I am writing a analytical essay on The Great Gatsby and I am a little stuck.  Here is what I have to do "How does Fitzgerald use Gatsby and Tom's contrasting characteristics to demonstrate that...

I am writing a analytical essay on The Great Gatsby and I am a little stuck.  Here is what I have to do "How does Fitzgerald use Gatsby and Tom's contrasting characteristics to demonstrate that the American Dream is corrupted by the desire for wealth?"  What characteristics should I use and how do I prove my case?  I know I can use the new and old money issues; the pretending to be something you are not...( I'm trying to complete an outline)

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

[There is a link cited below that should provide some help in making an outline. It is Outline #3 under critical essays]

Near the end of the novel, Tom calls out to Gatsby, "You're worth the whole damn bunch!" a summation of Gatsby's overriding sincerity and lack of artificiality. He is the Romantic American hero who believes in "a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy's wing." For Gatsby, material values are connected to his dreams in that they are merely the path to the achievement of dreams. The objective correlative to Gatsby is the old silent movie in which Rudolph Valentino plays the Sheik of Araby, who sweeps away the beautiful damsel. In Chapter 4 the song from this film is written,

I'm the Sheik of Araby
Your love belongs to me,
At night when you're asleep
Into your tent I'll creep

But for Tom Buchanan, Materialism = the Dream. Thus, the objective correlative to Tom is in what he has amassed, When Nick Carraway first comes to his house, Tom makes a display of his material possessions: "I've got a nice place here....It belonged to Demaine the oil man." And, "I'm the first man who ever made a stable out of a garage." So, too, is Daisy a possession of his; Daisy with a voice that "sounds like money" has been purchased with $350,000 pearls (this amount would be in the millions today).

Despite Gatsby's more nobler goals, he, nevertheless, confuses aesthetic and moral values with economic values. Thus, he, like Tom and Daisy, loses his individual personality to the goal of social position. He owns a home that resembles a Normandy hôtel de ville that has Marie Antoinette rooms, not for their beauty, but to impress Daisy. His car, symbolic of his restless, driving nature, is

a rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length ...and terraced with a labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns.

is also purchased to impress. Gatsby futilely hopes that his material possessions will impress Daisy enough that she will return to him and he can repeat the past with her.

But, for both Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby the American Dream is corrupted because with the goal desired as simply the acquisition of money, any means is justified. Gatsby acquires his money through bootlegging and purchases a mansion, a luxury car, and tailored clothes. Tom Buchanan purchases a magnificent home and a wife whose voice "is a deathless song." It is this corruption of desire and passion that Fitzgerald perceived as the fatal vision of America as individual character and integrity became lost to social ambition. Daisy and Tom Buchanan are "careless people" who "smash" things and people then retreat into their money; Jay Gatsby, who believes "in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us" stands in the rain "watching over nothing." 



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The Great Gatsby

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