The Lost American Dream in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

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The Lost American Dream in The Great Gatsby

Critics agree that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is not only a social commentary on the roaring twenties but also a revelation of the disintegration of the American Dream. Jay Gatsby embodies this smashed and illusionary dream; he is seen as a “mythic” (Bewley 17) individual, as “the end product of the American Dream” (Lehan 109) and as a representative of “man’s headlong pursuit of a dream all the way across a continent and back again” (Moyer 219). The factors that contributed to the destruction of this American fantasy are materialism, moral waste, and spiritual transgressions. As a direct result of this fallen hope, the characters search in vain for fulfillment in wasteful
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Rowe has an overall negative view of Gatsby; she rejects the idea that Gatsby is “heroic” (Rowe 87) and feels that his nature is not mythic in quality but instead “reflects the popular taste on which he has been nourished” (Rowe 89). To Rowe, Gatsby’s “heroic individualism” is a pure “self-deluding sham” and his supposed dream is a “defense against the dislocations and complexities of a changing society” (Rowe 90). Thus, Gatsby’s so-called unfulfilled American Dream is just another way for him to displace the blame which belongs solely to himself. Tony McAdams also agrees with Rowe that the label of “the American Dream” (McAdams 114) is incapable of describing Gatsby’s behavior. This “dream” is translated into Gatsby’s ultimate wish for the girl he cannot ever have: Daisy. McAdams suggests that Gatsby is not following a dream but rather pursuing “his personally conceived vision of life” (McAdams 114). This idea resembles the “mythic” qualities Bewley gives Gatsby but lacks the transcendence and heroic ideals that go along with his mythicism. Richard Lehan has a contradictory perspective on Gatsby. To Lehan, Gatsby is “the last of the Faustian men, the modern man living the flux of the big city, longing for the unattainable...” (Lehan 107). Lehan sees Gatsby as a “nowhere hero” (Lehan 110), stuck in society which condemns man to nothingness. Gatsby is “the grotesque embodiment of what America can offer its ambitious youth” (Lehan 109) and is inevitably stuck in a

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