The Decay of a Dream in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

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The Decay of a Dream in The Great Gatsby

The central theme of The Great Gatsby is the decay of the American Dream. Through his incisive analysis and condemnation of 1920s high society, Fitzgerald (in the person of the novel¹s narrator, Nick Carraway) argues that the American Dream no longer signifies the noble pursuit of progress; instead, it has become grossly materialistic and corrupt. Fitzgerald¹s novel is structured as an allegory (a story that conceals another story): the terrible death of Jay Gatsby is, by extension, the death of the American Dream.

For Fitzgerald, the true American Dream is characterized by a spirit of perseverance and hope; through these, one can succeed against all odds. This ideal is
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Involuntarily I glanced seaward -- and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of the dock."

Gatsby's dedication to an ethereal ideal elevates him above his shallow, vulgar contemporaries. His longing for Daisy is like that celebrated by the medieval ideal of courtly love, in which a knight worshipped his lady without any hope of being loved in return; his every action was only for her, and he strove to lead a noble life in the hopes of becoming worthy of her. Daisy is Gatsby¹s ideal: we first see him reaching toward the green light that marks her house in East Egg; in the final days of his life, he waits unwearyingly outside Daisy's house for hours despite the fact that she has already decided to abandon him. Though Gatsby exemplifies the purest elements of the old dream, he cannot help but fail in his pursuit of it, since the woman he loves is a corrupt product of modern society.

For Fitzgerald, the American obsession with wealth, power, and privilege is the chief cause of the decay of dreaming. Gatsby earns his money through illegal practices; his ostentatious parties, garish mansion, and lavish clothing are all attempts to win the attention of the cruel and shallow Daisy, who cares only for money. He ceases to throw his
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