Discuss the theme of the American Dream in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Miller's Death of Salesman?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Jay and Willy are linked in that both of them envision dreams that are not rooted in anything substantive.  In the end, both protagonists end up becoming crushed by the weight of their own dreams.  In both dreams, the role of money is overwhelming.  Both Gatsby and Loman believe that the more acquisition of money or material wealth, the closer they will be to establishing their dreams and finding happiness.  What both fail to recognize is that there is a particular hollowness that exists at the center of both sets of pursuit.  Willy wants to be something that is not "a zero" and equates this with money.  Gatsby's pursuit of Daisy and a life where he is "something" comes with the trappings of wealth.  In both pursuits, the American Dream is perceived as one that ends up suffocating both because the definition of success and happiness is linked to an external end such as money or social standing.  In both dreams, the lack of an emotionally substantive end results in the protagonists' undoing.  Finally, both protagonists operate in a social order that fails to fully appreciate or validate the experiences of both characters, contributing to their belief that an external end such as money or wealth is the only way to find some type of salvation.  In both, this vision is denied.

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