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How should I utilize this thesis statement in an essay on The Great Gatsby? "In the...

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jferlisi | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 24, 2013 at 2:46 PM via web

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How should I utilize this thesis statement in an essay on The Great Gatsby?

"In the novel, the ultimate goal of the characters is to achieve the perfect American dream; however, due to constant struggle on the path to perfection, success is impossible."

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 24, 2013 at 6:25 PM (Answer #1)

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Examine the ways the characters fail to achieve the American Dream. Focus primarily on Gatsby. His American Dream is to get back together with Daisy. In attempting to achieve that dream, he is trying to do something that is quite difficult: relive the past. There are problems with this. For one thing, over the five years that he'd been separated from Daisy, she got married and Gatsby's ideal conception of her grew to an impossibly perfect vision. Gatsby is a bit let down when they finally reunite but in his idealism, he still wants nothing more than to be with her. 

There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams—not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart. 

Gatsby did achieve an American Dream of "rags to riches" but for him this was only a means to an end. The final goal was to be with Daisy and he would use any means to reach that end. Of course, he became involved with gambling and drug deals in order to accumulate and sustain his wealth. He wanted to reach a wealthy, social position to be at Daisy's level and also to impress her. Gatsby even associated Daisy with money, saying "her voice is full of money." His attempts to impress her with imported silk shirts reveal his assumption that wealth and "winning Daisy's love" are necessarily connected. Had Daisy not been concerned with money, she would not need these demonstrations; in fact, if she didn't care for money, she might not have married Tom in the first place. 

The flaw in Gatsby's American Dream is this "end justifies the means" approach. In his idealism, he wants to be with Daisy, no matter what the costs. He doesn't mind engaging in illegal activity to get the wealth he thinks he needs to win her back. He doesn't mind breaking up their marriage. By ignoring these potentially dangerous "means", Gatsby opens the door to potentially bad outcomes; notably the chain of events that leads to the deaths of Myrtle and himself. It was Tom that told George Wilson that Gatsby was driving the "death car."

The "means" Gatsby used caused too many problems. Using Gatsby as the example, the suggestion is that when one uses dubious or even unethical means to achieve the American dream, it is often doomed to fail. The further suggestion is that if this is the only way to achieve the American Dream, then that dream is nearly impossible; it is also imperfect because the "means" are not ideal. 

 

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