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How Dreams are Portrayed in The Great Gatsby

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Texts can be valued and appreciated for numerous reasons, and this is particularly apparent in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby. The novel is a great part of 20th century literature and is valued for the themes and ideas that Fitzgerald presents, such as the importance of dreams in peoples’ lives, the myth that is the ‘American Dream’, Fitzgerald’s perspective of 1920’s life, and the style in which he portrays his ideas. It is also valued simply as a love story – as an entertaining narrative. In The Great Gatsby, dreams and their importance play a major part in the plot and underlying themes.

It is seen that Gatsby himself presents this idea the most; this is because Gatsby is different to all the other characters in the novel as he actually has a dream – to “improve himself” which he hopes will eventually win back Daisy’s love. “… An extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person…” The reader learns that Gatsby has had dreams and ambitions his entire life, while his parents had none; Gatsby was not fond of this characteristic found in his parents.

His goals and aspirations made him who he was and he realised that he was different to his parents in this way. He left his home, his mother and father at a young age and was described as a “son of God. ” Gatsby disconnected himself from his parents and created his own identity as God created people. Gatsby’s dream is symbolised by the green light on the end of Daisy’s dock, across the river from his house, and represents his desire for Daisy. Nick narrator the story admires this quality in Gatsby and excuses all his faults because of his hopes and dreams.

In the end, Gatsby dies in pursuit of his dreams and Nick says, “No – Gatsby turned out alright at the end; it was what prayed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams. ” Nick, unlike the other characters, doesn’t have any goals or aspirations. He doesn’t have high expectations, and is comfortable with the way he lives his life. However, the other characters, Jordan, Daisy, Tom and Myrtle, are not happy with what they already have, and only have goals that are short-term, and are often self-centered and concerned with money.

The people attending Gatsby’s parties also appear to be materialistic and without ambitions. They go through life without directions or dreams; they were “wanderers” and “gypsies” who often weren’t even invited to the parties, whereas Nick was actually invited. The parties continue this theme as they take on dream-like qualities. This is seen in Nick’s descriptions, which are very colourful, “blue gardens” and “yellow cocktail music” which helps them resemble dreams.

There are constant references to dreams, such as his description of the moonlight, “Whisperings and champagne and the stars” and “the Earth lurches away from the sun” as well as comparisons, which all give the impression that the parties are just a dream or an illusion and not actually reality. Nick’s descriptions also change very quickly from one idea to the next, as well as to different times, which is also similar to dreams. The contrast to the theme of dreams is also seen in the characters of Tom, Daisy, Nick, Jordan and the people attending Gatsby’s parties, as they show that the ‘American Dream’ is a myth.

This is seen through Gatsby’s attempts to repeat the past, and other evidence that proves the incapability of the American Dream such as George Wilson, the social classes of East and West Egg and Tom’s racist comments. Throughout the whole novel, there are attempts to repeat the past, particularly in Gatsby’s case. There are repeated references to clocks, symbolising the want for repetition, such as Gatsby nearly breaking Nick’s clock, representing his want to stop time or bring back feelings from the past.

Also during the meeting set up for Gatsby and Daisy, Nick says to Gatsby, “you can’t repeat the past,” and Gatsby replies “why of course you can! ” This shows that Gatsby’s whole life revolves around his dream of winning back Daisy. It is also shown that the American Dream is corrupted through the people at Gatsby’s parties. They use Gatsby just as a place to party. They act without conscience or consideration, by not seeing Gatsby while at his house, or even knowing who he is. They gossip about him without even having met him and do not turn up to his funeral.

Nobody at the parties knew much about the other guests, and were described in a general tone, there is only basic information, lacking details. This helps to show that the characters are very self-centered and materialistic. The format of Gatsby’s parties also shows this; The alcohol, orchestra, food, decorations – “a corps of caterers…” Although Gatsby has a purpose for wanting money, the other wealthy characters have only selfish desires for it. The ideas of the American Dream suggest that all people living in America have a fair chance at success and wealth if they put in hard work.

It also entitles people to an equal life without prejudices placed upon them no matter what their background is. However, it is clear that this dream has failed in the case of George Wilson. He has worked a hard life at his Gas and mechanic centre, yet still lives in poverty. The other characters Tom and Daisy Buchanan, Jordan show that wealth and status is still inherited, not earned. They also display the ever-present social classes of East and West in the novel; The inhabitants of East Egg are “people who haven’t earned their money” and West Egg is the “less fashionable” side of Long Island.

Tom also comments about the professed need for a white dominated society, which shows that people living in America don’t treat or see each other as equals so the American Dream is non-existent. At the end of the novel, Gatsby’s dream is linked to the Dutch sailors who founded the American Dream, which suggests that there may once have been an American Dream, but it is no longer possible. The Great Gatsby is also valued for Fitzgerald’s perspective of 1920’s life.

He states that 20th century life is very materialistic – the majority of the characters and the party guests only care about money and want more of everything that they have already. There are comments on the different social values seen, and evidence of people lacking traditional morals and values. The characters constantly act without conscience and are generally very careless and selfish; for instance, the numerous accidents involving cars – Jordan left the top down on a borrowed car and denied even having the car, someone’s hand got run over, and a party guest got bogged in Gatsby’s driveway.

The people at the parties also have no consideration for Gatsby as they are hardly civilised while at his house, and, as mentioned above, they come uninvited, sometimes without even knowing Gatsby and often gossip about him. The most self-centered and inconsiderate acts of these people were their absence at Gatsby’s funeral after using him so greatly. Tom and Myrtle act without conscience through having an affair, which is then followed by Daisy and Gatsby’s brief affair.

The text is also greatly valued for the quality of Fitzgerald’s style of writing, seen in his description of people and events and his use of symbolism. Through his writing, he creates an impression of the parties and at the same time, reinforces certain ideas. His method of description is very much impressionistic, and this is seen through his emphasis on irrelevant details, which then become symbolic. For example, the oranges and lemons – they are symbolic of things being used up and discarded, such as the way Gatsby’s guests treat him.

Fitzgerald also changes times and ideas quickly as well as adding unnecessary, yet effective, snatches of conversation at the parties. He also creatively and efficiently presents the parties in a dream-like fashion, with constant references to dreams, the illusion of it not really being reality and the surreal events that take place. Another effective use of symbolism in the novel is the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, which are an unfinished advertisement in the Valley of the Ashes of a pair of eyes and spectacles looking over the desolate wasteland, halfway between West Egg and New York.

The eyes represent an omnipresent figure seeing all; it sees the lack of conscience in Americans such as Tom, Daisy and Jordan as well as the breakdown of the American Dream. They also saw the true circumstances of Myrtle’s death. George Wilson mistakes the eyes for God and fears their judgment of him. The Valley of the Ashes also represents the failing of the American Dream. It shows the corrupt nature of society through the pollution of the area until it could no longer be used. Lights in the novel represent Gatsby’s hope of Daisy returning to him.

The light at the end of her dock reassures him that she is till close to him, and his house lights represent his attempt to attract her. His lights are only turned off after their first kiss, when he is comfortable that he has her back, and when he is dead. Wolfsheim’s human molar cufflinks represent an increasingly materialistic and unfeeling society. Yet this text should be simply enjoyed as a love story – as an entertaining narrative. The story of Gatsby’s attempts to win the love of Daisy is representative of the writing styles during the 1920’s, and is valued for this insight.

The tale of a man loving a woman and dieing in the quest for her love appeals to readers on an emotional level. The numerous themes and ideas that F. Scott Fitzgerald presents in The Great Gatsby are valued in many ways. He shows that dreams should be important in peoples’ lives, and that everyone should have a goal in life. He also displays the corrupt nature of the American Dream in the 1920’s, and how society’s social classes and racist views will never result to equality in America. This perspective of 20th century life and Fitzgerald’s style are also appreciated and valued.

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