to do all the things he describes for us, like, for example, making bread or living off the produce he creates through his own agriculture. Is there no natural sustenance on the island which might be obtained with less labor? What about fishing? Wouldn’t that be easier? He tries it and has success, but he doesn’t stay with it. Why not? Surely, given the topical nature of the island, he doesn’t have to labor so much?
Questions like this miss the point. Robinson Crusoe is a tribute to work, and the overwhelming message is: God has put us on this world to work. That, in effect, means directing our energies to transform the world around us, to shape it to our will, t…
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…ing it with a secret kind
of pleasure (though mixed with my other afflicting thoughts), to think that this was
all my own, that I was king and lord of all this country indefeasibly and had a right
of possession; and if I could convey it, I might have it in inheritance, as completely
as any lord of a manor in England. (101)
The language of this quotation is interesting. He admits he takes pleasure in his accomplishment, but there’s a sense of guilt in the admission (he has to remind us that he also has afflictions). And he frames his feelings of satisfaction entirely in legal terms (“indefeasibly,” “right of possession,” “convey”). What stimulates his satisfaction is not the accomplishment or the beauty or the sense of his own proven skill, but the sense of legal ownership. He has gone from a castaway to the equivalent of an aristocrat.