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American Dream: Comparitive Essay

1379 words - 6 pages

The American Dream: Comparative EssayThe American Dream can be examined and interpreted on many different levels. In 1925 in the midst of the Jazz Era, F. Scott Fitzgerald explored the imperfections and downfalls of the American Dream in his novel "The Great Gatsby". The exposure of such corruption was devastating, and over seventy years later, "American Beauty", directed by Sam Mendes, provided a similar portrayal. This essay will deconstruct and compare the techniques that both Fitzgerald and Mendes used to relate both "The Great Gatsby" and "American Beauty" to the typical suburban American Dream. Gender and class representations were used to structure the discourse and therefore further ...view middle of the document...

In less than a year, I'll be dead. Of course, I don't know that yet. In a way, I'm dead already.", causes the audience to deeply consider his situation, and as the story progresses, the viewer feels sorry for him. Lester embarks on a journey of self-realisation, rebelling against his dysfunctional family life, struggling to regain dignity and respect that he once had from his daughter and overbearing wife, Carolyn.The tendency for one gender to dominate is apparent in both texts, more predominantly in "The Great Gatsby". A perfect example of this is the relationship between Tom and Daisy. Tom is described as a 'big, hulking specimen', and this is evident throughout the novel as Tom uses his power and status to get what he wants. The narrator, Nick Carraway, states:"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made." (pg 154)Despite Daisy's position in society, however, she still fails to hold any power over Tom. His male domineerance towers over her: "I'm glad it's a girl. And I hope she'll be a fool- that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool." This comment shows Daisy's repulse towards Tom's treatment of her. Lester shares a similar feeling of helplessness towards the beginning of "American Beauty". Carolyn remains in complete control of the household, insisting on frequently listening to her elevator music at the dinner table every night. She also provides another example of this when Lester puts forth an attempt to rekindle their romance, but Carolyn is more worried about that fact that he is going to spill beer on the couch. This situation also allows the audience to make reference to their beliefs about Carolyn's ideas on materialism when Lester states: "This isn't life. This is just stuff. And it's become more important to you than living. Well, honey, that's just nuts."It is apparent that in "The Great Gatsby", Nick also shares a similar view to Lester on greed and possessions. There is a strong message contained in both texts, that money, and all superficial things contained in the American Dream, cannot provide happiness. It can be seen in "The Great Gatsby" that those with money and fortunes are evidently more unhappy than those without it. Gatsby is destroyed, and Tom and Daisy are forced to move away from the mess they have made. This also resurfaces in "American Beauty". Non-traditional families like Jim and Jim, a homosexual couple, seem to be more content and fulfilled with their lives than those who reside in the perfect house, with a conventional family and a white picket fence. This suggests, in both texts, that appearance is not everything. In the case of "American Beauty",...

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