Table of contents
- The American Dream: The Decay of the ethos of American citizens as a result of manipulation
- Yellow, and the Green Light: The symbolism of wealth, death and the American dream
- Real-life Monopoly: Does everyone have an equal opportunity?
The American Dream: The Decay of the ethos of American citizens as a result of manipulation
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Park Avenue: Money, Power, and the American Dream by Alex Gibney accentuate the increasing degeneration of a society divided by people who are able to achieve the so-called ‘American dream’, and those who are enslaved by it. The American dream is an ideology that is no longer applicable to contemporary society. The idea that anyone can achieve what they want through hard work and dedication has been compromised and deteriorated as a result of the top 1% and the many corrupt members of the American government. Numerous voices of what create America’s congress have been bought out by the 1%, which correspondingly resulted in absurd tax cuts for the incredibly wealthy. The Great Gatsby is a symbolic mediation of the American 1920s, with the main theme of the novel being the disintegration of the American dream. In Park Avenue: Money, Power, and the American Dream, the idea of the American dream is shown to be virtually unachievable in today’s society due to the fact that the 1% are able to take advantage of the corrupt political members. The quest for fulfillment through hard-earned wealth and the American dream is almost completely unattainable as the split between the rich and the poor continues to increase.
Yellow, and the Green Light: The symbolism of wealth, death and the American dream
The Great Gatsby has countless examples of symbolism, with one of the most prominent ones being the colour yellow. Throughout the novel, yellow is used as a motif, representing the illusion of ‘old money’, along with wealth, and corruption. Fitzgerald uses this colour to decouple the ideas of richness and greatness, by associating wealthiness with decay and amorality. Yellow is also represented as fake and dishonest, an imitation of gold, which represents authenticity. At the beginning of the novel, Daisy and Jordan wear white dresses, which gives off the illusion of purity. As the story continues, their clothes change to golden yellow as their impurities are slowly revealed. Gatsby’s extravagant parties are also filled with the colour yellow, representing the lack of values of the people who attend them. It is also used to draw notice, the purpose of Gatsby’s parties is to gain Daisy’s attention. Even though Gatsby is green, which represents new money, he wants to be gold, which represents old money. Gatsby purchases the yellow car in order to give off this illusion and to impress Daisy. Gatsby and Daisy both value external appearances over sincerity and substance, which can be seen as a contributing factor towards his death. As the story continues, the colour yellow begins to represent something more sinister; death. While Daisy is behind the wheel of Gatsby’s yellow car, she runs over Myrtle, who lived in a yellow house in the valley of ashes, an area in between West and East egg, where ashes grow like wheat as a result of the factories nearby. The eyes of Dr. T.J Eckleburg, which are positioned over the valley of ashes, symbolise the eyes of God and are also ringed in yellow glasses. Along with the colour yellow, the most famous symbol is the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock that Gatsby looks out at from across the bay. This light is a symbol of Gatsby’s American dream, to get Daisy to fall in love with him. Gatsby wants to reach across the bay and get to that green light in order to achieve his wild ambition. The green light also symbolises old money, and how Gatsby also wishes to be viewed as someone who attained his riches from old money as well. Although Gatsby does everything in his power to get Daisy to fall for him, in the end even after putting in all the hard work, it is all for naught and he cannot achieve his American dream. Although somewhat overshadowed, another use of symbolism is the water that separates Harlem and the Bronx. The Harlem side of Park Avenue is home to many billionaires, while just across the body of water is the poorest district in America. The American dream for those that occupy the Bronx or perhaps their ‘green light’ is the other side of the river, as opposite of where they live is representative of a wealthy life. The people of the Bronx look out across the body of water in hopes of attaining their dream much like Gatsby did with Daisy’s house.
Real-life Monopoly: Does everyone have an equal opportunity?
Around the world, many people are led to believe that everyone has an equal opportunity, however, it could not be further from the truth. Life is much like a game of monopoly, except there are many who already have the board set up before you’ve even rolled the die. The game is controlled by society’s elite, the people with the most wealth, power and influence. If you have enough money, you can make everything around you cater to your desires and needs. An example of money manipulation in The Great Gatsby is when Jordan Baker cheated to win her first golf tournament by using her money to pay off any onlookers in order to maintain her status. This allows her to always bend the truth, as to distance herself from the world. In Park Avenue: Money, Power, and the American Dream this idea rings true with people like Stephen Schwarzman and David Koch who used their money to buy the voices of political members in charge of running the country. To them, the idea of the American dream is just something that can be used to manipulate the lower class into making more money for them. The 1% are able to manipulate the board of life freely by using their money, even more so if they live at 740 Park Avenue, as living in this area brings a status of power. Stephen Schwarzman is an example of lobbying to achieve ridiculous tax cuts on the already incredibly wealthy. The fact that some billionaires are able to manipulate politicians by using their wealth in order to achieve what they want shows that the board is rigged against you if you don’t have immense power or wealth. The American dream is barely attainable when the lower class begins to become even more compromised and systematically oppressed due to the amoral and greedy actions of the elite. In a way, Gatsby represents the pure American dream as he came from nothing into wealth, power and privilege. However, he earned much of his financial assets through illegal activities, which cannot be considered the American dream. This of course, comes back to bite him in the end, and shows that even though he disconnected himself from his questionable past that using corrupt methods to attain the dream is what ultimately led to him never achieving his dream.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Park Avenue: Money, Power, and the American Dream are both complex and irrefutable critiques on the American dream. They both accentuate the growing degeneration of a society of people who can achieve the American dream and those that are enslaved in it. The American dream is an ideology that is no longer applicable to contemporary society, as the divide between the rich and the poor continues to grow every day. The poor continue to become systematically oppressed and marginalised, their whole purpose to continue making money for the rich. The game of life is already set up and decided for most people, and in the end, your own pieces aren’t even moved by your own hands.