The expression “The American Dream” has different ideas in people’s imaginations, but it is united by the idea of wealth and happy life. This idea often includes a successful career, a loving family, and a respectful place in society. However, this concept can also have specific images, as well as ways to achieve and implement it. According to Franklin, anyone can achieve this dream through work, avoiding debt and unnecessary waste. However, the wealth and splendor of The Great Gatsby movie contradict this assumption in many ways. As is evident in the film The Great Gatsby, Franklin’s assertion that the American Dream is available to all people is incorrect because Gatsby achieved wealth by fraud, while other people lived in inequality despite their efforts, but it did not fulfill his American dream.
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Despite Franklin’s assertion that anyone can be successful and wealthy through hard work and saving, the Gatsby story demonstrates that cheating is a more effective route. First, Gatsby spent five years of his life working honestly on the yacht of millionaire Dan Cody, learning the craft and manners but was left with nothing cheated by the millionaire’s family. The narrator says: “He’d been left with the ability to play the gentlemen but he was once again dirt-poor” (Luhrmann, 2013). Military service and military exploits also did not bring Gatsby the life he dreamed of as a child. Although his position as a soldier allowed Gatsby to be respected in post-war society and become close with Daisy, he, like most soldiers, could not earn a decent life in this way. However, eventually, Gatsby achieved his wealth and position in society by bootlegging for the mafia rather than honest work, modesty, and frugality. Thus, in many cases, honest work fails because of inequality and injustice in society, while fraud and corruption are a fast path to success and wealth.
Moreover, the film shows poverty and inequality against a disproportionate wealth and extravagance, highlighting the impossibility of the American dream for some people. The problem of inequality is implicit in the film, but many of the details demonstrate that effort and work, in many cases, help people to survive, but not to achieve wealth and happiness. Firstly, there were grim working-class neighborhoods in the city next to the luxurious club where people worked hard for food, living and died in poverty. The narrator describes, “New York’s dumping ground halfway between West Egg and the city where burnt-out coal that powered the blooming golden city was discarded by men who moved dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air” (Luhrmann, 2013). The gas station owner, George Wilson, lives in this place, works hard, gets sick from coal dust, loses his wife, and will be imprisoned for murder (Luhrmann, 2013). Despite his hard work, he cannot provide himself and his wife with wealth and goes crazy in the struggle for this dream.
Wilson’s wife, Myrtle, has a similar fate, since the pursuit of the American Dream has led her to infidelity, suffering, and death because she had to live under the power of men. Myrtle’s image reveals the problem of inequality in women that hinders the achievement of the American Dream. The only option for most women of the time was a marriage that would bring them wealth. However, Myrtle’s husband could not give her what she wanted, while Thomas Buchanan perceived her as a toy. Thus, Myrtle’s desire to achieve the American Dream led her to tragedy, since the sense of belonging to a high society that Tom gave her attracted her but was false, while the reality of poverty holds her tightly. Myrtle was in the power of two men who saw her as their property but not as a person, so she had no chance of the American Dream.
Daisy’s story carries a similar message of gender inequality that refutes Franklin’s idea of the possibility of wealth for all by honest work. Daisy, like Myrtle, depended on men, although they surrounded her with care, and her American dream was only possible thanks to their wealth of men. Her mother insists that the daughter looks for a worthy gentleman, and she marries Tom for money, betraying her love for Gatsby. Daisy stays with Tom, probably knowing about his mistress, but she cannot be with Gatsby, since he understands that the flight will deprive her of her place in high society. Although Gatsby can provide her with wealth and love, Daisy is probably aware that she will be condemned by society as a cheater and an unworthy woman, although many of their friends know about Tom’s affair. Thus, these examples demonstrate that social, racial, and gender inequalities and stereotypes made the American Dream unattainable for many people, and the efforts to achieve it made their lives even more difficult.
Furthermore, eventually, Gatsby has not achieved his success and dreams, forgetting his original goal on the way and losing everything in one moment. Since childhood, Gatsby knew and wanted to achieve something significant and strove for it. The narrator recalls, “In his own imagination, he was a son of God destined for future glory” (Luhrmann, 2013). However, in the end, wealth and status did not bring Gatsby happiness, since all his efforts were caused by his obsession with Daisy. Gatsby did not need parties and money, and all he wanted was to get back the last five years to fix the mistake and not leave Daisy (Luhrmann, 2013). Gatsby forgot about his goal of achieving something bigger but instead was mired in intrigue, jealousy, and misery. Moreover, Gatsby’s tragic and absurd death demonstrates that anyone can lose what cost them tremendous efforts in a few moments. While his money and fame did not matter to Gatsby without Daisy, such a story ending and a funeral without visitors demonstrates that Franklin’s idea is also weak in the face of the injustice of fate that could destroy all human work.
Therefore, the movie The Great Gatsby demonstrates that Franklin’s idea that hard work, virtues, and lack of debts, and unnecessary spending can bring success and wealth to everyone is incorrect. Gatsby’s story shows that honest work often gets small rewards, while fraudulent ways of earning money provide wealth that brings recognition. At the same time, the social inequality of America in the 1920s, partially presented by the film, makes the viewer understand that much depends on the rights and opportunities that society provides to people. However, even if wealth becomes a reality for some people, it may not bring happiness and be taken away in a couple of moments. Nevertheless, Gatsby’s story is just one example from the past, which leaves hope for people that the American Dream in any of its interpretations is attainable for the majority today.
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Luhrmann, B. (2013). The Great Gatsby [Film]. Warner Bros.