A Transformation of the American Dream
Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value." (Albert Einstein) The American Dream, although different for each one of us, is the personal paradise, we all aspire to achieve. It promises prosperity and self-fulfillment as rewards for hard work and self-reliance. It offers faith in the possibility of a better life. Traditionally, the original dream consisted of a spiritual quest, the pursuit of a sublime gratification. Humanity’s main goal was to become one with God. It was a dream in an era where the spiritual world dominated people’s values. The dream was pure, selfless and devout. People were in search of the divine. However with time, the spiritual quest was mutated into a material quest. The American Dream was transformed into a desire to attain wealth and power. Society began to prioritize their materialistic desires over self-discovery. They were now in pursuit of worldly goods, and desired a life of great wealth. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, Winter Dreams the new transformed American Dream is portrayed. This story tells the tale a young man’s obsession and determination for the love of Judy Jones, a women who represents the ideal characteristics of the American Dream. She is beautiful, rich and persuasive- everything that Dexter wants. She is the American Dream. However, Fitzgerald illustrates how life based on materialism alone is a corruption rather than a fulfillment of the American Dream. He portrays how those who try to maintain a lifestyle based purely on materialistic values are doomed by their self-delusion. In this sense, the story shows how the American Dream is an illusion, how it can be detrimental to oneself and how it is temporary and easily destroyed thus demonstrating the corruption within the American Dream.
In itself, the American Dream is an illusion. In Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, an illusion is defined as ‘a misleading or deceiving image presented to the vision as a perception of something objectively existing in such a way as to cause misinterpretation of its actual nature.’ Similarly, many of the goals and desires that the American Dream holds are not always what they seem to be. On the surface, they may seem to be what everyone wants, however below is the real truth about these desires and their consequences. They are misleading and deceiving. Everyone is striving for these materialistic goals yet don’t really know why they want them. The narrator proves this by stating, “-Dexter wanted the glittering things themselves. Often he reached out for the best without knowing why he wanted it” (1511) They are all striving for this dream and don’t even know why - it’s an illusion. Furthermore, Judy in the story is portrayed as the typical American Dream. Fitzgerald however hints to the readers, what her real nature is like, “beautifully ugly as little girls are apt to be who are destined after a few years to be inexpressibly lovely and bring no end of misery to a great number of men…. There was a general ungodliness in the way her lips twisted down…” (1510) The
author indicates how beneath her beauty and charm, there lies an ‘ungodliness’ in her spirit. Her portrayal is an illusion. She is even referred to as a doll, “Judy Jones, a slender enameled doll in the cloth of gold: gold in a band at her head, gold in two slipper points at her dress’s hem.” (1519) She is merely a pretty doll on the outside that Dexter chooses to play with. Like a doll, she represents simple what Dexter wants to see her as. These illusions found in the American Dream prove how corrupt it really is.
A person can cause detriment to himself by obsessing over the American Dream. Often enough, if someone is too determined and strong-minded about achieving certain goals and in the end, those goals are not successfully achieved the outcome is very difficult to cope with. When we set our hearts on dreams, it is very painful to deal with our dreams being shattered. It is as though our heart has broken into pieces. Dexter for example, had his heart set on Judy - his American Dream. This dream however continuously brought him grief:
She had inflicted on him the innumerable little slights and indignities possible in such a case - as if in revenge for having ever cared for him at all. She had beckoned him and yawned at him again he had responded often with bitterness and narrowed eyes. She had brought him ecstatic happiness and intolerable agony of spirit…. She had insulted him, and she had ridden over him…. He told himself the trouble and the pain she had caused him. (1518)
His dream, something that should only bring him extreme happiness, resulted in misery and pain. It even forced him to leave, “He was one those young thousands who greeted the war with a certain amount of relief, welcoming the liberation from webs of tangled emotion.”(1522) His had mixed emotions towards her, “A million phrases of anger, pride, passion, hatred, tenderness fought on his lips…. by his yielding he subjected himself to a deeper agony in the end…” (1521) As a great mystic Sikh once so poetically put it, "the law of duality” states that everything is this materialistic world is bound to be followed by its opposite. For example, happiness is always followed by sorrow and love is always followed by hate. The original dream, the spiritual quest did not see things as opposites. They lived in the realm of God and God is one. The American Dream however is caught in this law of opposites, this illusion of duality. It causes detriment and pain to the people who strive towards it moreover demonstrating the corruption in the American Dream.
All things are not ever lasting. To achieve the American Dream is a temporary satisfaction. Many of the things outlined in one’s dream can very easily be destroyed because they are not eternal. Fitzgerald makes a very strong statement concerning Judy by saying, “Lots of women fade just like that.” (1523) This comment implies how the American Dream simply fades away and vanishes. A dream that was once so intense and strong slips away just like that. Judy held the essence of Dexter’s dream, and she faded away. In addition, Dexter really only lived his dream for the period of three days. During the time he was with Judy, he reached his paradise. However, this period was ended abruptly, “The three days were interrupted by the arrival a New York man who visited at her house for half September.” (1517) She wasn’t stable or constant, leaving Dexter’s dreams destroyed at the snap of a finger. Furthermore, Fitzgerald associates Judy to a butterfly, “…It was sturdy to accentuate her slightness - as if to show what a breeze could be generated by a butterfly’s wing.”(1521) He shows how delicate she really is. Like a butterfly, she has the capabilities to fly however it’s even easier to destroy her. Similarly, the American Dream does have potential to fly however; its transformed values such as wealth and power are easily destroyed hence displaying why the American Dream is so corrupted.
Society’s original dream to become one with God was a spiritual quest of virtue and purity. It was moral, truthful and respectful. However as time progressed, this dream was altered into a material quest for wealth and power. This transformation focuses on the contemporary American Dream and the downfall of those who attempt to reach its illusionary goals. Consequently, Fitzgerald emphasized the corruption found in the American Dream. All in all, one can deduce that once dreams are achieved, they no longer exist. Reality comes into play when one realizes their dreams are not what they taught they would be.
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The Great Gatsby The American Dream Sample essay topic, essay writing: The Great Gatsby - The American Dream - 775 words
The statement made by Marius Bewley's critical essay "Scott Fitzgerald: The Apprentice Fiction", "Fitzgerald's ultimate subject is the character of the American Dream in which, in their respective ways, his principle heroes are all trapped.", can be justified through Scott Fitzgerald's The Importance of Having Dreams There is no person alive that isn’t filled with dreams, goals and ideals. These things are a part of life and human nature. We all have the inbred desire for a good life. Dreams are vital to the life of every person. Without dreams, there is nothing to plan or look forward to; therefore, no Emptiness in the Great Gatsby In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald portrays the emptiness of a very meretricious society. Many people in today’s materialistic world are just hollow, but some have a dream, which turns into a goal. In many cases this dream might be pursued, but for some people it becomes a superficial vision. Through the use of symbolism and Gatsby’s Pursuit Of The American Dream The Great Gatsby, a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is about the American Dream, and the downfall of those who attempt to reach its illusionary goals. The attempt to capture the American Dream is central to many novels. This dream is different for different people, but in The Great Gatsby, for Jay, the dream is Living in the Past and Present We all know how is feels to reminisce about the past. Raking up the fresh fallen fall leaves and jumping in them, playing hide-and-go-seek with the neighborhood friends, sled riding down the biggest hill we could find, and the first love of our lives. That first look into the other’s eyes told us that we