《了不起的盖茨比》是菲茨杰拉德的一部名著。作者通过描写盖茨比个人的困境 与失败展现了那个时代的悲剧。在小说中，盖茨比想要通过物质上的成功来赢得爱情, 然而，他的梦想是建立于幻想，而不是现实，这是注定要失败的。因为盖茨比是美国 梦的代表，从某种意义上说,盖茨比的失败也预示了美国梦本身的破灭。 本论文首先介绍
了作者与小说的主要情节，接着讲述了美国梦的根源与本质。第 三部分分析了盖茨比对财富梦及爱情梦的追求。最后分析了盖茨比美国梦破碎的原因 以及必然性。
The Great Gatsby is one of Fitzgerald?s masterpieces. The author presented the tragedy of that age by describing Gatsby?s personal dilemma and failure. In this novel, Gatsby wants to win love through material success. However, his dream is based on illusion rather than reality, which is doomed to fail. Gatsby is the representative of the American dream. In some senses, Gatsby?s failure also predicts the shattering of the American dream itself. This paper begins with an introduction about the author and the brief plot of the novel The Great Gatsby. Then it tells the origin and the essence of the American dream. After that, it gives an analysis of Gatsby?s pursuit of fortune and love dream. Finally, the paper points out the inevitable disillusion of Gatsby?s American dream and presents the factors of the tragedy. Keywords: the American dream; fortune; love; disillusion
1. Introduction……………………………………………………………… 1 2. The American Dream……………………………………………………2 2.1The Origin of the American Dream and its Development…………………3 2.2The essence of the American Dream and its Historical Background………4 3. The American Dream Reflected in Gatsby………………………………5 3.1 Gatsby?s Pursuit of Fortune Dream………………………………………5 3.2 Gatsby?s Pursuit of Love Dream…………………………………………6 4. Disillusion of Gatsby’s American Dream………………………………7 4.1 Gatsby?s American Dream and His Illegal Activities……………………8 4.2 Gatsby?s American Dream and the Social Environment………………9 4.3 Gatsby?s American Dream and H is Innocence …………………… 10 5. Conclusion…………………………………………………………………11 References……………………………………………………………………13
F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) is one of the twentieth century?s greatest writers, whose works were the samples of the Jazz Age. He is widely regarded as the literary spokesman of the “Jazz Age”—an age between the end of the First World War and the outbreak of the Great Depression. In many ways, he expressed in his stories the disillusionment of the young generation with “the American dream”. Fitzgerald is also considered a member of the “Lost Generation” of the 1920s. He was born into a middle-class family in St. Paul, Minnesota in the American Midwest. In his short life, Fitzgerald experienced overnight fame and wealth in 1920s but suffered a lot in the 1930s. His first novel—This Side of Paradise was published in 1920 and became a best-seller, through which he got fame and commercial success. With a series of success of his writing, Fitzgerald had a high quality of life. In 1925, Fitzgerald managed to complete The Great Gatsby. This book brought him a critical comment and commercial failure. After that, with the pain of his personal life and the disappearance of the writing inspiration, he never wrote a well-known book any more. In 1940, he died of a heart attack when he was only forty-four. Different from other American writers who also had the American dream as the subject of their works, Fitzgerald impressed his readers from a new perspective. His works depicted the 1920s of America, the period of the high growth of America. With the richness of material, people?s spiritual life was corrupted, especially the life of the upper class. “Many critics have seen Fitzgerald?s artistic achievement in terms of his ability to depict the America n society, its history and its people.”(Tang Sooping, 1992:7) The Great Gatsby is a story told by Nick, a man from the Mid-West, going to New York to do business. He heard about his neighbor, a mysterious man called Jay Gatsby, who always held fabulous parties at his house. Gatsby was born in a poor family in the Middle West. During the time of serving in the army, Gatsby fell in love with Daisy, a wealthy girl. However, he was too poor to marry
her. When the First World War broke out, Gatsby had to devote himself to the army. Daisy gave up waiting for him and got married with a rich young man Tom Buchanan. However, Daisy?s marriage was not that happy because Tom has betrayed their marriage. He had a mistress after their daughter was born. All these things inspired Gatsby?s desire to get married with Daisy. In order to win back his lost love, it took Gatsby just a few years to make a fortune through illegal business. He bought a mansion located on the opposite side of Daisy?s house with a river lying in between. Gatsby held parties every weekend, hoping that one day Daisy would come but she did not turn up even once. With the help of Nick, the cousin of Daisy, Gatsby met Daisy again five years after they broke away from each other. But now the lady in front of him was no longer the ideal lover in his dream. Instead, she became a selfish and vulgar woman. She refused to give up Tom but at the same time she did not refuse Gatsby. One day, Daisy drove Gatsby?s car after drinking and caused an accid ent in which Tom?s mistress, Myrtle Wilson was killed. In order to protect Daisy, Gatsby decided to assume the responsibility. Finally Gatsby was shot by Myrtle?s husband. Only Gatsby?s poor father and Nick attended the funeral. Daisy did not feel any sadness and was on trip with Tom to Europe at that time.
2. The American Dream and its Historical Background
The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals which includes freedom, the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work. The term American Dream was first used by James Truslow Adams in his book The Epic of America. He states, “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of
which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.” (Adams, 1931: 214) It means that everyone, no matter what class he is in, can be successful through his own efforts. This ideology is based on the principle that one should be responsible for himself and seize every opportunity to gain success with courage and through hard work. The American dream has its own particular history background. Since Columbus found “the new continent”, the Europeans went to America for exploitation and colonialism. People in Europe got many kinds of harsh sufferings. They moved to the North American continent because they wanted to get rid of the sufferings in Europe, to be rich, and put into practice their values and philosophies of life. They wanted to escape the religious persecution and rebuild the religious belief. Going to America gave them the aspiration of freedom, the opportunity to be rich. Besides, many unthinkable things in the Old World may turn into reality in this piece of land. From the view of Xing Yan(Xing Yan, 2004:49), “Opportunity follows one after another, and almost everyone will cause a national madness, the United States becomes a country of ?milk and honey?. Therefore, a large number of people with an American dream swarmed here.”
2.1 The Origin of the American Dream and its Development
“The American Dream arose in the colonial period and developed in the nineteenth century, based on the assumption of each person, no matter what his origin was, could succeed in changing their social positions and making their dreams come true through their own efforts, and getting new, free and better life. It is what is often referred to as ?American dream?. ” (Zhao Hongwei, 2003: 2) The American dream is both a romantic expectation and a belief that with toil and devotion people will achieve what their desire. The American dream at its early stage was a Puritan desire for the freedom in religion and creation. However, it becomes broader in meaning along with the expansion to the American West. It includes the pursuit of happiness, the goal to be successful in
career, love and wealth. After the Civil War, the American dream has even more concrete meanings as people strongly believe that with hard work, they can create miracles such as from poor to rich.
2.2 The essence of the American Dream
As for the American Dream, it is a belief that a better life could be achieved through hard work and strives. There are several notions behind the American Dream—equal opportunities provided for everyone; the success based on one?s own talents and efforts, and equal opportunity to achieve success. The dream has its constant element, but is ever-changing with the people and with the times. The American dream is seen as one for a better and richer life for everyone, a dream of having opportunities in terms of one?s ability. According to Li Hongwen (黎红雯, 2002:15), “For some, the American dream is a chance to build a successful business and become a millionaire. For others, the American dream is from the log cabin to the White House. For still other people, the American dream is the ladder from the rags to the riches. ” From Li?s view, people may have their own dreams, of which some are small ambitions and others could be great ones. For young students today, the dream might include getting higher education and devoting oneself to helping others. For the middle-aged people today, the dream may include a very high-paying job which one could retire at an early age and have a more satisfying lifestyle. “Everyone had a different idea for his or her American Dream; everyone?s American Dream may be totally different from each other; that is what makes them all individuals. The dream may differ in that some people wanted to work hard and had financial success, or others might just want to have enough food and income to survive, and make their life simple, healthy and happy. ” (邓年刚，潭素钦, 1997:15)Almost every American has his own American Dream. Almost every American including immigrants and poor people has his desire for a better life. Such a life enables him to own a big house, have much money, delicious food and luxury cars, and enjoy freedom as well. No
matter what his origin is, he could succeed in through his own efforts. With the success, he is able to get access to higher social position and better life.
3. The American Dream Reflected in Gatsby
In the novel, Gatsby?s American dream was to win daisy?s love, and he spared no effort to do everything to regain the love of Daisy. In order to make his American Dream come true, Gatsby got money by doing illegal trade of alcohol. Also, in the pursuit of his love, he did whatever Daisy asked him to do even at the sacrifice of his precious life.
3.1 Gatsby’s Pursuit of Fortune Dream
One part of Gatsby?s dream was to get rich. Gatsby was a man who lived in the lower class, he dreamed for getting recognition, he dreamed for social status, and the true love. But to improve his social status and gain recognition, he was in bad need of money. In his youth, he harbored the innocent wish to be successful by hard work. In order to succeed, he worked tirelessly to do many things and worked out a schedule, which bears the similarity of that of Benjamin Franklin. Gatsby?s schedule displayed his imagination or illusion of his own future, through which a link between his dream and the American dream can be perceived. Gatsby dreamed of becoming a great man. Even when he was a boy, he had his aspirations. He was not content with things as they are and he just wanted to work hard to change the situation. He forced him to get up early in the morning at 6:00 and began to study electricity at 7:15, worked from 8:30A.M. to 4:30 P.M.. “study needed inventions” (Fitzgerald,1993:176) in the evening. He also has a wonderful “general resolves”,(Fitzgerald ,1993:174) which set strict demands on himself, such as “no wasting time，no smoking, read one important book or magazine per week and save $500 per week” .(Fitzgerald, 1993: 174) In the novel, Gatsby was born in a poor family in the Midwest Court. On the contrary, Daisy, the girl that he loved always lived a luxuriant life since she was
born, so it was her habit to live a life with high quality. To Daisy, it was hard to imagine how she could stand a difficult life without money. But Gatsby was just a poor soldier. If he had not pretended to be a man with great wealth to win Daisy?s love, Daisy would not have fallen in love with him at all five years ago. In Gatsby?s view, he believed money could buy him love and happiness. With such thought in mind, he did everything in order to make money. In just a few years, through illegal trade of alcohol and other dishonest businesses, he made a fortune. A poor young man turned into someone with wealth. Gatsby?s success in fortune was great. To show off his wealth, Gatsby built a house in the old aristocratic style. In the huge and brilliant house, Gatsby would hold fabulous parties at the weekend, which people of status would be happy to attend. They admired his property and wanted to be friends of him. It may seem as if Gatsby had made his fortune dream come true. However, he never succeeded in a real sense through his own hard work, courage, or his strong resolution. He just became rich by conducting illegal businesses, which defied the essence of the American dream.
3.2 Gatsby’s Pursuit of Love Dream
Another part of Gatsby?s dream is his dream of love. When he was a soldier in the Army, he fell in love with a rich girl Daisy. But he understood that he was not able to marry such a girl from a wealthy family and of higher social status. Daisy married Tom who had money and status though she did not love the man at all. Gatsby never stopped his love for Daisy; instead, he could not help recalling her, his first love. The most significant to Gatsby was to repeat the past with Daisy day and night and to get the lost pure love. As soon as he had money, Gatsby started to be in chase of his love to repeat the past. To fulfill his love dream, the first thing he did was to buy a luxurious house in front of Daisy?s house across the bay. Then he held parties every weekend night to draw Daisy?s attention. He believed that Daisy may come over to his mansion one day. However, Daisy never turned up. So Gatsby asked Nick to invite Daisy to his house for a tea. At last he had a
chance to express his love to Daisy and got Daisy back from Tom. In the novel, his love to Daisy is true and pure. When he saw Daisy again, he was even speechless. After Gatsby reappeared with his wealth and his loyal love for her, she seemed to be touched and tried to resume her relationship with him, without any guilt to her husband. For Daisy, what she really wanted was not a romantic lover with no status, but a man who could give her a comfortable life and a respected social standing. Gatsby did not change his mind of marrying Daisy even when he became an adult. Daisy was the first and the only woman whom he loved in his life. His love for Daisy kept him away from other women and “he would never so much as look at a friend?s wife.”(Fitzgerald, 1993:47) That?s the reason why “no girls would swoon backward on Gatsby at his parties.” (Fitzgerald, 1993:33) Gatsby had been so devoted to her. He loved her so much that he was simply blind of her essential defect—Daisy gave more concern to status and luxury life.. Gatsby?s dream of love was closely associated with his dream of money. He believed that the money could help him get everything, but he did not regard the pursuit of money as the ultimate goal. The reason that he was after money was just for his love dream. The dream of being rich and the dream of winning the love of Daisy are integrated. The former is a means and the latter is his ultimate goal, without which the former may never become true. Without money Gatsby and Daisy could never have the opportunity to rekindle old dreams. With a lot of money, Gatsby would be more confident in his pursuit of his love dream.
4. Disillusion of Gatsby’s American Dream
Jay Gatsby, the embodiment of the American dream，was doomed to fail because the American political ideals contradicted the actual existing social system．In the novel, Fitzgerald described and contrasted the difference between East and West Egg, showed the separation between the upper class and the lower class, Gatsby spent his whole life making money and winning status so that he
could win Daisy back. That?s what motivated him to move to West Egg, and made money by any means. After that, he held extravagant parties every weekend, did what Daisy asked him to. Gatsby?s success in fortune was great. So was his strong will for love and to achieve his life goal. He finally became the upper class?s deputy. No matter how wonderful his parties were, he could not change his poor family background. Gatsby did not know clearly what kind of girl Daisy was. What Daisy wanted was not love but a guarantee of comfort and wealth in life. Owing to his unrealistic dream, Gatsby ended up with tragedy. As for Gatsby?s death, it may seem that he deserved the punishment for what he did. Yet he sacrificed himself for Daisy who did not even turn up at his funeral. And the saddest thing was that Daisy, did not feel any regret or sorrow for Gatsby?s death, she went traveling with his husband Tom. There was nothing left for Gatsby. All the things he got have gone with his death, including his wealth and love. “Daisy goes together with her husband to another city happily while Gatsby is murdered mistakenly, improves that all his great characterize means nothing. In other words, Gatsby?s final American Dream, which is to win Daisy, is totally a failure.” (杨慧群, 2002:3)The shattering of his dream of love is a reflection of the breaking of American dream. Owing to his unrealistic dream, Gatsby ended up with tragedy. Living in that age, Gatsby had in his mind the value orientation. He thought the American dream embodied the personal success or self-fulfillment for those hard-working people. His idea of success was measured by money, which was misleading. In his view, success was the glamour brought about by huge wealth. The American dream in his time was somewhat hollow for people were mainly after money. In this sense, Gatsby?s dream, just as the American dream, is just an illusion
4.1 Gatsby’s American Dream and His Illegal Activities
American dream is essentially a spirit to inspire people to make progress and it has a positive meaning. In 1920s, after the World War I, the American dream were decadent, corrupt, and the original hard work, frugality, temperance and
other values were weak. America society came into the stage of monopoly capitalism. The American society developed rapidly with its economy booming. As Americans became money worshippers, they became greedy. Money was the only goal which they were striving for. So 1920s was a time without any belief, a time for lost generation, and a time of tragedies. “America was going on the greatest, gaudiest spree in history and there was going to be plenty to tell about it. The whole golden boom was in the air —its splendid generosities, its outrageous corruptions and the tortuous death struggle of the old America in prohibition. In such a debauched social context, what the traditional American dream advocated to strive for success through hard work turned out to be futile. Gatsby was greatly influenced by the instruction of the traditional dream.”(陈卓, 2009:143) Yet, no matter how hard he worked to gain material success, Gatsby gained wealth through dishonest conduct. He involved himself in the illegal trade of wine, through which he made his fortune. In this sense, he did not follow the doctrines of American dream. He made his way into a world where nothing is more important than money, where moral integrity is sacrificed. Fitzgerald presented before his readers the disillusion of American dream, which is seen as the synonym for money. With money as an important ingredient of the dream, it is quite natural that people may become greedy and crazy for money. The novel—The Great Gatsby may seem to be shallow with much description of parties and jazz in 1920s. However, by probing into the novel, it can be seen that the story is a social commentary on the corruption and the disillusive effect of materialism on various people. Gatsby is a typical example who turned from rug into riches with corrupted morality. But money was not his final goal. His final goal was to win the love of Daisy with his wealth.
4. 2 Gatsby’s American Dream and the Social Environment
The darkness and emptiness of the capitalist society account for the shattering of Gatsby?s American dream. When Gatsby was serving in the army,
Daisy, the girl whom he loved, promised to wait for him till he made his fortune so that they could be married. But when Gatsby came back, Daisy had married Tom Buchanan, a millionaire, whom she did not have an affection. Gatsby was seriously hurt and decided to win back his love. Gatsby?s motive to make a fortune was driven by his attempt to get a step closer to Daisy again. Gatsby believed that if he wanted to win Daisy?s heart, he needed to be more affluent in wealth and more successful than Tom. Tom Buchanan, a representative of the solid wealthy class， was corrupt， but not weak. He would not allow his authority to be challenged ．In the eyes of Tom and Daisy, no matter how much money or power Gatsby may possess, he was still “nobody from nowhere” because he has “no comfortable family standing behind him.” (Fitzgerald, 1993: 95) The competition between Tom and Gatsby was not only a battle between rivals for love, but also a battle between representatives of the two different social classes. In the novel, the difference between East and West Egg can be perceived as a dividing line between the upper and the lower class, the four geographical locations in the novel ranging from East and West Egg to New York City fit a special theme or a typical character. West Egg lived people like Gatsby, who were indulged in extravagant life. They were representatives of the newly emerged rich alongside the established aristocracy of the 1920s. East Egg was the place for people such as the Buchanan, who were enjoying great wealth and high status as well. They were the symbol of the old establishment and aristocracy with ongoing dominance in American society. Gatsby?s romantic idealism does not fit in with those in East Egg. He tried hard to climb up the social ladder but he could not get himself fit in or really accepted due to his shabby background. In such a society, it was rather hard for Gatsby, a man from East Egg to melt himself with those symbolizing the old establishment and the old aristocracy. From this perspective, his American dream in the pursuit of love was hard to come true.
4.3 Gatsby’s American Dream and His Innocence
The disillusion of Gatsby?s American dream may be related to his personal
factor. Gatsby?s love for Daisy was to the extent of obsession. It was really touching, but he chose the wrong person to love for. In his heart, Daisy was beautiful and innocent, and she represented all the merits in the upper class of America. Gatsby had in his mind the perfect image of Daisy, and treated her as the avatar of dream. However, Daisy was not the perfect girl he imagined. Born in a rich family, Daisy was used to the extravagant life. Even “her voice is full of money”.(Fitzgerald, 1993: 119) In the eyes of Daisy, love, when confronted with money, retreated to an inferior position. She believed in materialism and wanted to live in comfort. However, out of his innocence, Gatsby failed to see through her even upon his death. In addition, he did not see clearly the gap between Daisy and him—the status or the two different classes. He was na? ve enough to believe that with his effort, he could be materially rich and hence he could gain status afterwards. He was naive enough to believe that with wealth and status, he was able to make his American dream of love come true. His life ended up in tragedy which had it root in his blind pursuit of love and fantasy. Besides, the lack of clear understanding of the upper middle class society was factor for the shattering of his dream. Though he became rich, it was unlikely that he would get access to the upper society.
Fitzgerald?s The Great Gatsby is a significant novel in the history of the American literature．It is the mirror of an era, the Jazz Age. People of that time tend to believe in wealth, which corrupts the original belief of American Dream. They consider money as a simple method and a tool on one?s way to success. Gatsby is just the miniature of the American society of that age reflecting the distortion of the American dream itself. Gatsby works hard for his dream and is ruined by his dream. It is his American Dream that makes him succeed, be destroyed and died pathetically in the end. Therefore, Gatsby?s tragedy is related to that age he was in, and Gatsby?s tragedy also indicates the shattering of the American dream. American Dream affects generations of Americans. No matter
how it changes, its theme is the pursuit of freedom, equality, the realization of one?s own dream, and a high quality life. The Great Gatsby criticizes the society in which people are after money and low in morality. By taking a close look at the novel, Gatsby?s failure in the pursuit of his dream arises from mainly three factors. Firstly, Gatsby gained wealth from doing illegal businesses. Secondly, he naively thought he could enter the upper class in a society where equality between people was hard to realize. Finally, he was so innocent as to love a wrong person who was just selfish, and money-worshipping. In the corrupted American society at that time, Gatsby would not be able to make his dream come true since he would not be accepted by the upper society despite that he possessed great wealth. With no recognition by the upper society, he would not be able to win Daisy back. To a great extent, his failure in his pursuit of love dream is a sign of the shattering or the failure of the American dream.
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