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The Destruction of The American Dream

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French historian Alexis de Tocqueville once said that The American dream signifies “the charm of anticipated success”. This may certainly have been true when deliberating in historical contexts before the 1920s, however, in this current monopolistic economic climate, it simply isn’t the case. This destruction of the American dream is documented by the texts “The Great Gatsby” and “Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream”. These texts chronicle the slow, but sure, extermination of the American dream through the use of symbolism, cultural assumptions about class across times and places, and how representations of aspirations respond to these differing social, cultural, and historical contexts. In a world of political protests, pandemic, and resulting economic downfall, the ability to dissect these ideas through historical a lens is critical.

The main idea underpinning the American dream is that “hard work leads to prosperity”. This idea is represented in the great Gatsby through Gatsby’s success, where he aspired to better himself to attract Daisy, inadvertently achieving the generic American dream. However, to Gatsby, he hadn’t achieved the American Dream, his idea of success wasn’t wealth, instead, his end goal was focused on a romantic relationship with Daisy. By achieving wealth, he aimed to use it to win find her, and win her over, using the money to throw extravagant parties in attempt to one day have her attend one. So, did Gatsby really achieve the American dream after all, when his blind ambition ultimately led to his demise? The destruction of Gatsby’s dream came as a result of time that as time moved on, it prevented a relationship with Daisy, and eventually caused his death. It can be said that, like Icarus, he flew too close to the sun. The death of Gatsby symbolized the death of the American Dream as Gatsby was an embodiment of everything that The American dream represents.

The symbolism evident in the two texts perfectly encapsulates the deterioration of the American dream. In “The Great Gatsby”, the narrator, Nick Carraway, is an aspiring stockbroker working to achieve the American Dream. Incidentally, he lives next door to Jay Gatsby, the wealthy protagonist who rose up to one percent, achieving the American dream. The symbolism evident in the texts is that the gap between Nick’s aspirations and Gatsby’s success was a hedge. However, in Park Avenue, this difference is a deep forbidding moat that is the Hudson River, separating the poor and rich sides of Park Avenue. This symbolism shows the ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor, and the demolition of the middle class because of corporate greed. The most famous symbol evident in “The Great Gatsby” is the green light on the end of Daisy’s dock, symbolizing the American Dream. This is out of reach to Gatsby, indicating that while he may have achieved wealth and success, he is still out of reach of his personal American Dream, a romance with Daisy. Instead, wealth and success were measure inadvertently taken by him while trying to win her back.

The idea of aspiration is the backbone of the two texts, and it is interesting observing how this idea responds to differing contexts. When examining the cultural context of “Park Avenue” it is evident that there are parallels between it and the current Australian climate. In Australia, the top 1% of the population hoard as much wealth equal to that of the bottom 70% of the country, and in America, this is similarly the case, with the top 1% holding more than the bottom 60%. Children are consistently earning less and less than their parents each year thanks to people like David Koch, who used his wealth and power to influence and manipulate political figures into adopting legal practices that favor him and his industries. These billionaires lobby the fact that enforcing lower taxation on the rich reinforces The American dream when in fact it does just the opposite. Lower taxes for the rich do not create equal opportunity for everyone and instead, it essentially is handing over political power to the rich, giving them more money and more power.

The idea of The American or The Australian Dream has changed through the years as a result of practices such as these and instead of goals such as owning a house, which has become more and more elusive, the younger generation now strives to not behold down by anything like a mortgage and to be free. These changing aspirations of younger generations is represented in Park Avenue through how the class is represented. Class plays a role in these two texts highlighting for readers the destruction of the American dream through the difference in how the 1% treat the lower classes. While in both, the wealthy seem to have an ignorance toward poverty, indicated by Gatsby turning a blind eye in the valley of ashes, and David Koch not tipping more than $50 to a chauffeur as a Christmas bonus. However, the demise of the American dream is shown where the oppression in “Park Avenue” is not only shown to be not helping the poor, but the rich are now attempting to commit economic genocide of the poor. This is in contrast to Gatsby, where he used his power and money instead for personal romantic gain, not for greed.

The destruction of The American Dream begins during the jazz age in the 1920s, and evidence of the havoc that consumerism had reaped on society was highlighted in Park Avenue. During the 1920s, consumerism skyrocketed post World War I as indicated in The Great Gatsby, with Manhattan being the epicenter of it all. During this time, the manufacturing of goods increased, advertising became a part of everyday life and capitalism thrived. However, capitalism creates winners and losers, however, the winners and losers today are a lot further apart than they once were. The poor have been pushed further down, drowning in poverty and the rich have been lifted up, swimming in wealth.

To conclude, these two texts have shown that since the age of jazz, the economy has been rigged against the middle class more and more to a point where they have almost been eliminated. In the coming years, it is important to realize that many politicians are being bought out. Realize that candidates lobbying for less taxation on the rich isn’t helping the American Dream and instead it is further damaging it. Politicians that lobby for lower taxes on the rich are corporate puppets. The middle class does have a role to play in this, even if they only control a small percentage of wealth and power. The middle class has the right to vote, so, come election tome, it is important to not vote for corporate puppets and instead vote for those who aren’t attempting to create policies that don’t favor the rich.  

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The Destruction Of The American Dream. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 17, 2022, from
“The Destruction Of The American Dream.” GradesFixer, 29 Apr. 2022,
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