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Corruption of The American Dream in

My research paper on characters who corrupt the american dream.

The Corruption of the American Dream

In the novel, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald the corruption of the American dream is the theme.  The novel takes place in New York within the towns of East Egg and West Egg during the 1920s. The novel is narrated by Nick Carraway who during the novel tries to get Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby back together. Nick finds out in the story that he fought in the war with Gatsby. Daisy is currently married to Tom Buchanan, who is cheating on her. Gatsby is in love with Daisy since he left for the war and now bought a huge house so that he may win her back. Gatsby earned his fortune by selling liquor for the mafia out the back of his pharmacies.  Nick Carraway stated “Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry” (Fitzgerald 89).  Throughout the novel the characters Jay Gatsby, Meyer Wolfshiem, Tom Buchanan, Myrtle Wilson, and Jordan Baker achieve the American dream through corruption or abused the American dream once achieved. The characters of The Great Gatsby express how the American dream, during the 1920s, is corrupt in many different ways.

Many characters corrupt the American dream in the novel and Jay Gatsby is one of the worst. Gatsby began his quest for the American dream when he met Daisy, whom showed Gatsby how rich people live. Gatsby lives a lie his whole life just to impress Daisy. Gatsby sold liquor out the back of his pharmacies for the mafia to make his fortune. “It was obviously Fitzgerald’s intent to make Gatsby both shadowy and clear” (Eble 40). Gatsby sold his soul to get Daisy back. Working with the mafia corrupts the American dream because having to break the law in order to make your money is shallow. Gatsby did not care he was breaking the law to make his fortune he just cared that Daisy would notice his house. The American dream itself was corrupted because Gatsby not only broke the law to achieve said dream, but he did it for shallow reasons. “It is evident, even to Nick, that Gatsby is a self-deluded fraud living in a world of shams” (Pearson 640).Gatsby also created an alternate persona for him by making up stories or achievements that he really never achieved. “There could be no fulfillment of Gatsby’s tragic dream” (Samuels 783). Gatsby never got Daisy back because in the end he was killed by the man whom she was married. 

Another character who corrupts the American dream throughout the novel is Meyer Wolfshiem. Wolfshiem is a mafia member who is a so called friend of Gatsby. “I cannot come down now as I am tied up in some very important business and cannot get mixed up in this thing now” (Fitzgerald 158). Wolfshiem’s claim to fame is that he fixed the 1919 World Series. Wolfshiem achieved his fortune by working with the mafia. Not only is this illegal, but it is an unsavory way to make you fortune. “”Meyer Wolfsheim? No, he’s a gambler.” Gatsby hesitated, then added coolly: “He’s the man who fixed the World’s Series back in 1919. “” (Fitzgerald 112). Little is known about how Wolfshiem works with the mafia, but it is known that he works with them. Wolfshiem not only corrupted his sense of a dream, but aided in destroying Gatsby’s sense of a dream. “Gatsby is murdered, the rise from poverty to wealth through dubious practice and the violent fall from grace through no real fault of the hero” (Solomon 187). This corrupts the American dream working with characters from the mafia and then joining the mafia is against the law. Fixing the World Series and losing all those peoples money that bet on the team that was going to win is cruel to many people. This corrupts the American dream at the highest caliber because it takes away from other hard working Americans.

Tom Buchanan is another character who corrupts the American dream. Tom however did not corrupt the American dream while achieving it, but after it had already been achieved. “I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that’s the idea you can count me out” (Fitzgerald 137). Tom was cheating on his wife with multiple women. This quote shows how a much of a hypocrite Tom was because of how he complained about his wife doing exactly what he was. Tom was cheating on his wife with other women then complains when his wife does the same. “The character of Tom Buchanan, denizen of the isolated town of East Egg, two-timing husband of Daisy, and single-minded adherent” (Will 132). Tom also corrupts the dream because of how he treats people who have yet to achieve the American dream. Tom complains about how the man who’s selling dogs could buy ten more dogs from the price of one of them (Fitzgerald 28).  Tom abuses the American dream solely to have a better time because he is bored of his wife Daisy. Abusing the American dream is a very unsavory was on living your life. Tom abused the American dream after he had achieved it solely to enjoy himself more.

Myrtle Wilson is another example of someone who corrupts the American dream. Except in her case she is corrupting the American dream while achieving it. “George Wilson, Myrtle’s husband, refers to Dr. Eckleburg as the eyes of God. “God sees everything,” Wilson tells Michaelis when commenting on his conversation with Myrtle concerning her infidelity” (Pearson 641). Myrtle is cheating on her husband, George Wilson, with Tom Buchanan. “George B. Wilson is unsuccessful economically and so thoroughly old stock that his very name brings to mind the previous president” (Slater 55). Myrtle is one of two characters in the novel who tries to achieve the American dream though leeching off of someone else’s wealth. Myrtle is leeching off of Tom’s wealth and fortune. In doing this, Myrtle is causing Daisy great pain by cheating on her husband. This is corrupting the American dream because Myrtle is trying to leech off someone else who has worked hard for there fortune. In the process of doing this she is harming her own husband and the wife of Tom. “Nick goes with Tom Buchanan for an impromptu party one afternoon, while Tom and Myrtle have retired to the adjoining bedroom, for obvious purposes” (Tanner 470). Harming someone else to increase your happiness is not a savory way to exist. Harming other people to achieve things is wrong because it is hindering there ability to achieve things.

Jordan Baker is another character who corrupted the American dream. Jordan Baker is a golfer who cheats and lies to gain her fortune. Jordan Baker tells of how she cheated on a put by moving her ball. “At her first big golf tournament there was a row that nearly reached the newspapers—a suggestion that she had moved her ball from a bad lie in the semi-final round” (Fitzgerald 47). Jordan Baker also was a frequent liar throughout the novel. Achieving the American dream through lying and cheating is corruption. Jordan Baker became rich by cheating in a tournament and she did this because it was her nature. Jordan Baker is a liar and a cheater because that is how her personality is portrayed throughout the novel. “Nick’s relationship with Jordan (and women in general) do not intersect with the primary narrative logic in explicit and important ways” (Preston 145). Jordan corrupted the American dream by achieving it through sketchy ways, but she also abused the rewards of the American dream after she had achieved it. Jordan Baker would lie to many people around her to get out of being blamed for things. One such event was when the roof of the convertible was left open yet she lied about leaving it down (Fitzgerald 52). 

In conclusion, the novel “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald shows many examples of characters that corrupt the American dream. In all of these characters a few details of there corruption is similar. One of these is that they all are stepping on other to achieve there goals. Many of them are purposely hurting others to achieve the American dream. Gatsby turns Daisy into his dream and uses corruption to achieve her as a goal, but fails. “He turns her into a dream-”the latest dream he ever did dream””(Coffin 82). Tom Buchanan is one of the characters who stands alone in there corruption. Tom abused the dream once he had already achieved it. The rest of the characters abused the dream while trying to achieve it. The American dream as a whole became corrupt when the pressure to succeed surpasses the need to be fair. “As Nick tours Gatsby’s “eyesore of a mansion-filled with historical rooms that have been bought, but not understood” (Pinsker 70). The American dream was corrupted heavily in the 1920s because of prohibition, prohibition allowed many small business owners to make a lot of money by selling liquor of the back of there shops. Also in this time if you had not achieved the American dream your life would be very depressing. There are three major forms of corruption expressed in this novel cheating, stealing, and lying. Many of these characters used all three to achieve there goal such as, Jordan Baker. Jordan cheated in her gold tournaments, stole the dream from whomever she beat in the tournament, and lies a lot during the novel. To summarize, the American dream is corrupted during the 1920s and is expressed in the novel “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald through many of the characters. 

Works Cited

Coffin, Tristram P. “Gatsby’s Fairy Lover.” Midwest Folklore 10.2 (1960): 79-85.

Eble, Kenneth. “The Great Gatsby.” College Literature 1.1 (1974): 34-47.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 2004.

Pearson, Roger L. “Gatsby: False Prophet of the American Dream.” The English Journal 59.5 (1970): 638-45.

Pinsker, Sanford. “Seeing The Great Gatsby Eye to Eye.” College Literature 3.1 (1976): 69-71.

Preston, Elizabeth. “Implying Authors in The Great Gatsby.” Narrative 5.2 (1997): 143-64.

Samuels, Charles Thomas. “The Greatness of Gatsby.” The Massachusetts Review 7.5 (1966): 783-94.

Slater, Peter Gregg. “Ethnicity in The Great Gatsby.” Twentieth Century Literature 19.1 (1973): 53-62.

Solomon, Eric. “A Source for Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.” Modern Language Notes 73.3 (1958): 186- 88. 

Tanner, Bernard. “The Gospel of Gatsby.” The English Journal 54.6 (1965): 467-74.

Will, Barbara. “The Great Gatsby and the Obscene Word.” College Literature 32.4 (2005): 125-44.

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