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3-4 The Deceitful Illusion of Success Bernie Madoff took advantage of many people, promising them that he would invest their money and that they would receive big returns. Instead of doing this, he kept the money he received from large charities and lots of people. Bernie Madoff in a sense acts as the current day Gatsby, from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, scamming people out of their money in order to make it big without considering the huge repercussions. Bernie Madoff is now headed for jail for life all because of his greed. To many, his dishonest scamming outraged many people. Madoff is just a mere example of the way in which the American Dream quickly leads to the corruption of people when they so eagerly want success. Towards the end of the novel, Fitzgerald allows the readers to glimpse into Gatsby and Daisy’s relationship through a flashback on page 149 where he recalls his original goal to love her and leave her. Ultimately, the plan failed. In this passage, Fitzgerald’s stylistic choices illustrate his concern with the American Dream acting as an illusion that leads our country to destruction. Juxtaposition between positive and negative diction choice is used to reveal the false identity that the American Dream holds for individuals living in America. Gatsby’s change of American Dream represents the possible negative and positive consequences that come with pursuing the Dream. Primarily, Gatsby focuses on succeeding in the original way which the American Dream implied, but results in committing himself to
chase after Daisy, who would represent the new American Dream. Individuals living in America automatically assume the ability to obtain anything they strive for, but The Great Gatsby proves this belief of the American people wrong. After attempting to win Daisy, Gatsby realizes that she “vanished” but remains “extraordinary” (149). To vanish connotes an action to disappear from sight rapidly, just as Gatsby’s dream tricks him by appearing “so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it” (180). “Extraordinary” describes the highly unusual or exceptional, and extraordinary is not a concept which can be fully conceived by individuals on this Earth—only by god. Daisy, as Gatsby’s American Dream, remains only a figment of his imagination, although she appears obtainable, when he tries too hard, he sets himself up for failure resulting in “nothing” (149). Nothing describes a feeling of loneliness with no connection to society or any importance. Ultimately, Fitzgerald juxtaposes positive and negative diction choices to reveal the corrupt, fake identity of the dominant discourse. For example, in the 20s, old money status found they could literally kill and face no consequences. People of old money status “smashed up things and creatures…and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” (179). Wall Street also found they could create fake numbers and perform insider trading without consequences until the stock market crashes. Once the stock market crashes, Americans lose their money and taxpayers need to clean up after the old money Wall Street investors. Although many representations of the American Dream relate to the story of The Great Gatsby, the use of the Holy Grail as an allusion illustrates ‘the Dream’ as well as
the inability to acquire it. The Holy Grail itself is a cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper that it may possess magical powers. Available to all, it only remains fully attainable by those who prepare themselves spiritually. The Holy Grail has yet to be found, and when found, the individual who drinks from it will receive eternal life. Throughout the book, Gatsby clearly lays out his objective—to earn old money status. Although two very different social statuses keep the two apart, Gatsby believes that once he gains equal attention from Daisy and establishes a more predominant relationship with her, he gains his own eternal life of happiness and endless love. When a person follows a goal he takes the same route behind another person, which describes Gatsby exactly as he spends his life “following a grail” (149). Though the term “to follow” is often perceived as simple to understand, it also takes on the meaning “to have somebody’s movements under constant surveillance,” or to constantly wait for the right opportunity to pounce on the object of pursuit. Gatsby never knew, however, that he was unable to cater to Daisy’s demanding needs and that they were each from two worlds only separated by a seemingly small bay. The eyes of Dr. TJ Ekelberg on the billboard act as an image of G-d, who strategically watches the actions of each character in the story, and acts as the prime judge of their morals or their lack thereof. The use of the billboard in the story, not only as a clear representation of symbolism, but in addition, gives life to a new statement that G-d’s eyes see truth in the poor, which becomes evident throughout this part of Fitzgerald’s novel. Just like the Holy Grail, Gatsby completely commits to a woman whose love remains unattainable. Daisy neglected to come to Gatsby’s funeral. Both Daisy and Tom “had
taken baggage with them” (164) and fled to Chicago without saying “when they’d be back” (164) after Gatsby dies. Wealth distribution during the 1920s acted as a grail. People of the old money status owned 80% of the wealth. The marginalized want to own property but are unable. Fitzgerald uses dashes to show a separation from the true difference between two distinct American Dreams. Throughout the novel, a reader will find dashes scattered throughout the book, from beginning to end. A dash indicates an abrupt change in thought or a break in the sentence flow. It can also be used to introduce a phrase or clause that summarizes what has gone on previously. Gatsby originally intended “to take what he could and go―…leaving Gatsby―nothing” (149). The dash denotes a metamorphosis between the two dreams, and to display the consequences of pursuing an unobtainable object. Daisy, who represents the unobtainable object, is regarded as an extraordinary, nice girl who is not commonly found in Gatsby’s social class. Gatsby lived a fast life, throwing rowdy parties that lasted through the night, but at his own funeral, “nobody came” (174). The only people that attended were his father, Nick, Owl Eyes, and a few servants. No one from the old money status attended his funeral. The dominant discourse only interacts within their group. Gatsby could buy all the things he wanted, but he was quick to learn that money could not acquire someone he could love from his own status. In the story, certain techniques are used in order to give life to the thoughts of the characters. Dashes allow for more of a pause than a comma in writing, indicating a greater change in thought or feeling of a specific condition. Separating the two clauses
literally makes them isolated from each other, just as Gatsby realized the vast difference of his dreams and the loneliness it causes him. As the story concludes, Gatsby dies alone in his pool on the last of summer as a result of his greed. In chapter 9, Nick finds a schedule that Gatsby had from 1906. It is a literal example of the original dream, which was to wake up early and perfecting oneself. One of his improvements was to “be better to parents” (173) which is a statement supported in the Ten Commandments. In a greater conclusion, Gatsby gives up on the moral, perfect, original dream, only to find a life of partying and dependence on money. This new lifestyle which Gatsby establishes for himself proves that the dream our founding fathers began with is now dead and buried far in our history. In reality, Bernie Madoff remains one of many people who led Americans to a faulty grail. Americans follow any deal that promises benefits which will make them rich and leads them into a blind destruction. Obama now holds our responsibility to clean up after our messes when we remain obligated to take control of our own faults. While Bernie Madoff sits in his jail cell, perhaps he should pick up a copy of The Great Gatsby in order to learn from the messes he caused.
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