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The novel The Great Gatsby written by author F. Scott Fitzgerald, explores the idea of the American Dream that may be interpreted from a Marxist critical theory lens. The American Dream is the idea that anyone regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into can achieve their own idea of success through sacrifice, risk-taking, and hard work, not by chance. Each individual in the United States, regardless of their background has the right and freedom to seek happiness as well as prosperity and to pursue success. The novel explores this idea through characters of various social classes and backgrounds.

The theme of the American Dream is explored through the characterization of Tom and Daisy. Tom and Daisy are antagonists of the American Dream, they have “old money” meaning that they have wealth that was inherited from their families thus they don’t need the American Dream to help them. Unlike characters such as Gatsby, Myrtle, and George who are actively dreaming and hoping for a better life. Through personification, Daisy and Tom are described as “careless” and bored. “They had spent a year in France, for no particular reason, and then drifted here and there unrestfully wherever people played polo and were rich together.” This introduction to Daisy and Tom describes them as rich, bored, and privileged. Their character traits lead them to cause a large amount of misery in the story. This happens through Daisy refusing Gatsby and Tom dragging the Wilsons into tragedy. Income inequality in the story has caused each character to have vastly different beginnings in their lives which has affected their outcomes and futures greatly. The way they set to go about their lives and their lack of morality goes against all the ideas of the American Dream, which states that class shouldn’t play a role in someone’s success and that anyone can become wealthy. Daisy herself can also be seen as the personification of the American Dream, evidenced by the quote by Gatsby “Her voice is full of money”.

In this way, George and Myrtle Wilson could almost be seen as a direct parallel to the lives of Tom and Daisy. This couple in The Great Gatsby represents the typical american couple that is trying hard to succeed. George owns his own shop and is doing his best to get business, although the struggles of everyday life seem to weigh him down. Myrtle tries to become wealthy and attain a higher social status by pursuing a relationship with the wealthy Tom. “’That dog? That dog’s a boy.’, ‘It’s a bitch,’ said Tom decisively. ‘Here’s your money. Go and buy ten more dogs with it.’

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This discussion between Tom and Myrtle shows their developing relationship, and how to Tom, money isn’t a big deal, as he offers her more money to buy more dogs. The Wilson’s lack of money from the beginning, unlike Tom and Daisy who were fortunate to have wealth passed down to them through inheritance, means that both George and Myrtle have a harder time succeeding in the world. While Myrtle sometimes gains access to “finer things” through her relationship with Tom, she has to deal with getting abused by him as evidenced by the quote “Making a short deft movement Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand”. George also aiming to become successful wants to move West and leave his current but is unable to due to not having enough funds. Therefore neither character is having an easy time or becoming wealthy, despite the promises of the American Dream. Everything ends up going tragically wrong for both George and Myrtle who meet a deadly fate even though they were trying very hard to improve their positions in society Tom who dragged Myrtle into a dangerous situation and Daisy who ended up killing Myrtle don’t end up with any consequences. This all goes against the American Dream as it shows people shouldn’t hope or try for more than they are given.

Jordan Baker lives out a kind of dream by playing golf and being relatively independent however she is still tied to her family’s inheritance money therefore which makes her a poor example of the American Dream. Nick Carraway makes a comment in chapter 9 saying ‘I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all–Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life’. The narrator’s observation suggests to readers that American identity is determined by birthplace and within this identity there are parts that the individual cannot escape. For those that are not born into wealth, the American identity becomes more about trying to end up with more status. The novel presents an aristocratic segment of American society with Daisy, Tom, and Jordan all characters with “old money”. Lives in this society are determined by how much money they were born into, not how much they strive for success.

F. Scott Fitzgerald explores the idea of the American Dream in the novel The Great Gatsby which can be interpreted through a Marxist critical lens. Tom and Daisy although being wealthy as they were born into a rich family, the way they go about things and their lack of morality goes against ideas set in the American Dream. Myrtle and George Wilson contrast this by not being wealthy and still trying so hard to succeed but they end up going nowhere. The lives in the novel are determined by how much they were born into and not how they try to set out their lives to succeed which is in stark contrast to what the American Dream is actually about.

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