The failure of the 'American Dream' in the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald

Thesis (M.A.), 2005

69 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The American Dream and its origin

3. Short biography of Francis Key Scott Fitzgerald

4. Short definition of Modernism in American literature

5. The Great Gatsby

6. This Side Of Paradise
6.1. Introduction
6.2. The most important characters in ‘This Side Of Paradise’
6.3. Version of the American Dream in ‘This Side Of Paradise’
6.4. Rosalind and Eleonor - The collapse of the American Dream

7. Tender Is The Night
7.1. Introduction
7.2. Dick Diver’s way into alienation and decay
7.3. The love affair with Rosemary Hoyt
7.4. The way back home to the U.S.A. after the decay

8. Thesis Summary

9. Bibliography


1. Introduction

Even though F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life did not last very long, he wrote some of the most important works of American literature in the first half of the 20th century. He was born in the Midwest, in St. Paul, Minnesota, but moved to the East Coast very soon to go to university there. Being a midwesterner made it quite hard for him to get used to the mentality of the gentry at the East Coast that mainly had their origins in England.

After his experience in WW1, that did not see him as a soldier fighting in Europe but as a member of the army stationed at home, his life changed. Seeing many of his fellow students return from the war and realizing that what they saw during the warfare was something very much emotionally disturbing, he tried to cover up human feelings with festivities, drinking parties and sexual extravagance. He gradually got more and more fascinated by the decadent life people were leading around 1925, the so-called Jazz Age. Fitzgerald as an upcoming writer and his wife Zelda soon started living their version of the American Dream starting in an era of prosperity at the beginning of the 1920s, going through a period of economic decline at the end of the decade, ending in the time at the beginning of WW2 which, again, was very hard for the American society, since they got more and more aware of the fact that the life they had been leading was only make-belief and that American responsibilities in the world were very different to what people had considered them until then. Fitzgerald as a person in society and as a writer underwent all this change. His version of the American Dream changed from a very positive one to quite a bad one. In order to take a look at this change, I will deal with three of his major novels in my thesis. At first, I will examine his most well-known novel ‘The Great Gatsby’. Since there have already been written a lot of papers, books and secondary literature about it, I will not do it as deeply as one could.

I rather want to take it up here again, since it is the melting pot of all of Fitzgerald’s work as an author. After that I will proceed with his first successful novel ‘This Side Of Paradise’, a piece of work that made him an instant success in the U.S.A. in the 1920s and that got him a lot of critical acclaim all over the nation.

This early novel portrays the life and college years of Amory Blain, a young man who comes to his college with a lot of ambition, his version of the American Dream, which gradually fades away. The third novel I will be dealing with is ‘Tender Is The Night’. This very late novel in Fitzgerald’s life shows the life of Dick Diver, a psychiatrist abroad. It portrays his life as a young man with all the goals he has and finally his way of dealing with his wife’s schizophrenia and the development that leads him into disillusionment.

What these three novels have in common is that on their outset, the protagonists seem to have a great future ahead of them or at least think they do. It is not before a certain point of the books that the readers realize that the characters’ version and vision of the American Dream or of their lives and what they think it should be like, has to fail in the end. How do they want to achieve wealth and a better status in society has to be explored and explained. Another point will be, how their strife is conducted and why it finally has to fail and why they cannot succeed in what they do and what kinds of obstacles society puts in their way.

I will take a close look at the protagonists’ zeals and at their struggle to achieve what they want and at their failure to do so. The examination will mostly take place from a literary standpoint. Since this is a thesis in American literature, I will focus on how the respective piece of literature is made and not so much on the historical context. The latter one will only be used to make certain passages of the respective novel clear and lucid. The main spot is focussed on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s construction of the American Dream and its final failure in his works. In order to make my points clear, I will mostly use the method of Deconstruction, i.e., I will stay very closely to the respective text and interpret it. This method is very suitable for me to state my case on certain parts of the text to make clear in what way the protagonists’ strife for their version of the American Dream fails. It furthermore allows me to show the connections between the meaning of the novels and the way they were constructed by the author. This link is very important for Fitzgerald’s works since he used a lot of symbols in his novels to make them more interesting and to breathe life into them, in order to attract the readers’ attention.

2. The American Dream and its origin

The first thing you have to do in order to get an idea about what F. Scott Fitzgerald’s works are about and the main topics he kept taking up over and over, is to take a look at the fundament that the U.S.A. are built on. This is mainly the dream of wealth and prosperity dreamed by millions of people who came to the newly-founded country after 1776 to settle there in order to leave their poor homes in Europe, Asia and sometimes even other parts of the world behind. The Puritans’ dream was the ‘City upon a hill’. They wanted America to be a pure country in which they could accomplish their moral goals and where they could become a religious community that is able to live their faith as freely as possible, without any kind of persecution.

In Puritan typological thinking, the concept of America as a mythic El Dorado where Ponce de Leon searched for that Fountain of Youth […] was replaced by the idea of America as a New Canaan where God’s own people were called upon to found their commonwealth.[1]

Since there came more and more immigrants who did not have a Puritan background, things started to change in the early 18th century. The American Dream gradually got moved away from the moral standards of the Puritans toward the mere dream of wealth. The aim was no longer to live a recluse life somewhere on a farm where you could have your own rules, but to belong to a group of people that were so much into trade and business that they had a lot of money and could afford many conveniences due to that. Even Benjamin Franklin who first thought that money should not be the main reason for a man to work hard changed his attitude in his younger years when he got an offer from his employer Hugh Meredith to become his partner in his printing business. He stated this change in his autobiography. At first, his employer wanted Franklin to abate his wage. Even though Franklin was not after the money, he did not want to make that abatement and felt the desire to leave the company. All of a sudden Meredith visited with him to reveal his intention and asked Franklin to join him as a partner.

I objected my want of money. He [Meredith] then let me know, that his Father had a high Opinion of me, and from some Discourse that had pass’d between them, he was sure would advance Money to set us up, if I would enter into Partnership with him.[2]

His first steps in business as a partner of a company owner were really impressive for the young Benjamin Franklin and thus made the later politician and author think about wealth in general and people’s want for it. Franklin came from this Puritan-like tradition where he had his origins in. The growing community at the East Coast and later on the new nation with its new need for an identity caused a change in his thinking which he wrote down in his autobiography in 1771 (first part) and 1784 (second part).

His main topic is the self-reliance of a person that comes to America. Being diligent and modest are the basics of success in the U.S.A. according to him.

This time Franklin came down strongly on the side of work. Advising Europeans who were considering moving to America, he assured them that America needed farmers, carpenters, shoemakers but not idle gentlemen who live on the labor of others.[3]

This statement entails the small formula that Franklin sees necessary for people to reach a certain level of wealth in his country. As long as you are idle and only want to laze around without really working hard there is no change for you to survive in the long run. Diligence is the basis that success in America is founded on, due to Franklin’s view. You can clearly see that he is in the middle of the tradition of the Enlightenment. The individual can only prevail if it takes fate in his own hands to work hard on it, contemplate and thus be successful. Later on Walt Whitman took up Franklin’s need for individualism and changed it into the celebration of the individual’s character in his ‘Leaves of Grass’ and especially in his poem ‘Song of Myself’.

The founding father of this look on one’s life, however, stays Benjamin Franklin, who saw the self-made man as the big idol that every person coming to America should have and long for.

I do not want to go into greater detail here concerning American history of that time. It is just important to outline the person who is the head behind the version of the American Dream that is still valid now, in the 21st century, and was also valid in the form we know it, in the 1920s when F. Scott Fitzgerald started writing novels and became a successful writer. Benjamin Franklin wants the individual to grow and be responsible for his own fate. In order to achieve that people need a certain state of wealth. He, nevertheless, does not think that too much money and real richness are good for the individual’s development. At the end of his life he even had an aversion to “unvarnished self-interest” that hardened. In his eyes a government should work without salaried compensation at all. “Pecuniary satisfaction” was a “mean inducement to him”.[4]

In this respect the period and state of mind that Franklin lived in and the 1920s with the ‘Jazz Age’ are different. After the industrial revolution around 1900 society put more and more emphasis on wealth, status and good positions in the industry. The individual’s diligent work on itself and its character stepped back and were replaced by the mere want for money. And even though money at first seemed to make people happy, a lot of businessman and writers soon realized that it is not everything in your life. F. Scott Fitzgerald used this topic in his novel ‘The Great Gatsby’ that I want to deal with first to go over to two of his nowadays less well-known novels, ‘This Side Of Paradise’ and ‘Tender Is The Night’, that were both quite popular in his time.

3. Short Biography of Francis Key Scott Fitzgerald

Francis Key Scott Fitzgerald was born in 1896 in St. Paul, Minnesota and named after the author of the poem that was in 1931 to become the official national anthem of the United States of America, Francis Scott Key. He wrote the poem in 1814 during the War of 1812 against the British, during a bombardment by ships near Baltimore and was an ancestor of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s.

The latter one attended Princeton University but did not graduate from it. Even though he came from the Midwest he was very interested in getting in touch with the gentry of the East Coast. He become part of the rich society there, even though he had mixed emotions about it. He was drafted to the army in 1917, but fortunately was never sent over to Europe to fight in WW1. He used his time to start writing and had his first success in 1920 with ‘This Side Of Paradise’. Due to his wealth he was able to afford a marriage with Zelda Sayre that he joined a rich life of party with. Traveling between the best places in America and Europe the Fitzgeralds became very well-known for their high society lifestyle. They were famous for their flamboyant manners and their parties. Those, however, were not the well-organized sort of party that people would like to find when they were invited to a place. Sometimes that kind of occasion turned into a real mess.

However, those invited often arrived to find total chaos. The food might not appear until hours later than expected, or one dish might appear, but not another. Sometimes the so-called guest of honor did not even attend. On one such occasion guests were told the party would honor a writer named Rebecca West, but she never arrived. Scott painted a face on a pillow, topped it with a hat, and placed it in the chair intended for West. Always the entertainer, he drank throughout dinner while insulting the pillow. Guests later learned that the invitation had been extended to West at the last moment, and she could not find the house due to poor directions.[5]

This kind of story about the Fitzgeralds’ parties clearly shows what their life was like. They were extravagant, decadent and even cheeky toward their guests. A good reputation did not mean anything to them. Being well-known or even famous for their flamboyance that showed their wealth and their exposed social status was much more important to them. Too much alcohol was what they considered to be the basis of their life in society. Their intention was to be in the center of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and to create a make-belief world that they were the most important part of.

In 1925 Fitzgerald wrote what he thought was his masterpiece and what should later become his most famous novel, ‘The Great Gatsby’. In those days the couple was still on the climax of their one-off life. This should come to an end when Zelda became troubled with a mental illness. The beautiful world of entertainment and their life that had been a never-ending party until then, stopped and turned into a nightmare.

In September 1931, following one year and three months of treatment, Zelda left the sanitarium. Scott planned to spend the winter in Montgomery. He thought that Zelda could enjoy her childhood surroundings while he finally returned to work on the novel. When Scott brought Zelda back to the States they passed through New York City. He noticed how much life had changed in America. Little of the gaiety of the 1920s remained; many people had lost everything. Many speculators had borrowed to invest in the stock market and had lost not only their investments but still had large debts to repay. Unemployment sky-rocketed […] [and] the rest of the world followed the United States into depression.[6]

The ‘Roaring Twenties’ were followed by the breakdown of the stock market in 1929 and the Great Depression in the 1930s. The whole nation and even the entire world suffered from a deep economical low and the flamboyant life of F. Scott Fitzgerald changed into a life of hardness. This had partly to do with his father’s death in 1931, but was mostly caused by Zelda’s mental illness and the consequences it had. It affected Scott and his works became more sinister and even less hopeful.

F. Scott’s creativity declined and he finally wrote scripts for the newly-founded movie industry in Hollywood but was not really good at it. He died on December 21st, 1940 of his second heart-attack in a short time after he had lived his life to the fullest.[7]

4. Short definition of Modernism in American literature

To be able to understand the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald it is important to know something about the literary period he was working in. The beginnings of Modernism are hard to define, but most scholars agree on the fact that it has its roots in French Symbolism which lasted from 1880 through 1895. It was a reaction to Realism with its very matter-of-fact style and its attitude that what you read is what you get. Another antipode was Naturalism that saw man in a life situation that was inescapable. The Naturalists thought that every man was predestined. No matter what you do in your life you cannot transgress the borders inside yourself that were given to you by nature. Natural heritage played a big role for them. For Modernists the form of their writing played a bigger role than the message they conveyed. They started using images no-one had ever used before their time. They dared go where no one else had ever gone before from a literary point of view. Self-consciousness plays an important role for them as well. Some of them used multi-perspectives to describe the increasing multi-perspectiveness of life itself. Modern life had become so complex that it demanded the author to go to the bottom of the subject he wanted to write about to finally understand it and to be able to convey it to his reader.[8]

Fitzgerald himself always searched for the origins of man’s life in society and for an authentic portrayal of that. He was pretty skeptical, however, if a high degree of authenticity can be reached in history, since the pressure coming from society and pressing down on the individual is very high and demands people to toe their line and subject to it more often than a strong individual likes it. In order to reach his way of conveying meaning to his readers Fitzgerald used a lot of symbols. Almost all objects in a room, clothes and furniture he mentions have a meaning to the text and have to be deciphered to get a deep insight in the respective situation or state of mind of a character.

The green light in ‘The Great Gatsby’ is just one example of many in which the author implies meaning in a normal situation. In that special case the green light means the light of hope for Gatsby to find a way back to his former lover Daisy. By using these symbols Fitzgerald created a vivid picture of his society with all its splendor and its failure. The author’s view of his society and its decadence was a split one. On the one hand he was part of the fake world he portrayed in his works and on the other hand he objected the inauthentic behavior it brought about. By writing about it, he displayed it and attacked it at the same time. He did not, however, come to a final conclusion if his era was a bad or a good one. His message is therefore not the revolutionary part of his works. It is more about the new ideas in the way of making literature with all the symbolic depth and verbal strength.[9]

5. The Great Gatsby

The novel ‘The Great Gatsby’ was published in 1925 and is still known as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most popular piece of work. Famous Hollywood actors Robert Redford and Mia Farrow even featured as the main characters Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan in a movie production in 1974 and thus made the novel even more well-known all over the Western world and beyond.

The novel is about a rich man, Jay Gatsby, who comes from the Midwest and moves to the East Coast of the U.S.A. His real name is James Gatz which is not revealed before the end of the novel. The protagonist lives in a very glamorous world and is the host of really great parties and festivities in his villa at West Egg, near Long Island. Even though he is the host, he never really joins the parties. It is much more important for him to observe what is going on in his house. His real aim in life is to win back Daisy Buchanan, nee Fay, whose parents were rich. While Gatsby had to fight in WW1 in Europe, she was his lover, but she would not wait any longer for him to return and she did not expect him to become rich at all, since he had his origins in a middle-class household in North Dakota. She therefore turned to a man called Tom Buchanan and married him, due to his wealth. When Gatsby returned to the U.S. he realized that his big love had left him and makes winning her back his highest goal. When he has finally reached that state of wealth, he buys a house that is situated near Daisy’s. The green lamplight at the end of the dock next to the house over there is his symbol of the new life he wants to lead with Daisy. Like so many other symbols, Fitzgerald used the green light of the lamp as a symbol of hope for Gatsby. Looking over to that dock gives him the tranquility to believe that he will win over Daisy someday.

And as I [Nick Carraway, the narrator] sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out or arms farther.[10]

This passage from the last chapter of the novel is the conclusion that Nick Carraway, narrator of the story, cousin to Daisy and friend of Gatsby’s draws. He realizes that wealth was only a means for Gatsby to win back Daisy. Jay Gatsby who was said to be one of the most ambitious men at the East Coast and whom everyone believed to only be interested in becoming richer and giving great carousals, finally turns out to be a romantic dreamer who never really got over the loss of his biggest love Daisy and who is willing to put all his efforts into winning her over again and stealing her from her husband Tom. Gatsby’s version of the American Dream seems to be what all wealthy people’s attitude toward it was in the 1920s: become rich and then richer.

Despite that the protagonist is quite disillusioned when he gradually comes to the conclusion that Daisy really did leave him, because she did not see a future with him, since he was not rich when he joined the army in 1917. During a stay in the Buchanan’s house, he tells Nick what he thinks about Daisy’s decadent behavior, telling him that: “Her voice is full of money”[11] The most important characteristic of Fitzgerald’s novel is that it is told to the readers by an authorial narrator who is not omniscient and appears as a character in the novel himself. The readers have to get inside Gatsby’s world with Nick Carraway as their doorman. All the information they get about Gatsby’s life up to the point the story begins and about his origins comes from Nick. Some information is also given by what Gatsby says in the course of the novel. It allows the readers to draw their own conclusions about the state of mind of the characters. Even though Gatsby and Daisy had been a couple long ago, they form some kind of pair on the outside, but are opposed to each other on the inside. On the outside they both live a life of prosperity and wealth and love to go to parties and meet friends to show off what they possess. On the inside, Gatsby is a romantic who tries to implement money to win back his love, the only thing that had ever given his life real meaning. Daisy, however, is looking for social security. After Gatsby had been drafted to the army and gone to Europe, she changed her way of life and became very superficial and money-oriented.

Through this twilight universe Daisy began to move again with the season; suddenly she was again keeping half a dozen dates a day with half a dozen men and drowsing asleep at dawn with the beads and chiffon of an evening dress tangled among dying orchids on the floor beside her bed. She wanted her life shaped now, immediately – and the decision must be made by some force – of love, of money, of unquestionable practicality – that was close at hand. That force took shape in the middle of spring with the arrival of Tom Buchanan. There was a wholesome bulkiness about his person and his position and Daisy was flattered.[12]

This shows exactly what Daisy’s real attitude is. Like a female animal or a human being on a low state of evolution she wanted the best speciman to get married with to supply her with all the goods she wanted. Even though love is mentioned in her list of forces that should change her life, you can realize quickly that it is only in there since it is mentioned by anyone, it does not mean a lot, it has become an empty phrase. The more important things to her are money and practicality. Daisy is looking for a cozy life above all and therefore abandons Gatsby whom she does not believe capable of giving her the life she wants with all the splendor and money she thinks she deserves.

The emptiness of the phrase love is best portrayed by a sentence Tom utters when talking to Gatsby and fighting about Daisy’s love and his love to her. He says: “Once in a while I go off on a spree and make a fool of myself, but I always come back, and in my heart I love her all the time” (Lenz 1995, 174). What Tom Buchanan means by spree here is the love affair that he has had with Myrtle Wilson for a long time. He is unfaithful to Daisy, but he is still able to find the right words to make sense of the fling. His words show the readers that his love cannot be as big as he says, if he is able to have sex with another woman. The kind of love he represents is filled with the thought of possessing a person and is therefore hedonistic, not altruistic. It is opposed to what Gatsby considers love to be like. Another passage portrays Gatsby’s fight for Daisy’s love even better, when he yells at Tom:

’She never loved you, do you hear?’ he cried. ‘She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me. It was a terrible mistake, but in her heart she never loved anyone except me!’[13]

Gatsby’s affection for Daisy and the love that he still clings to come out at this point very heavily. He tries to convince the married couple of the fact that he, instead of Tom, should be the man at Daisy’s side. His real version of the American Dream, his dream of inner wealth, that has not much to do with money, but with real affection, authenticity and love, come out. Since Daisy does not react the way Gatsby wants her to, he starts realizing that she is much more interested in wealth.

So Fitzgerald remembered this, too: the girl is wealth’s accomplice and possession. As the product and symbol of the desired world of green lawns and exciting white houses and romantic lives she is inevitably what Isabelle, Rosalind, Eleanor, and Gloria were in their promising allurement.[14]

Fitzgerald pointed out that time has changed Daisy and unfolded her real ego which is more interested in money than in love. Her version of the American Dream is a high-society life that she can only find with Tom, who is brutal and ruthless and not with an, as she would consider him, inferior man like Gatsby. Even though he has become rich, he is not able to make more money out of what he already has, but he puts too much effort in winning her back and does not have a real business.

Gatsby is out of time. He has not kept up with the development that American society has gone through after WW1 or at least he has just done it on the outside but never really believed in what has happened and only used the means of the materialistic zeal to accomplish his romantic aim of love. William Troy sees Gatsby as some kind of allegory of a man that never leaves his adolescence and stays in a certain kind of state that makes him a dreamer.

Here, for example, insofar as the book is Gatsby’s story it is a story of failure – the prolongation of the adolescent incapacity to distinguish between dream and reality, between the terms demanded by life and the terms offered. But insofar as it is the narrator’s story it is a successful transcendence of a particularly bitter and harrowing set of experiences, localized in the sinister, distorted, El Greco-like Long Island atmosphere of the later twenties, into a world of restored sanity and calm, symbolized by the bracing winter nights of the Middle Western prairies.[15]

Gatsby in this respect stands for all the people that are not only looking for money and that do not get along with the fact that other people do not have the same attitude toward life as they have. Gatsby can never accept that his actual picture of Daisy he has got in mind differs from reality and stays inside his dream world. Instead of finding a way out of it, he thinks that nothing in the world can get him back love, especially Daisy’s, and he surrenders to his fate.

There are also religious symbols in the novel aside of Gatsby’s almost priestly dedication to win back Daisy. Dr. Eckleburg, a figure on the poster whose eyes look down on the wasteland can be seen as the anti-God.

Dr. Eckleburg keeps his vigil over the wasteland, Fitzgerald’s metaphor for the desolation of modern life; he is anti-God in this sterile world of false values. This representation of God as an advertisement points up to the sort of distortion of religious values that had taken place in America in the years after World War 1, when the association of business with religion was common.[16]

Dr. Eckleburg therefore represents God watching men on earth and is, however, just an advertising figure looking down from a poster in a bad part of town. The religious thought of God is inverted and abused here. This also indicates that love itself was perverted by people in those days and as an allegory of that Daisy has to represent man’s fall from grace. Another symbol of this decay is the name Valley of Ashes. This name for a suburb indicates that everything has burned down. It also reminds us of hell and its fire. It points out that what has been going on for years has had a cruel effect on people and their lives. They virtually live in a valley of ashes that does not allow them to be free and to see the world from any other perspective than a monetary one. There are some more important symbols that show the states of mind of the characters. Gatsby’s house, e.g., is also very important for the understanding of the meaning of the story.

Gatsby’s house indeed might as well be a houseboat sailing up and down the Long Island coast, as the rumors contend. ‘Material without being real,’ it is both as intangible and as monstrously tangible as his dream. To Gatsby himself it is never real, unless for the moment he wondrously discovers it while showing it to Daisy, who at once sees the house as grotesque and dislocated from its time and place. […] We’re talking about a particular cultural vision. Even before he met Daisy, Gatsby’s focus was upon that ‘vast, vulgar and meretricious beauty’ of America over which goddess Daisy presided. […] How long can the person, the woman in a Daisy Fay transcend the universes of her culture?[17]

The house that Gatsby buys at West Egg itself is a symbol of the coldness of the society he lives in and does not even allow him to get acquainted to it, since his state of mind is to different. He does not manage to achieve the level of maturity that Daisy achieved, according to Callahan. She had also fought against the material version of the American Dream, but she, in contrast to Gatsby, lost the fight and become materialistic. Gatsby only uses money to live his version of the dream, the dream of love and of winning Daisy over again. Callahan sees Gatsby as an archetypical American (Callahan 1972, 54). Back at the beginnings of the U.S.A. the American Dream was a vision of wealth, but not without the task to work on one’s character to finally become a self-made man in Benjamin Franklin’s sense. During the course of the decades this dream has slowly shifted to a nightmare for the individual.

Gatsby has to realize that he might be able to have a love affair with Daisy, but that even more money will not enable him to buy back the past. Daisy has changed so much that the only thing Gatsby can cling to is his memories of what she was like before he had to go to WW1 in 1917. After that the both of them walked off into separate directions in respect to what they wanted out of life.

He only wanted a certain level of wealth and his love and she wanted to become really rich and get a husband who is able to offer her everything she wants. Love did not play a role for her anymore after Gatsby was gone and she had her change of mind and heart. The hard and brutal world of economy is also represented by figures like Meyer Wolfsheim, who is a business man always acting on the verge of criminality. He stands for the world that Gatsby lives in at West Egg. Other figures like Myrtle and George Wilson, come from a low-class background. Myrtle has been Tom Buchanan’s lover for a while and also dreams of a better life with him, even though he only takes advantage of her situation. He even implements her death to get rid of Jay Gatsby in the end. During a travel to New York in a car that is conducted by Daisy, she knocks down Myrtle Wilson committing a hit and run offense. Gatsby makes a big sacrifice for her, making people believe that he was conducting the car when Myrtle got knocked down by it. Even as he tells Nick Carraway about it, he is only thinking about Daisy and her reaction to all that has happened:

’Did you see any trouble on the road?’ he asked after a minute. ‘Yes.’ He hesitated. ‘Was she killed?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘I thought so; I told Daisy I thought so. It’s better that the shock should all come at once. She stood it pretty well.’ He spoke as if Daisy’s reaction was the only thing that mattered. ‘I got to West Egg by a side road,’ he went on, ‘and left the car in my garage. I don’t think anybody saw us, but of course I can’t be sure.’ […] ‘[…] How the devil did it happen?’ ‘Well, I tried to swing the wheel-‘ He broke off and suddenly I guessed at the truth. ‘Was Daisy driving?’ ‘Yes,’ he said after a moment, ‘but of course I’ll say I was. You see, when we left New York she was very nervous and she thought it would steady her to drive-and this woman rushed out at us just as we were passing a car coming the other way.[18]


[1] Peter Freese: ‘America’ Dream or Nightmare? Reflections on a composite image. Arbeiten zur Amerikanistik. Bd. 4. (Essen: Blaue Ente, 1990) 87.

[2] Leonard W. Labaree (ed.). The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (Yale: Yale University Press, 1964) 113.

[3] Seymour Stanton Block (ed.). Benjamin Franklin - His Wit, Wisdom and Women (New York: Hastings House, 1975) 334.

[4] J.A. Leo Lemay (ed.). Reappraising Benjamin Franklin. A Bicentennial Perspective (Newark: Delaware, 1993) 113.

[5] Virginia Brackett. F. Scott Fitzgerald: Writer of the Jazz Age ( Greensboro: Morgan Reynolds, 2002) 58.

[6] Brackett 2002, 87.

[7] Andrew Hook. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Literary Life (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2002) 73.

[8] Russel Blankenship. American Literature as an expression of the national mind (New York: Holt, 1931) 98.

[9] Hubert Zapf (ed.). Amerikanische Literaturgeschichte, 12. Aufl. (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1996) 268.

[10] Susanne Lenz (ed.). F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1995) 233.

[11] Lenz 1995, 161.

[12] Lenz 1995, 196-197.

[13] Lenz 1995, 173.

[14] Milton R. Stern. The Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald (Chicago: Illinois UP, 1971) 164-165.

[15] William Troy. Scott Fitzgerald – the Authority of Failure. Alfred Kazin (ed.). F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Man And His Work. (Cleveland: World Publishing Co., 1951) 189.

[16] Joan M. Allen. Candles and Carnival Lights: The Catholic Sensibility of F. Scott Fitzgerald (New York: New York UP, 1978) 103.

[17] John F. Callahan. The Illusions of a Nation: Myth and history in the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald (Chicago: Illinois UP, 1972) 53-54.

[18] F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1953) 127.

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The failure of the 'American Dream' in the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald
University of Stuttgart
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The main focus in my M.A. thesis is on "Tender Is The Night", "The Great Gatsby" and "This Side Of Paradise" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. My goal is to point out in how far Fitzgerald depicts various aspects of the American Dream and its failure and decline in the above mentioned novels.
American, Dream, Scott, Fitzgerald
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Tobias Bumm (Author), 2005, The failure of the 'American Dream' in the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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