The success is one of the biggest and most controversial topics we can find. Some of us may think it is just question of attitude, or we may say you should be born in a prosperous environment if you want achieve good conditions to live. But in this essay we are going to make focus only on one novel, The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald; and one place, America. This relevant novel was published in 1925, but written between 1923 and 1925. The narrator, Nick Carraway, describes the events, sometimes from his own perspective or objectively and other times the motivations of the other characters. Scott Fitzgerald uses Nick’s voice to show his own opinion, to declare something or to denounce. This paper will focus on how the success is treated through the characters, how is it the reflection of the society in this epoch, and the beneficial or unfavourable results that success may have in their lives.
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The Great Gatsby “is a novel about production” (Fitzgerald xviii) and it has become one of the most central novel in the American literature. But this happened only when Fitzgerald died, it was not like this in its first publication. It has usually been the synonymous to the author, and a perfect example of how the Roaring 20s were madness and perversion in every movement, qualities very well expressed in our novel. One of the motives why this novel has become so important is the prescient it shows: “Prescient, first of all, in the narrow sense that Fitzgerald’s portrayal of dizzying, narcissistic wealth and its sudden corruption eerily prefigured the US stock-master’s 1929 ‘Great Crash’ and the subsequent Depression.” (Fitzgerald v-vi). Scott Fitzgerald was born in 1896, epoch where there were no way of moving but the horses, and the society lived without electricity, thus, he also lived a huge progress in his life and society’s. The Roaring 20s are know, and so are Fitzgerald’s pieces, by the melancholy and the society which feels disorientated where they are, softened with jazz music and drinks.
Both, the author and the main character, share numerous resemblances that we may even say that this novel is, in fact, a biography. So much so that both of them made their financial success on their own. Fitzgerald made his first economic fortune by writing his first drafts of the novel, and with the publication of it, came the success. This event gave him the economical support he needed to marry Zelda. They met in Alabama, where he was sent to assist a camp. Jay Gatsby had the same situation; he had to make fortune if he wanted to marry Daisy, and that is why he worked so hard in his life. This was his principal motivation, the love of a woman. The one and the other also had discontentment for their surroundings and felt like outsiders. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a novel about society, wealth and happiness, and Gatsby gave the tone at the very beginning of it:
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’ He didn’t say any more, but we’ve always been unusually communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence, I’m inclined to reserve all judgements a habit that has opened upmany curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores.
This is one of the distinctions the Scott Fitzgerald makes on this, the difference between East and West of Long Island. Two different parts which were “separated only by a courtesy bay” (Fitzgerald 5), but even more, by an intangible line, divided the rich people by nature in one side, and the “new born” rich in the other one. In the East Egg, we could find the already installed rich people, they were wealthy since generations before, “Surrounded from childhood by the artificial security of wealth, accustomed to owning rather than wanting, they lack of anxiety or illusion, frustration or fulfillmen” (Lockridge 56). The West Egg was the side of the people who were born in not as good conditions as the East. They made their fortune by their own, working hard, “I lived in the West Egg, the – well, the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them.” (Fitzgerald 5). But the relation between one side and the other, although both of them are rich, and have the same ambitions, being and owning as much as they want, is not good. The East Egg thinks the West Egg lacks of sophistication, and they stay apart in the parties that Gatsby celebrates. People from East Egg came to Gatsby’s parties, but tried not to be really involved. The Sloanes were invited to one of the parties, and they came, but they stayed with the other inhabitants from East Egg, “Mr Sloane didn’t enter into the conversation, but lounged back haughtily in his chair; the woman said nothing either – until unexpectedly, after two highballs, she became cordial. ‘We’ll all come over to your next party, Mr Gatsby,’- she suggested.- ‘What do you say?’. ‘Certainly; I’d be delighted to have you’. ‘Be ver’ nice,’- said Mr Sloane, without gratitude. – ‘Well-think ought to be starting home.” (Fitzgerald 65-66).
Gatsby had humble roots and could not forget them, the same as his childhood and his past. It was difficult for him to obtain the success and the status that was given to the other by born in a higher social class. The way he had to follow to get success in his life started when he was a child. He had a schedule which he followed every single day:
Rise from bed 6.00 A.M.
Dumbbell exercise and wall-scaling 6.15-6.30 “
Study electricity, etc. 7.15-8.15 “
Work 8.30-4.30 P.M.
Baseball and sports 4.30-5.00 “
Practise elocution, poise and how to attain it 5.00-6.00 “
Study needed invention 7.00-9.00 “
This is the walk he followed to get all the big fortune and the house. This schedule shows pretty much Gatsby’s childhood. He wanted to get his dream, usually known as the “American Dream”. He wanted to improve himself by being hardworking, anxious and energetic. Apart from having a big fortune and success in his future, one of the reasons why he pursued this lifestyle, was because he wanted to come back with Daisy. He believed that the past could be repeated, and so he did it. He was obsessed with Daisy, his love, and he chases her as a lonely man; he is portrayed as the romantic hero par excellence. Jay Gatsby wanted to repeat his perfect past with Daisy and money was the only way to do it. But it did not finished how he wanted. And it was consequence of his lower class, for example, Tom knew Daisy would never leave him for Gatsby, a man who comes from a lower class, and with his background. She left Gatsby once, and would do it for the second time. In this situation Gatsby is showed as lonely as he would probably be when he was young.
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The “American Dream” is usually defined as the pursuit of happiness, as the possibility of all the Americans to be what they want to be, and have all of them the same opportunities to achieve the objectives in their lives with effort and unity. “The Great Gatsby is an exploration of the American dream as it exists in a corrupt period, and it is an attempt to determine that concealed boundary that divides the reality from the illusions. The illusions seem more real that reality itself.” (Lockridge 38). Jay Gatsby represents the reality, the truthful idea of the American Dream; he successes not only in making his own fortune, but also in creating a totally new life, and be important in the social life of Long Island. F. Scott Fitzgerald is not criticising the American dream, but the corruption of the same. Jay Gatsby wanted to better himself, and make a name for him, and actually, he succeeds. But his idea of success became corrupted; he was so obsessed in making a large sum of money to get Daisy that he was not able to distinguish the fact of being wealthy from chasing his pursuit, getting Daisy. The first one did not directed into the other, but he was contaminated by his ideals that he could not realize it.
The American Dream had been corrupted by the idea of materialism, but it is more visible in the characters of Tom, Daisy and Myrtle, apart from Gatsby. Tom, for example, has constantly relations born outside the marriage, Myrtell and Jordan; nevertheless he has a daughter with Daisy, who he does not even see her regularly. For Tom, all those women represent different concepts. Daisy is the higher social position, and Myrtell is his own masculine power above women, his masculinity. Daisy is also corrupted by the materialism and status; she loved Gatsby when they were young, but did not get married because he did not belong to the social class that Daisy wanted for herself. Instead of that, she got married with Tom, the one who assured her a higher status. And even married with Tom, she still loves Gatsby,
‘Who wants to go yo town?’- demanded Daisy insistently. Gatsby’s eyes floated towards her.- ‘Ah,’- she cried,- ‘you look so cool.’ Their eyes met, and they stared together at each other, alone in space. With an effort she glanced down at the table. ‘You always look so cool,’- she repeated. She had told him that she loved him, and Tom Buchanan saw. He was astounded. His mouth opened a little, and he looked at Gatsby, and then back at Daisy as if he had just recognised her as someone he knew a long time ago.
She loved him, but never left Tom for Gatsby. And finally, Myrtell, she uses Tom to escape from her relationship with George. Tom is only a distraction who provides her financial success.
The important point is owning, have big houses, huge fortunes, beautiful clothes and belong to a higher social class, the definition of “achieve the objectives” does not mind any more. The money is the first guilty of the dream’s death and the first worry of nearly all the characters, “It was all very careless and confused. 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.” (Fitzgerald 114). Tom only care about their extramarital relations, and Daisy did not care about Tom’s infidelity; she knew what he how he was acting but never said anything. They only concern about their own success and what the rest of the society think about them.
Jay Gatsby built his fortune illegally, he did not mind about the people, through bootlegging and other practices. That is how he became a prosperous man. His love for Daisy was such wide that when she killed a woman when they came back from New York, he decided that he could take the blame for the accident. This and the following events, will take Gatsby to his own death. All the success he enjoyed turned suddenly into failure. Gatsby’s death shows that his pursuit of the American dream was totally a failure, he was an outsider in society. He lived being a lonely man, he celebrated all the parties to get company, and he died alone, only with a few people in his funeral, and among them was the presence of Nick. Nick called Daisy, but she had left with Tom: he also called Meyer Wolfshiem, but he answers telling he could not be involved because he was busy. Jay Gatsby died without friends. His objective of getting married to Daisy, his American Dream, was clearly a defeat. That is why Nick Carraway had to arrange everything, he was, and continues being after his death, his only true friend. “At first I was surprised and confused; then, as he lay in his house and didn’t move or breathe or speak, hour upon hour, it grew upon me that I was responsible because no one else interested – interested, I mean, with that intense personal interest to which everyone has some vague right at the end”. (Fitzgerald 104). But, actually, in Gatsby’s funeral there was someone unexpected; his dad, Henry, was there, because of the death of his son. Gatsby’s father explained some information about Gatsby, he showed the schedule written in his book in 1906, he was really young and he already aspires to his self-made success. As an irony, the objectives and fortune that had distanced Gatsby from his past and his humble roots, had turned into the aims by which Henry, his father, came back to him, to be together at his death.
At the end of the novel, Nick makes reference once again to the “green light”, which Gatsby had made of it his American Dream, “the color green stands for his never-ending hope for her love and functions as a symbol of his hope, as it is mostly associated with the green light at Daisy´s dock” (Deitermann 3); taking us at the same time to the dreams and hopes of the society. An in those last words, he lets the readers think about Nick Carraway´s own success. It depended somehow on Gatsby’s prosperity. Their relationship was really good; Gatsby had changed his life, and Nick met Daisy, Tom and the rest of the characters thanks to Gatsby. His death and the memories of the previous year they spent together gave him the attitude to continue living, and with a new positive attitude. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning – So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” (Fitzgerald 115). All the characters continued their lives, forgetting or not the last events, living from now on a normal life. This is what was expected of them in the Roaring 20´s, come back to their money and parties, and let the others worry about their responsibilities.
This is one of the main aspects why The Great Gatsby has been such a success, it represents the daily life. Tom and Daisy went away, and Nick was the only one who stayed with Gatsby when all who attended his parties, all of them overflowing with people.”Fitzgerald´s story, although a fiction, is informed by reality, helping to make it one of the most treasured pieces of early twentieth century American fiction.” (Maurer). Both the same, in the novel´s period and now, people does not really care about others, but only about themselves; it shows the predominant materialism, and the society in general. This society is full of corruption and tragedy, personified in the novel by Jay Gatsby, who tries and does not achieve anything, and his incapacity to reach his American Dream.
Through this novel, the reader has experienced the difficult and laborious course that success in life implies. It may sometimes end in happiness, but also on occasions may finish in a fatal end. Jay Gatsby spends all his life trying to achieve an object, but he makes of it an obsession. This is the reason why he loses most of the main things in life, the family, friends and happiness. Gatsby represents the American Dream, because he tries to obtain happiness and love, but this turns impossible for him. Although it is vain, a dream is really necessary to live; he needed a purpose in his life. Nevertheless, the disappointment he experiments also represents the end of the American Dream, in which social divisions and money success predominate. The Great Gatsby shows that success is not only composed by money and purchasing power, but by a large amount of attributes.
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