Can you help critique my intro paragraph of my The Great Gatsby essay? A descendent of immigrants himself, current Los Angeles Mayor Villaigarosa, once deliberated about the idea of coming to America. He said, "we come to work, we come for a better life.. [and] to participate in the American dream". According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary, this dream, which is dreamt by immigrants arriving to the USA everyday, is "an American social ideal that stresses egalitarianism and material prosperity". Though with persistence and a touch of luck one can achieve material prosperity, through F. Scott Fitzgerald's, The Great Gatsby and its critique of society, the reader is dumbfounded to realize that maybe this dream is not as achievable and as grand as they once thought it to be. That despite what they have been told, they will never amount to as much or be considered as one of the social elite and are confined to the class of which they are born. Ultimately though, The Great Gatsby is a novel about the distorted perception of the American Dream by the large majority, who strive endlessly to achieve the unachievable, and how the chosen few who have been born into a world resembling the life of an American "living" the "American Dream" are the only ones who realize the flaws and imperfections of such a dream.   My teacher commented on the line where I say "have been born into" - questioning who I mean (writing "nick?") Also "How distorted? in what way distorted?

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Generally, this is a nicely written opening paragraph but it lacks a clarity of purpose. You are presenting (at least) three ideas that do not all coincide with one another. 

  1. The American Dream is an illusion.
  2. The American Dream is not an illusion in itself but is often distorted into something "other" which is impossible to achieve. 
  3. Only those who are born wealthy can see the flaws of the American Dream. 

You should pick one point of the first two to use in your argument. Using both is not going to lead to a logical or strong argument. 

The third point here is highly questionable as it relates to the novel. Though this is an interesting point, it will be difficult to prove. Remember, Jay Gatsby rose from modest means to great wealth. Despite the fact that he failed to recognize the failures of that wealth to help him integrate into "high society", he was in the perfect position to make this recognition. He did not have to be born into wealth to discover how the fulfillment of the American Dream does not lead directly to sophistication, social acceptance, etc. 

The question posed by your teacher is a great one to follow in re-shaping a thesis. You propose that people cling to a distorted version of the American Dream. Defining this distortion as it exists in the text will give you plenty to write about. 

Figures like Nick and Gatsby seek entry into a world that is supposed to be sophisticated and even erudite, but it turns out to be a shallow and tawdry social echo-chamber, wildly singing its own praises and celebrating its own dramas - a far cry from the hallowed image of an American success of quiet, stoic, and dignified wealth. 

A small point: The term "deliberated" should be replaced by something like "commented", "ruminated", or "reflected". 

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