“For many, the American dream has become a nightmare.” In the novel “The Great Gatsby” written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nick Caraway moves to New York in the 1920’s and tells the story of Gatsby and Daisy’s attempt of a love life. Fitzgerald uses the locations of East Egg, West Egg and The Valley of Ashes to illustrate the idea of The American Dream. I will discuss how The American Dream is corrupt in West Egg, false in East Egg and a failure in The Valley of Ashes.
Statement: In the novel, the location West Egg represents the corruption of the American Dream.
Explanation: West Egg is one of the peninsulas that is located in New York; it’s across the bay of East Egg where Daisy and Tom, the wealthy live. This side of the peninsula represents ‘new money’, they had to work hard for what they have, however, West Egg is corrupt because the way they made the money was illegally. Everyone tries to pretend that they made their money fairly but it is known that they didn’t. With the money that West Egg residents have made, they do like to show it off, show that they are wealthy, act like they have succeeded the American Dream.
Example: People who live in West Egg didn’t have to come from a wealthy background necessarily, “I raised him out of nothing, right out of the gutter.”, however they did become wealthy from working hard at something unlike others. Wolfshiem saw something in Gatsby that others may not have, “I saw right away he was a fine-appearing, gentlemanly young man” the way you present yourself to others can effect your future.
Explanation: Wolfshiem was the one who helped Gatsby become a better and richer man. He was the one who pointed out that in the West Egg, you do not have to had a rich family to live in luxury but you also can’t work hard at a legal job you love to become wealthy either, there is a trick to living the West Egg life-style and that is the illegal business. Wolfshiem helped Gatsby create the future he now has. Due to Gatsby’s morals and self-worth, he always kept himself in great condition, looked his best with what he had and presented himself in a fine manner. This gives you the attraction from people that Gatsby is after and it worked.
Example: In West Egg, things seem great, you have money, parties and some people don’t even work that hard but it can change you. “I used to laugh sometimes” Gatsby thinks back to his past and sees his happiness, it’s something that he misses but also knows that he won’t and can’t get back, this is shown by the fact that “there was no laughter in his eyes” now.
Explanation: West Egg may seem like everything is turning our perfectly for them but really, the corruption is not only effecting the life-style of the American Dream, it also tears people down. They are pretending that they are happy with the way their lives are going but deep down they know that what they are doing is wrong, especially when there is people living in the Valley of Ashes that is working harder than them and is still struggling to satisfy their needs. The fake life that Gatsby leads is not always very bright and easy, he works hard to be the man he wishes, the man that he thinks Daisy wishes. Everybody is suppose to live the life suited to them and when they try to fight that, it’s not surprising that it can bring you down.
Your thinking: Fitzgerald is trying to illustrate that to succeed at something, most of the time there is some kind of ‘cheat’ to get there. For example, when professional athletes use drugs to make the way to the top. In order for West Egg to achieve the American Dream, they made their money illegally, this was their way of bending the rules to success. Like athletes on drugs, the residents of West Egg have become addicted to becoming wealthy and owning whatever they wish but this is not how it should happen. Fitzgerald is showing us that corruption is not something we should want to be involved in because at the end of the day, you turn out worse than what you would’ve if you played a fair game. A good message can be taken from what Fitzgerald was illustrating about West Egg too, the fact that if you work hard enough, good will come out of it but you must do it in the right way.