The American Dream an Essay on The Great Gatsby and Into the Wild

Conducts an analysis of The Great Gatsby and Into the Wild to determine which protagonist best personified the American Dream.
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   Saleh, Zelalem, Hendrix 1 Zelgai Saleh, Nathan Zelalem, Amanda Hendrix Mrs. Partlow English 11 AP March 10, 2014 Pushing Up Daisies A large Victorian house in the suburbs, an apple pie on the windowsill cooling just as dad gets home from work to greet his family by their white picket fence. This is the image that comes mind when people picture the American dream. The American dream can mainly be reached in two ways. Through money and materialistic means, or through idealistic personal achievement. Sometimes money is enough to make someone happy. Money provides comfort, and in Gatsby’s case, company. On the other hand, the idea of the American Dream can also be interpreted as  personal achievement, rugged individualism and unadulterated expressions of spontaneous free will. While neither Gatsby nor McCandless really achieved the American Dream, Chris McCandless came the closest because he was content throughout his journey, he embodies rugged individualism and freedom and Jay Gatsby never came close to achieving his dream, or the American Dream. Before we can get into the specifics of each man’s achievements and goals and who came the closest to achieving the “American Dream” , we need to have a clear definition of what The Dream is. As stated above,  people’s perception of the American Dream can vary and does so wildly. Yet, when evaluating and closely examining each variation of the American Dream common themes prevail. One of the most common themes is individualism. This is seen in   Saleh, Zelalem, Hendrix 2 stories of the “self  - made man”, in America’s apparent capacity for great social mobility and even in our picture of the American family. Another common theme is freedom, this, in some senses, can be regarded as the srcinal American Dream. Freedom is the reason why America was founded and the reason why we prosper. The ability of people to be free not only from the government but also from society has been our constant idea of Freedom. The noble families of England don’t exist here and each man is his own man, made and judged by his own volition and effort, not by his family. The last common theme is personal achievement and happiness. This, in some ways, is linked to individualism; you can achieve what you want when you want as you strive to fulfill yourself. This prevails throughout American history, going as far back as the Declaration of Independence and man’s inalienable right to the “Pursuit of Happiness”. “It is the experiences, the memories, the great triumph of joy of living to the fullest extent, in which real meaning is found. God it’s great to be alive! Thank you. Thank you.” (Krakauer 37). Throughout the book we see McCandless consistently declare himself overjoyed or satisfied with something he has pursued. McCandless’ journey therefore provided him with more happiness than Gatsby’s did. Along his journey, McCandless was able to find meaning, and in his own measure success. We see that not only did he love the life he chose to lead but he had no re grets and was content with it: “As for me, I’ve decided I’m going to live this life for some time to come. The freedom and simple beauty of it is just too good to pass up.” (Krakauer 33) . On the other hand Gatsby reaps the exact opposite. He has found no meaning and has not succeed primary goal of getting Daisy. “You loved me too?   He repeated. … The words seemed to bite physically into Gatsby.” (Fitzgerald 132). Here Gatsby’s dreams of Daisy and his conception of their relationship is shattered as she tells him that she loved him and Tom too   Saleh, Zelalem, Hendrix 3 essentially crushing his fantasy of Daisy. McCandless ’ journey had its  shortcomings too, while he was happy throughout his  journey he did not intend to die in Alaska: “It may be a very long time before we see each other again. But providing that I get through this Alaskan Deal in one  piece you will be hearing from me again in the future.” (Krakauer 56)  So while McCandless came close his unpreparedness still killed him and he never truly achieve the American Dream. While Gatsby’s version of the American Dream was riches and parties and getting the girl, McCandless ’ dream differed greatly but better embodied the American Dream. The srcinal, rugged and true American Dream. The one seen in the frontiersmen of the historic American west and the srcinal American patriots that freed the US from British control. We see this continuing idea of freedom from social bonds and using that freedom with the individualism bred  by American culture to explore and do amazing things and fulfill ourselves with our own two hands. McCandless exemplifies all these true American ideals: … Chris was gone. Five week earlier he’d loaded all his belongings into his little car and headed west without an itinerary. The trip was to be an odyssey in the fullest sense of the world, an epic journey that would change everything. … At long last he wa s unencumbered, emancipated from the stifling world of his parents and peers, a world of abstraction and security and material excess, … . (Krakauer 22)  Yet, while McCandless exemplified all these great American ideals and the true American Dream Gatsby did exactly the opposite. The story of Jay Gatsby is a story of what the American Dream hopes to escape. Clearly Scott Fitzgerald has written the “Great Gatsby” not to show that Gatsby lived the American Dream or that even he came close but rather as a satire of wealth and material excess, to show us what we need to escape to truly be happy and to truly live the   Saleh, Zelalem, Hendrix 4 American Dream. Throughout the story Gatsby, while he may seem free is constantly bound by the chains of social order and by his wealth, the very things meant to free him only bind him closer into a society that stifles and distorts the American Dream. Jay Gatsby was a man who went from rags to riches, but at a great cost. His primary goal was to marry and run away with the girl that he met 5 years earlier, but he attempted to achieve this goal through dishonest means. Like Chris McCandless, Gatsby had a dream, but his dream  became corrupted by the idea that money could buy his happiness. Amassing his wealth to impress Daisy through illegal techniques ultimately led to his demise. Gatsby died knowing that Daisy would never truly love him as he had always intended. “He had come a long way to this  blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know tha t it was already behind him.” (Fitzgerald 180) His entire life revolved around the  past, and the fact that he believed he could change it.  “Can’t repeat the past?” He cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!” (Fitzgerald 110) However, this could never happen  because Daisy and Gatsby lived in different social positions. Daisy was not going to give up on Tom to be with Gatsby and face the social consequences. Tom would also never be completely out of their lives because he and Daisy had a child together. Jay Gatsby lost sight of happiness, his dream and the American Dream because he was strove to achieve an impossible thing and ultimately was in love with a past time and a past life.  Neither Gatsby nor McCandless truly achieved the American Dream. For one thing, the American Dream involves living. Neither of them made it to the end of their race, and were cut short. However if each were to continue their story and live on, we would see that Gatsby would first need to completely come to terms with the end of his dream, and begin anew to free himself of the chains

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Jul 29, 2017


Jul 29, 2017
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