Comparative study of Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" and Sam Mendes' "American Beauty" in relation to the American Dream

Essay by tichondriusHigh School, 12th gradeA+, September 2006

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Comparative Study of Texts

The origins of the American dream date back to the founding fathers of America who believed that not only the desire, but the opportunity to aspire and achieve was an opportunity that everyone, regardless of status, social class and ancestry, could achieve. However it is the concept of achievement that has been debated and illustrated throughout timeless literary works that raise a miscellany of interpretations concerning the dream. Undoubtedly as time progresses one's interpretation of society, and the progression of society itself will change, however the defilation of the Dream seems to be one constant factor that has evidently had a profound effect on authors. This essay highlights the shift in context and values and attitudes presented in two well-known texts, the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925) and Sam Mendes' film American Beauty (1999).

A factor evidently influenced by context is the presence of a social hierarchy, or a class system.

In Fitzgerald's novel the class system was a prominent contextual concern with a clearly distinguishable upper-class in which the nouveau-riche and those who have inherited wealth fight for a position at the top of the ladder, and a lower-class who are wholly at the mercy of an upper-class. Fitzgerald makes the division of class conspicuous through the use of setting, by locating the nouveau-riche and those who live on old money in West and East Egg respectively and conveniently locating the poor in an area called the Valley of Ashes. The Valley of Ashes is most often interpreted as the commercial waste-land where all the by-products, such as industrial waste, of modern (1920s modern) society end up. This is symbolic of the dominance of the upper-class and is further made prominent by Fitzgerald's most notable link between the upper and...