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American Dream in The Great Gatsby Essay


If anyone could portray the perfect idea of the American Dream, what would it be? Many aspects and goals must be considered before someone's life or lifestyle can be deemed a succession or failure of the American Dream. If America is seen as an Eden, or a Utopia in a character's thoughts, then one goal of this dream has been met. Chances of such thoughts are rare due to the fact that not everyone can have what they want and be happy. Individually, however, someone could feel triumph no matter how society feels together as a whole, or their thoughts about the independent character. The final aspect, possibly the most important, is finding a sense of optimism for the future. Even if the goals are not being met, as long as there is will to succeed, there is a way to succeed. There are three specific American literary works that are questionably portraying the American Dream including both Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, his Grapes of Wrath, and F. Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby.

It may seem as if Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is just a story about two lower class friends roaming the country looking for odd jobs and work for pay. Lennie and George are hoping for the best of this country, yet they don't know what lies ahead, nor do they have much confidence that the system will lead them to success. Crooks says, "I seen hunderds of men come by on the road an' on the ranches, with their bindles on their back an' that same damn thing in their heads. Hunderds of them. They come, an' they quit an' go on; an' every damn one of 'em's got a little piece of land in his head. An' never a God damn one of 'em ever gets it. Just like heaven. Everybody wants a little piece of lan'. I read plenty of books out here. Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land. It's just in their head. They're all the time talkin' about it, but it's jus' in their head" (Steinbeck, Mice 81). Lennie and George look as if they are just trying to survive in this society, and definitely do not see America as an Eden, crushing this aspect of the dream. George tries to proclaim that he can triumph individually, although he has not yet in this tale. George talks about life without Lennie, "Whatever we ain't got, that's what you want. God a'mighty, if I was alone I could live so easy. I could go get a job an' work, an no trouble. No mess at all, and when the end of the month come I could take my fifty bucks and go into town and get whatever I want" (11-12). George obviously believes he could triumph individually, but believing is only the first step of acheiving. Both characters, however, seem to have their mind set on believing in their future in America. George speaks of the American dream, "All kin's a vegetables in the garden, and if we want a little whisky we can sell a few eggs or something, or some milk. We'd jus' live there. We'd belong there. There wouldn't be no more runnin' round the country and gettin' fed by a Jap cook. No, sir, we'd have our own place where we belonged and not sleep in no bunk house" (63). Lennie and George have always kept their mind open to optimism for the future and this shows they do have hope and dream about succeeding. This story shows a tough reality of acheiving the American dream, anyone may think it possible, but with pleasure comes pain.

Another one of Steinbeck's works, The Grapes of Wrath, basically destroys the chance at succeding to live the American dream. The depression was at its valley, and times were at their worst as well. Descriptions of the economy, "And money that might have gone for wages went for gas, for guns, for agents and spies, for blacklists, for drilling. On the highways the people moved like ants and searched for work, for food. And the anger began to ferment." (Steinbeck Grapes, pg 365). America was definitely not seen as an Eden, more of as a living hell. It was displayed that the only way to succeed, was to succeed individually, for society was at an all time low. Ma said ""Up ahead they's a thousan' lives we might live, but when it comes, it'll on'y be one" (158). Triumphing individually was surely not yet met, but it was the first step to succeeding as a nation. The optimism for the future was down to nothing due to the many obstacles such as depression, and the dust bowl. Ma claims, "I'm learnin' one thing good ... If you're in trouble or hurt or need-go to poor people. They're the only ones that'll help" (483). The hope for the future relies on people helping others of their "own kind", and sticking together. Of the three books, Grapes of Wrath least depicts the succession of the American dream.

Finally, Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby, includes the most reason to believe that the American dream was accomplished of all said novels. America was socially seen as an Eden, yet economically seen as a roller coaster. Nick spoke to Gatsby of the people "They're a rotten crowd....You're worth the whole damn bunch put together" (Fitzgerald 162). Nick sees society as a whole being depleted of its nature, while society sees itself as a continuous festival with no consequences. Most of the characters see themselves as having individual triumph. Nick comments on his character "Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known" (64). This shows confidence that the thought of individual triumph can be accomplished by a character in this time period and setting. Things may not always be set in stone as to what will happen in the future, but if confidence is high of good things for the future, there is always a chance. Nick talks of Gatsby's future "Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men" (6). Nick claims that Gatsby's optimism for the future really helps him succeed in his dream. Gatsby and his fellow characters from Great Gatsby have shown the most relevance to succeeding the title of the American dream.

Even scholarly authors have trouble portraying the American dream due to the fact that it varies within each individual mind. Viewing America as an Eden is always much work because not everyone can get what they want, though they live life that way, complicating others as they go due to selfishness. Individual triumph is also very relevant, it is only the fact that salvation lies within that can help someone accomplish this goal. It should be known that anything a person sets their mind on they can accomplish, within reason. Future goals and promises will truly never be risk free when someone takes a chance to live them out. When goals are set, that is when progress is noted, and there is proof that hope can help someone succeed. The literary works of John Steinbeck Of Mice and Men, Grapes of Wrath, and Fiitzgerald's Great Gatsby all compare and contrast with the American dream's goals and aspects to succeeding. These literary works have shown the shaping of life, its accomplishments, and failures. The only way a dream can be met, is if it is lived.

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