How is the American dream seen as a trap in Netherland and The Great Gatsby?

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This is an excellent question because there are unmistakable parallels between The Great Gatsby and Netherland (as reviewers have noted). For the purpose of your question, however, perhaps the more significant fact is that Joseph O'Neill's novel is narrated by a man transplanted from Europe to New York City. It is thus principally the view of America given us by a non-American.

Hans van den Broek comes to New York from Holland, by way of London first. If we wish to see it this way, he's the Nick Carroway character, and the man he meets in the US who becomes a focus of the story is Chuck, originally from Trinidad. In bonding over the game of cricket, we already have a startlingly appropriate metaphor of the concept of America as seen by the author. All of us are something else before we are "American," and so, in this context, is this non-American sport something else (though the quintessential American game, baseball, is similar), here played by expatriates on a field in Staten Island (itself a kind of non-New-York part of New York). Chuck is the Gatsby figure. Like Gatsby, there is something not on the up-and-up about him, except that here we are given the revelation at the very start of the tale in the news that Chuck has been found murdered. As with Gatsby, the success, the Dream that Chuck has supposedly found in America—and which the narrator Hans (like Nick) latches on to in his own way and with his own goals—is a facade, a "trap," as your question terms it, because in both cases these men sought success but were transgressors in some way and instead found death.

Yet despite this obvious parallel, what Netherland communicates is a far more self-conscious critique of "America" than Gatsby does, probably for the straightforward reason that its view of the US, as stated, is from the outside, from a man (Hans) who typically notes the incorrect pronunciation of the word "milieu" by the American newswoman who contacts him by phone in England to ask him about Chuck. Even so, Fitzgerald's perspective in Gatsby is that of an outsider as well—a Midwesterner and a Roman Catholic in WASP-dominated New York elite society. The "trap" of the Dream seems, unfortunately, one that disproportionately catches those who are on the outside looking in.

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