View Full Version : Presentation of the American Dream in The Graet Gatsby

02-08-2007, 06:06 AM
Hey guys, i could really use some help!

I have to do a comparative essay on the presentation of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby and On The Road by Jack Keroac. Im pretty stuck, so any ideas (either on one or both of the texts) would be much appreciated.

I was thinking possibly about how the American Dream varies depending upon wealth and position within society. Also, how the desire to achieve the American Dream affects the life of the protagonists.

I would be grateful for any help! Thanks

02-08-2007, 10:44 PM
I think there is a difference in the treatment of vehicles that you could look at...or perhaps you could compare the decadence of the main characters. good luck

02-13-2007, 12:10 PM
Thanks, your comment got me thinking. These are the points that i have so far:

-In On The Road, an idea that is suggested, is that why bother achieving greatness, when ultimately, death ends all. This is something that Jay Gatsby does not realise.

-Values of characters in each book- Gatsby values popularity and wealth, in pursuit of love; yet this ultimately leads to his downfall and shows why nobody really likes him (his ‘friends’ at parties are just using him for food, gathering, etc. ultimately, they are probably the same as him- unpopular and unhappy). Sal and Dean, in On The Road, have no value for wealth, profit or materialism, they just take what they need to travel and live life and find spiritual liberation.

-Materialism and vehicles- Gatsby’s car kills, suggesting that materialism and greed is bad; whereas in On The Road cars are used as a means of moving freely from one place and idea, to another.

-Journeys- how and why the American Dream shapes character. Also, How Gatsby is static-wants to live in the past, whereas Dean and Sal are constantly on the move- want to experience everything in life

-Symbolism- Green light for Gatsby symbolises hope and his dream of a life with Daisy. There are many symbols of freedom and life in On The Road, including the cars.

Let me know if you can think of anything else, thanks

02-13-2007, 03:20 PM
In both novels you have narrators trying to better understand the world they are coming in to and learn some truth about the american dream as they see it. You have Nick observing the people that surrounds gatsby and Sal is "shambling after" the people that interest him. In both cases they are looking for something pure that they are no longer sure exists. Nick ends up leaving Gatsby's world deciding that, in the case of that group of people, the dream that he thought existed has become perverted. Sal, while not necessarily reaching any conclusion commits himself to the continued search. some particular points of comparison you might consider are the use of color and locations and certain imagery regarding travel itself. T.G.G its localized, primarily, between east and west, the points are finite, the roads traveled are known and there is a constant watchful eye bearing down on them, watching their movements (the billboard on the road by the gas station is consistently mentioned, it is an ad for eye glasses or something like that) the one abstract point, the purported symbol of hope or future is the green light...the color of money, envy, and infection. In on the road however, locations are given an infinite quality, sure they may be going to Denver, but where really is that except a small spot in everywhere, i might discuss how this infinite space contrasts with the finite space of gatsby in relation to the characters perspective on what they are trying to attain. Also, when the characters in O.T.R are in the car, they are not shown as being observed by a higher power, but as being one with a higher power. Note how dean is characterized as a prophet etc. I would mention how in O.T.R the horizon is a destination in and of itself, as opposed to a point on the horizon as it is in Gatsby. You could discuss how the characters in Gatsby are trying to find success/a sense of self based on what others think (nick and jay are trying to win the hearts of women by becoming successful) as compared to a self knowledge or awareness that is idealized by the characters in O.T.R. Finally, you can contrast the final quote from the great gatsby ("we are boats against the current born back....etc.") and its river imagery with the road imagery from O.T.R. Rivers tend to move along one path, one direction, implying there is one way to a dream and you must struggle up that river. Roads tend to go every which way with varying speed limits etc.

I apologize for this being jumbled etc, just brainstorming with little regard for format.

02-15-2007, 08:24 AM
wow! thanks ebrokofsky, thats sum reali amazin stuff that i wud never have though about! i cnt thank you enough for this, its made a reali difficult task into sumwot of an easier 1! i will certainly include sum of your ideas. just 1 thing, i can only vaguely remember the billboard you mention, do you happen to know roughly where it is located in the novel? that wud b a great help n wud save me flicking through for hours! lol! Thanks

02-15-2007, 10:36 AM
ok, so the comparison is goin reali well. thanks to every1 who helped me so far. I jus feel that it needs a section about how the view of the american dream that the protagonists have changes. however, i cnt seem to find a passage that shows any real change. dean and sal are always travelling and looking for liberation and happiness, whereas gatsby is always trying to find love and acceptance through wealth and materialism. if any1 cud throw any light into this area of my investigation it wud be much appreciated. is there any real change or not? i have always found in the past that the views of the protagonists change, and this has always helped bulk up my essays. Thanks