Honors English, Hour 3
The American Dream or an Onion
The American Dream is an endless onion. One will find endless layers of the American dream onion to peel back in order to grasp for an unattainable center. Only tears will be achieved from this endless peeling of the onion's layers. F. Scott Fitzgerald believed this metaphor to be true and that is evident in his Novel The Great Gatsby and his short story "Winter Dreams." The illusion and the empty promises of the American dream is exploited by Fitzgerald in his Novel and short story by his exemplary use of symbols, his ability to depict greed and corruption within his characters, and his depiction of the balance of hope.
Fitzgerald has an incredible ability to use symbols within his writings to serve as a deeper meaning. In The Great Gatsby the green light and valley of ashes both represent the illusion of the American dream in a different way. After Nick Caraway had visited his wealthy cousin Daisy and her husband Tom Buchanan, he returned to his West Egg house and noticed his neighbor, Gatsby, reaching for something. Nick "glanced seaward - and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been at the end of a dock," (Fitzgerald GG 21). Gatsby is reaching out for this green light because he believes it brings him closer to Daisy. Gatsby thinks that if he could just have Daisy, his quest for the American dream would be complete. Fitzgerald uses symbolism to show the unattainability of the American dream with this "minute" "green light" far in the distance by portraying the American dream as always one step ahead and how there is always one more thing to add to the dream. Later in the novel Tom insists that Nick come with him to the Yale club, but they end up departing from the train at an unknown city to Nick. This unknown city was called "the valley of ashes - [which was] as fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat in ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys," (GG 23). Again Fitzgerald uses the literary device, symbolism, to have the valley of ashes represent or symbolize the unavoidable corruption that comes with the rich's indulgences on material wealth and empty pursuit of the American dream. A common theme throughout The Great Gatsby was that the American dream is an illusion; the valley of ashes fortify this ideal by showing that no matter the wealth or status they still leave behind "ashes" or scum to be raked up by those below them. With the green light representing the unattainability of the American dream and the valley of ashes symbolizing the corruption of it, Fitzgerald makes the overall illusion of the American dream evident.
Just as in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, there were two prominent symbols in his "Winter Dreams": Judy's Boat and Golf Balls. Towards the middle of the short story everything seems to be going right for Dexter. Everything was going perfectly for Dexter, "for once, he was magnificently attune to life and that everything was radiating a brightness and glamour he may never know again [but then] […] two white streamers of cleft rolled themselves out […] drowning out the hot tinkle of the piano in the drone of its spray," ("WD" 242). Just as Dexter has reached what appears to be the pinnacle of the American dream, a new luxury "streams" by "drowning out" all previous success to make room for this new empty pursuit. Fitzgerald's motif that the American dream is just an illusion is reiterated when he uses a boat, driven by Judy, as a symbol for dissatisfaction that a materialistic life can lead to. While Dexter is pursuing wealth and respect, he ends up golfing with his old boss, Mr. Hart, and a few other respectable gentleman when an unexpected event occurs. Someone is the distance calls out "Fore," "and as they all turned abruptly from their search a bright new ball sliced abruptly over the...
Cited: Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 2003.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. "Winter Dreams." F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Short Stories. Ed. Matthew Bruccoli. New York: Scribner, 1989. 236-255.
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