14 March 2014 The American Novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is without a doubt the quintessential American novel. It perfectly captures the good and bad of American Society and puts it into a perspective of which any man or woman could comprehend. It shows the greed, materialism, and ignorance of the rich, and the unimaginable dystopia faced by the poor, who could not achieve the American Dream if they tried. Everything from the laissez-faire economy, the strict controls on society, and the rebellious spirit of youth are presented from the common man (Nick)’s perspective. The Great Gatsby defines the American identity which remains to this day. The Great Gatsby best defines the American identity of the rich, and their luxurious lifestyles in the eggs. Their sweet ignorance and worry-free lifestyles demonstrate the idea of the American Dream; something most Americans will never achieve. Daisy demonstrates the lifestyle of the bored, wealthy housewife best when she says: “I hope she'll be a fool - that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool” (Fitzgerald 17). She is saying that the best thing a girl can do is just marry a wealthy man and live out her days as an ignorant, beautiful fool. This is the sort of lifestyle most Americans dream of living, where they are handed everything and need to know nothing. Gatsby is in love with the idea of Daisy and achieving the American Dream, he loves what she represents and that is the completion of his dream. Fitzgerald states: “Her voice is full of money…It was full of money—that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it…. High in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl ….” (Fitzgerald 76). Daisy is the missing piece of the dream that Gatsby longs for, but money cannot buy his happiness. This offers insight into how the wealthy lived and their exorbitant amount of money, yet their ultimately unhappy, unfulfilling lives.
However, the novel also represents the nation’s poor and their struggle to achieve the American Dream. The Valley of Ashes is symbolic of the living conditions of the poor, and George Wilson is the perfect example of the working man struggling to stay afloat. George does everything he can to keep his wife Myrtle content but she has other plans. Wilson is “clinging still to an ideal conception of his beloved, which she is incapable of fulfilling in reality.” (Beebe) Wilson tries to fulfill his American dream with his garage, but fails and is desperate for money, as Fitzgerald states “‘When are you going to sell me that car?’ ‘Next week I’ve got my man working on it now’ ‘Works pretty slow don’t he?’ ‘No he doesn’t, and if you feel that way I’d better sell it somewhere else after all.’ Tom said coldly. ‘I don’t mean that, I just mean-’” (Fitzgerald 25). The quote shows that he is desperate for business and can’t lose Tom as a client. The Valley of Ashes is also representative of all the poor living in poverty with the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleberg or a symbol of the rich looking down on them. In addition, Jay Gatsby himself is the best representation of the American Dream in the novel. He is part of America’s emerging new upper class and lives with the new money in West Egg. The reason he is the best example of an American success story is because Jay came from a poor family and achieved his wealth without being born into it. William Fahey states that “It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages