Page 1 of 16EXTENDED ESSAYA comparison of the theme of the American Dream in The GreatGatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Of Mice and Men by JohnSteinbeckName: Megan Louise DavisSchool: 006015Session: May 2012Candidate Number: 006015003Subject: English BSupervisor: Carmen Areal MoiñoNumber of words: 3848Page 2 of 16AbstractHow does the theme of the American Dream differ in the novel The Great Gatsbywritten by F. Scott Fitzgerald when compared to John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men?Throughout this extended essay the theme of the American Dream has been analyzed inboth the novel The Great Gatsby and Of Mice and Men. It is through this study of thetheme that I was able to then compare its use and relevance, and how this differs in bothbooks.This essay commences by investigating the use of the American Dream in The GreatGatsby where its main character personifies the dream by rising far above his own classto become the host of the most renowned get-togethers around. This is something hedoes to attract his true dream, the love of his life.It follows up by exploring the theme of the American Dream in Of Mice and Men, anovel set in the era of the Great Depression, where nothing seems possible anymore andoptimism is long gone.
Here the American Dream symbolizes hope and is what keepsthe protagonists going.II then move on to a comparison of this recurring theme in both books, in which we seethe American dream as a ray of hope following Steinbeck’s interpretation. In contrastwe observe Fitzgerald’s character soar into the upper classes, despite his initiallyhumble background.As a conclusion, it is observed how this theme is fundamental in the novels studied,although its use differs in each of them, whilst reaffirming just how important it is tohave a dream in life. At the same time, it explores the meaning and significance theAmerican Dream has come to have nowadays.Page 3 of 16Contents:- Page 4: Introduction- Page 6: The theme of the American Dream in The GreatGatsby- Page 9: The theme of the American Dream in Of Mice andMen- Page 12: A comparative study of the theme of the AmericanDream present in both novels- Page 15: Conclusion- Page 16: BibliographyPage 4 of 16Introduction:The Great Gatsby and Of Mice and Men are two classic novels that are of great literarysignificance to our time. Both novels are based around the time after the First WorldWar, albeit The Great Gatsby is set in the The Roaring Twenties, an era of prosperityfor the American economy whereas, Of Mice and Men is set just after the The GreatDepression at a time where poverty and despair reigned supreme.The Jazz age has been described as an era where anything seemed, and in most caseswas, possible.
The lively vivacious dancing with women ,wearing shorter dresses thanever seen before ,added dashes of colour, glitz and sparkle to the countless parties thatwhere held around this time. The war had ended and America was on the rise. Thathowever, all changed. With the end of the decade came the end of the Americaneconomy, owing to the Great Depression, a worldwide recession that affected everyone,originating in America.
The carefree parties gave way to scenes of desperate peopleselling cars for pittance to put food on the table, lines with no end of people waiting forsome kind of nourishment. Everything gained, lost, and with it all hope. These are totwo very different times that the authors chose to relate to the different sides of theAmerican Dream.
In the novels I have chosen to study the theme of the American Dream is of the upmostimportance. This is shown as the main characters in both books live by this dream andrepresent it. The phrase the American Dream was first coined by James Truslow Adamsand I quote: “It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream ofsocial order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fulleststature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what theyare, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position”.
1Jay Gatsbyrepresents this dream, thus he rose in social class and fortune despite being from ahumble background.On the other hand, Lennie and George never give up hope of achieving their ambition,despite their circumstances therefore personifying this idea. Both the importance ofdreams and achievement, topics present in the novels, represent the two meanings thatthe American Dream has come to signify nowadays. The first is the sense of limitlesspossibility that many have come to associate with the new start that America has alwayssymbolized. Among the novel opportunities were fresh job prospects and therefore thechance of gaining fame and fortune which is the second slightly more materialistic sideof what the American Dream has come to mean.The purpose of this Extended Essay is to explore how the use of the American Dream isfundamental in both of the novels and how its use differs in each story.
1HARPER, Douglas. American Dream. accessed 05.02.
12 Page 5 of 16Page 6 of 16The theme of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby:F. Scott Fitzgerald, an author from a privileged background who reached his peak in the1920s depicts to perfection the era in which he lived in the novel The Great Gatsby.Through this tale we are presented with the life of Jay Gatsby, narrated to us by NickCarraway. In this story, we are shown the seemingly perfect and extravagant lifestylelead by Gatsby. Gatsby throws countless parties, so famous that people travel from allover the country to attend, in his impressive mansion.”The one on my right was a colossal affair by any standard – it was a factual imitationof some Hôtel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under athin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawnand garden.
It was Gatsby’s mansion.”2It is through Gatsby’s extravagance that we come to understand that he has, without adoubt, achieved the wealth and fortune that so many have come to associate with theAmerican Dream.However, throughout the novel, although details of Gatsby’s background are given,Nick seems reluctant to believe them.” ‘I am the son of some wealthy people in the Middle West – all dead now. I wasbrought up in America but educated at Oxford, because all my ancestors have beeneducated there for many years, it’s a family tradition’ He looked at me sideways – and Iknew why Jordan Baker believed he was lying.” 3It is only towards the end of the book, after Gatsby’s death, that we meet his father. It isthrough him that we learn that Jay Gatsby’s real name was Jimmy Gatz, and that hisfather seems to be from a humble background.It is in this way that Jay Gatsby comes to be a representative of the other side of theAmerican Dream, rising from having very little, to having a great deal.
Nick Carraway puts it down to “an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readinesssuch as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever findagain”4Nevertheless, although the Great Gatsby was able to come into fortune, we learn lateron in the book just exactly how it is done. At the time this novel was set, America hadjust set a new law which stated that drinking alcohol was prohibited. This gave plenty ofopportunity for “bootleggers” who sold alcohol on the black market and so they joinedthe ranks of the “new money”. It is through Daisy’s husband Tom Buchanan that we2FITZGERALD , F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Marshall Cavendish. 1988.
pp 43Ibid. pp514Ibid. pp 2Page 7 of 16learn that Gatsby is such a dealer and that all of his money is in fact “black” money.Owing to this revelation we discover that maybe Gatsby’s life isn’t the dream it appearsto be.But, what about Jay’s life beyond the money? It is made perfectly clear in the novel thatJay doesn’t seem to revel in his role as host of an oversized fashionable party. So, whatother opportunities did the Great Gatsby aspire to?”As I watched him he adjusted himself a little, visibly. His hand took hold of hers, andas she said something low in his ear he turned towards her with a rush of emotion.
Ithink that voice held him most, with its fluctuating feverish warmth, because it couldn’tbe over-dreamed – that voice was a deathless song.”5Daisy Buchanan is the height of Gatsby’s dreams and aspirations. She is the reason forall the parties, the wealth and the flamboyant nature of Gatsby’s new lifestyle. WhenDaisy and Gatsby first met in the tale, it is clear that Daisy is above Gatsby as far associal standing is concerned. Despite her genuinely falling in love, Daisy continues tocourt men of her own social class. It’s this social snobbery that drives Gatsby to earn ahigher income therefore placing himself into a similar status as that of Daisy.We follow Gatsby’s story and we see how he and Daisy start a love affair. Nevertheless,even though they are both happy, and it is here that Gatsby has achieved his dream ofbeing with Daisy again, it seems not to be enough.
It is sad to say that rather much like Gatsby’s wealth, based on illegal means, Jay’s lovefor Daisy was based on the past and what had been rather than what was. It is becauseof this that Gatsby insists on Daisy’s leaving Tom Buchanan, Daisy’s husband. It isbecause of Gatsby’s persistence of having Daisy all to himself that Tom Buchanan startsto delve deeper into Jay’s past trying to understand how he came into such wealth andfortune, therefore uncovering Jay’s criminal offence and putting his name to shame.”‘She’s not leaving me!’ Tom’s words suddenly leaned down over Gatsby. ‘Certainlynot for a common swindler who’d have to steal to put the ring on her finger’6″‘I found out what your “drug stores” were’. He Tom Buchanan turned to us andspoke rapidly. ‘He and Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street-drug-stores here and inChicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That’s one of his little stunts.
I pickedhim for a bootlegger the first time I saw him, and wasn’t far wrong.'” 7Gatsby is then accused of running over Myrtle, Tom Buchanan’s lover. It is in factDaisy who was responsible as she was driving at the time.
However, Jay lets everyonebelieve it was him to protect Daisy. It is because of this that Gatsby is killed by Myrtle’shusband George Wilson who is tricked into believing Gatsby was having an affair withhis wife.5FITZGERALD , F. Scott.
The Great Gatsby. Marshall Cavendish. 1988. Pp 76, 776Ibid. pp 1067Ibid. pp 107Page 8 of 16This is the end which befalls The Great Gatsby , a man who was able to, in part, achievehis dream. Page 9 of 16The theme of the American Dream in Of Mice and Men:Of Mice and Men, a novel written by John Steinbeck, an author from a working classbackground, follows the story of two ranch workers in the time of the Great Depression.The theme of the American Dream is very much present and is of vast importance as itis what keeps the main characters Lennie and George going.
The dream is part of the novel from the very beginning, and it is told to us by George,who tells it to Lennie at his request.”‘Someday – we’re gonna get the jack together and we’re gonna have a little house anda couple of acres an’ a cow and some pigs and – ”An’ live off the fatta the lan” Lennie shouted. ‘An’ have rabbits’…’Well’ said George ‘we’ll have a big vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens.And when it rains in the winter, we’ll just say to the hell with goin’ to work, and we’llbuild up a fire and set around an’ listen to the rain coming down on the roof – ‘8The height of Lennie and George’s aspirations is to be able to live in their own homeand work for themselves and to do so together. Most ranch workers move on, listlessly,from one place to another, never settling, unable to work for themselves let alone buytheir own ranch.
They were condemned to live on solitude. This however has not yethappened to Lennie and George, hence they intend to achieve their dream and do sotogether.In the novel, it seems clear that the main characters have had this dream for some timenow. This is apparent as Lennie, who seems to have some kind of mental disability andcan’t remember most of the instructions given to him, knows the story of their own farmand tending the rabbits by heart.
It is in fact the only ambition Lennie seems to havethroughout the novel.It is in this sense of having a dream and never giving up hope on it that which relates towhat the American Dream is. However, one does wonder how it is that having such asmall dream Lennie and George seem unable to accomplish it.The most prominent reason is the historical context in which the novel is set. Owing toThe Great Depression, opportunities became scarce and people looked out only forthemselves. Once the American economy dried up, it left masses homeless, unemployedand penniless. This is how ranch workers came about, people who worked on a ranchthat was not their own to be able to have a place to live, a bed to sleep in and food onthe table.
It is this fate that our main characters wish to escape, therefore becoming theirdream through out Of Mice and Men8STEINBECK, John. Of Mice and Men. Penguin Group. 2000. pg16Page 10 of 16Another factor seems to be Lennie’s love for stroking soft things, such as rabbits, as itgets him constantly into trouble.
We are told from the very beginning that Lennie andGeorge had to leave their last job due to Lennie having stroked a girl’s dress, and thennot letting go when she started screaming. We also see George tell Lennie off for havinga dead mouse in his pocket, which could of course be filled with disease, something thatLennie is unable to see. Towards the end of the tale, Lennie strokes Curly’s wife’s hairand that is what leads him to his downfall.”‘ Feel right aroun’ there an’ feel how soft it is’Lennie’s big fingers fell to stroking her hair.’Don’t you muss it up,’ she saidLennie said, ‘Oh that’s nice,’ and he stroked harder.
‘Oh that’s nice.”Look out, now, you’ll muss it.’ And then she cried angrily. ‘You stop it now or you’llmess it all up.’ She jerked her head sideways, and Lennie’s fingers closed on her hairand hung on. …Lennie was in a panic.
His face was contorted. She screamed then, and Lennie’s otherhand closed over her mouth and closed over her mouth and nose.…’Don’t you go yellin”, he said and he shook her; and then her body flopped like a fish.And then she was still for Lennie had broken her neck.
“It seems to be Lennie’s great size in addition to his lack of awareness that constantlystop George and him achieving their great dream.They are, unfortunately, unable to complete their “American dream” of owning a pieceof land together, as we see George have to make the agonizing decision of lettingLennie be murdered mercilessly by Curley, who had set out to avenge the murder of hiswife, or killing Lennie himself. This is the heart wrenching end to which the tale closes.
” Lennie said, ‘Tell how it’s gonna be.’George had been listening to the distant sounds. For a moment he became almostbusiness-like. ‘Look across the river, Lennie an’ I’ll tell you so you can almost see it.’…’We gonna get a little place,’ George began. He reached in his side and pulled outCarlson’s Luger; he snapped off the safety, and the hand and gun lay behind Lennie’sback.
…Page 11 of 16We’ll have a cow,’ said George. ‘And maybe a pig an’ chickens… an’ down the flatwe’ll have a… little piece of alfalfa”For the rabbits,’Lennie shouted.…Lennie begged, ‘Le’s do it now. Le’s get that place now.”Sure, right now. I gotta.
We gotta.’And George raised the gun and steadied it, and he brought the muzzle of it close to theback of Lennie’s head. The hand shook violently, but his face set and his handssteadied. He pulled the trigger.9It is in this scene where we witness George not only give up his best friend and onlycompanion in life, but also relinquish his dreams of future happiness.9 STEINBECK, John. Of Mice and Men. Penguin Group.
2000. Pp 103-105Page 12 of 16Comparison between the theme of the American Dream in The GreatGatsby and Of Mice and Men:The Great Gatsby paints a world of extravagant soirées of the upper classes.”There was music from my neighbour’s house through the summer nights. In his bluegardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and thechampagne and the stars”10In strong contrast, Of Mice and Men shows us the poverty-stricken times of the GreatDepression:”There is a path among the willows and among the sycamores, … a path beaten downhard by tramps who come wearily down from the highway in the evening to jungle-upnear water. In front of the low horizontal limb of a giant sycamore there is an ash pilemade by many fires; the limb is worn smooth by men who have sat on it.
“11Without a doubt at first glance, the former seems much more inviting than the latter,nevertheless as we delve deeper into both stories it is clear that neither is better than theother.Whilst Jay Gatsby has fame and fortune Lennie and George could never even dream of,it is all a farce. Gatsby has created a charade of a life, one which he doesn’t evenparticularly enjoy, simply to lure the love of his life back to him. Meanwhile, in asimilar manner, Lennie and George aren’t living their life in the present but rather livingfor the moment when they will finally fulfill their dreams.It is in this way that both novels are linked, thus all protagonists are living for theirdream and not for the present moment.
This way of life can be summed up perfectly bythe quote “Life is what happens to you whilst your busy making other plans.”12Similarly, both titles have a common perception regarding the American dreamconcerning the unceasing hope that the characters portray. Lennie and George only havetheir hope and faith that they will one day own land of their own to cling on too, as theyhave nothing else. Similarly, Gatsby hangs on to the belief that Daisy will one dayreturn, and their love will be rekindled.
There is, nonetheless, a great difference in the level of achievement of their vision forthe future. Whilst Lennie and George never seem to be able to save enough to grasptheir ambition, Gatsby soars into the upper classes of his time. This is, in part, due to10 FITZGERALD , F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Marshall Cavendish. 1988.
Pp 3111 STEINBECK, John. Of Mice and Men. Penguin Group. 2000. Pp 3-412 LENNON, John. Quotes.accessed 05.
02.12Page 13 of 16what each character is willing to do to achieve their respective dreams. Whilst Lennieand George struggle along, trying to make a living, saving what little they can to puttowards their dream, Jay Gatsby has other ideas. In The Great Gatsby, its protagonistcomes into a great deal of money through illegal means.
This presents us with the question, which is more important, reaching our goal? Or themeans we use to reach it?If we go by the characters level of success, the answer would seem to be that reachingour aim by whatever means is more profitable, as Gatsby actually achieves his objectivein the novel. However, his achievement is cut short as once he is rich and reunites withDaisy, his ambition takes over and he wants even more, thus he wants Daisy all tohimself. This is that which brings him to his downfall.On the other hand, Lennie and George never achieve their dream, although they nevergive up hope, reciting this dream all through the book. It is sad however, that they wereunable to accomplish their wishes.
So is it true what they say, that it is better to have loved and lost than never to haveloved at all? If so, could it not simply be that Gatsby achieved his dream and then had itsnatched away from him?Although there are different levels of achievement as far as their dreams are concernedboth novels come to a pitiful end, death. Jay Gatsby is murdered by the husband of TomBuchanan’s lover. Nobody attends his funeral except for Nick Carraway and Gatsby’sfather. In a similar manner, Lennie is killed at the end of the novel Of Mice and Men.
Itwas George who had the misfortune of having to murder his only friend in life. AsGeorge killed Lennie, he not only killed his friend, but also his dream.Another important aspect of both novels concerning the American dream is that of equalopportunities. Nick Carraway opens The Great Gatsby with:’Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all peoplein the world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’It seems that opportunities and physical capabilities play a fundamental role inobtaining the American Dream. Although America is the land of opportunities for all, itis made perfectly clear in both titles that awareness of one´s own power is fundamental.
We see this portrayed in the character of Gatsby as he is perfectly aware of all of hischarm.’He smiled understandingly – much more than understandingly. It was one of those raresmiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or fivetimes in life. It faced – or seemed to face – the whole eternal world for an instant, andthen concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favour.’Page 14 of 16This understanding of his own abilities and strengths is also portrayed in the characterof Tom Buchanan, a man who gets whatever he wants whenever he wants it.’Now he was a sturdy straw haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and asupercilious manner. Two shining arrogant eyes had established dominance over hisface and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward.
’13On the other hand in the novel Of Mice and Men, one of the main characters, Lennie isdescribed as a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide, slopingshoulders. 14It seems to be Lennie’s lack of consciousness of his huge size and the damage that he iscapable of causing that hinders him the most. Whereas it is Gatsby’s controlled charmand amenity which allows him to fulfill in part his dream.It is through this difference of opportunities that we are able to observe that maybe it isnot enough to simply have a dream, but we must also have the capacity to fulfill such adream and the means to achieve it.
If we don’t have them, then we may just be settingourselves up for failure.13 FITZGERALD , F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Marshall Cavendish. 1988. pg614 STEINBECK, John. Of mice and men.
Penguin Group. 2000. Pp 4Page 15 of 16Conclusion:’Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes beforeus. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out ourarms farther….
And one fine morning –So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.’ 15It is through both of these journeys that we can see the importance that a dream canhave in someone’s life. The American Dream is no exception; it is the dream that we allhave to lead a happy life. America is the land of hope, the new world, a fresh start. Evenin times of poverty and sadness it has become a symbol of opportunity and remains tobe so till this day. Through the stories of Lennie, George and Jay we learn never to giveup hope, to keep on dreaming and to reach for the stars.
Particularly the story of Gatsby,a man who had nothing and wound up having everything, even if it was only for a shortperiod of time. I believe that we can also learn from these novels that we must all have adream, but we must also appreciate what it is we have in front of us. Although thecharacters that I have chosen to study did not manage to obtain the light at the end ofthe tunnel, they never gave up, they were the ever believing and the never doubting.
Iam of the opinion that this is a fundamental message to carry with oneself throughoutlife, eternal perseverance, as one will never achieve anything without first trying. That iswhat the American Dream truly is, and will always be. As the very famous authorSamuel Smile once said, ‘where there is a will, there is a way’.1615 FITZGERALD , F. Scott. The Great Gatsby.
Marshall Cavendish. 1988. Pp 14516SCOTT, Samuel onlinePage 16 of 16BibliographyPrimary Source:- FITZGERALD , F. Scott. The Great Gatsby.
Marshall Cavendish. London 1988.- STEINBECK, John. Of mice and men. Penguin Group. London. 2000.
Secondary Source:- ANONYMOUS. The American novel.Accessed 28.01.2012 – ANONYMOUS. 1925, The Great Gatsby.Accessed 5.
02.2012- RUTHERFORD, Nancy Louise. Of Mice and Men.Accessed 5.02.2012