What three points show that the theme of the American Dream is found in The Great Gatsby and Death of a Salesman?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The American Dream, and its destruction, are primary themes in both works.

1. Jay Gatsby and Willie Loman are both dreamers who work to succeed and thereby shape the futures they dream for themselves. When he was young, Gatsby (as Jimmy Gatz) worked hard, stayed true to some core American values, and tried to better himself through study. Willie Loman worked hard and honestly as a salesman as he and Linda made a home for their two sons.

2. Gatsby and Loman become corrupt in pursuit of their dreams. Gatsby works for Meyer Wolfsheim, a gangster, to build a fortune. Loman lies and cheats, first to get ahead and then simply to survive in the increasingly competitive world of sales.

3. American society as presented in each work is entirely materialistic and money-driven, suggesting the destruction of the American Dream. Fitzgerald's 1920s and Miller's 1950s are presented as American eras in which the desire for wealth and material possessions has corrupted the beauty of the American Dream as it was first held by immigrants--an idealistic dream of freedom. Also, the promise of hard work leading to great financial success is dead. In The Great Gatsby fortunes are not earned by hard work; they are inherited, stolen, or acquired by good luck. In Death of a Salesman, no matter how hard Willie Loman works, he lacks the skills and the education to succeed in the modern marketplace of the 1950s.

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