The pursuit of any success in life is an arduous journey, one that can only be accomplished by the few dedicated individuals willing to push their ambition and capabilities as far as possible. Only a minute handful of people make it to a professional sports level, a great actor or actress, or even a great business person.

The challenge is even more difficult because of the amount of people trying to achieve the same goal when only a select few can. Corruption and deceit are inevitable in a dream driven by money. The novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a classic twentieth-century story that examines and critiques the vision of the American dream.

The story is able to illustrate the corruption money leads to by placing materialistic values in the lives of American’s in the pursuit of the ‘American Dream’.  The Great Gatsby presents several of its characters as having this illusion of living the “American dream”, contrary to what they believe their behaviors and decisions they make only leave them with a false perception of this lifestyle.

The Great Gatsby is set in the heart of the 1920s, also known as the “roaring twenties”, which is when a new ideology exploded. The idea of this free market and industrial revolution provided an opportunity to seize the market. People were starting to see the potential of becoming rich without restrictions.  New York City was the center of this advancement in society.

New York is known for its culture, parties, great restaurants, high population, fashion, downtown areas, fun, media, and pop culture. This influx of prosperity happened right after the war which in turn started to create a monetary value on life and huge consumer society. This brought new opportunities and ambitions for people sparking the potential for a wealthy upper-class life. It was all about booze, partying, gambling, fashion, money. The moral depravity of this era meant human existence will begin to deteriorate further into an abyss of sin.

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Jay Gatsby is a man whose life was comparable to the American dream. In New York, Jay is the most well-known man who throws the most spectacular parties. He lives in a beautiful mansion with new cars in the driveway, groomed gardens, and walkways. His closet is filled with the most fashionable suits and beautifully colored shirts enough to make Daisy cry.

His house was referred to as “a colossal affair… a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool and more than forty acres of lawn and garden.“ (Pg9) Other characters live such a life, such as Daisy and Tom. “For instance, he`d brought down a string of polo ponies from Lake Forest.“ (Pg10) All these characters seem to value the material side of life and are trying to strive for wealth, acceptance, and power.

All these materialistic belongings paint a picture of beauty for those chasing this fictitious happiness but in reality, they bring life full of stress, jealousy, hubris, and corruption. Jay indulged in everything he could to make his life and possessions perfect only for one reason, to win the love of his life Daisy back. “His extraordinary gift for hope.“ (Pg6) Jay invested in so much just for her, and it still was not enough because his wealth was not on the same level as his rivals.

Towards the end of the novel, she chose her richer husband in the higher class `egg` over Jay a man who she truly loved. She chose to live in wealth and riches instead of living in true happiness with Jay. In addition to this, Gatsby earned all his money illegally; he was a bootlegger and also sold alcohol illegally to generate his income. Instead of everyone striving for equality they became selfish and wanted everything for themselves, for example, the West vs. East egg and who was considered better.

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Along with the social discrimination that still lies within society; Tom being the main example. “It`s up to us the Nordics who are the dominant race to watch out or these other races will have control of things.“ (Pg17) All these examples are paramount to show evidence of change in the values of the 1920`s, and the destruction among society they were causing.

The American dream is shared amongst many people in hopes of living a perfect wealthy life. When people become so involved in materialistic things, it will not bring happiness in the end, but more hardship. The paths that people take to achieve this dream are not going to be truthful and honest with them.

The ambition of man is filled with venality and will do whatever it takes to reach their goal of power in the business world. This dream is not much of a dream as it is a nightmare. Unlike those of athletes, actors, supermodels, the dream to be rich is a villainous road that will derail your conscience into corruption. It is looked up to as a dream by those who have not yet traveled the road of wealth, but once you live this life it will deteriorate the true meaning of life which is love. For Jay Gatsby, he lost sight of this, and inevitably lead to his own demise.

Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "The Great Gatsby: Corruption of the American Dream in the 1920’s," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019, https://schoolworkhelper.net/the-great-gatsby-corruption-of-the-american-dream-in-the-1920s/.

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Rebecca Q
6 years ago

Hey! This was really helpful so thank you 🙂