The American Dream is a promise of equal success for all American citizens. “The American Dream is that dream of a land where life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” James Truslow Adams addresses the morals and insurance that the American Dream is supposed to provide. The book written by F. Scott. Fitzgerald expresses the idea that the American Dream is a myth. ‘The Great Gatsby’ shows how the three locations East egg, New York City and The Valley of Ashes are elaborate visual representations of the myth. Fitzgerald represents the false identity of the Dream through East Egg’s ‘elite’ status, Manhattan/ New York City’s facade and The Valley of Ashes’ failure.

“I lived at West egg, the- well less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little contrast between them. […] Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water…” East Eggs glimmering white houses on the edge of the bay, appear as the silver lining on a designer dress. In comparison to the raw hems that are West Egg. West egg does have its own beauty but does not have the substantial prosperity to be as ‘stunning’ as East egg. The difference between the two locations is not the style/appearance of the dress, it is the brand that has been slapped upon the two locations.                                                                                                      The snobby, egotistical people of East egg have always only cared for themselves. They take their existence and lifestyle for granted and primarily as a given aspect of their status. The wealthy East Eggers have never had the need to work hard or work at all for their money. They were born into the wealthy position and brought up as a child standing on a pile of gold. All their demands are always answered and they always get what they want. They were socially accepted the second the money in their piggy banks was recognised as the matured wealth past down from older generations.                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Nick Carraway’s recognition of the distant relationship between himself and Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom, is a representation of how being associated with wealth/ an East Egger is a ‘privilege’. “… Daisy was my second cousin once removed, and I’d known Tom in college. And just after the war, I spent to days with them in Chicago.”  Nick was only related to old wealth by a remote connection as Daisy was his “second cousin once removed” and he knew Tom in “College”. Although the relationship was indirect, Nick still made efforts to stay associated.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Tom Buchanan lives comfortably rich, he couldn’t imagine life any different, “ Oh I’ll stay in the east, don’t you worry,’ he said glancing at daisy then back at me as if he was alert for something more. ‘ I’d be a god-dammed fool to live anywhere else”. He believes that his life is the best, That there is nothing better. His opinion concretes the fact that East egg is the highest rank and most privileged population. They’re the Kings and Queens of the chess board. East egg consists of arrogance and people of the same manner as Tom Buchanan. The “privileged” sample that belongs to the ‘secret society’ of elite East Eggers believe they’re the highest class (social rank), but Fitzgerald illustrates how this perceived identity is completely false. East egg appears as if it is the perfect perception of the American Dream. It’s glamorous mansions and luscious green yards create the picture of the pristine condition of America. When in reality this perfect picture is only some paint thrown at a canvas. There is no depth behind the accomplishments because there is really no accomplishments made. The wealthy east egg population has never achieved a goal or worked diligently on the American Dream’s philosophy. They have earned nothing that the Dream promises as they truly haven’t work for it. They pretend they own the Dream, that it is just another diamond necklace laying on the dresser. They do not belong to the successes of the American Dream, but somehow they have a hold of it. The locations description and displayed entitlements portray the lie that the people live and the lie that is the American Dream.

Manhattan, New York City – The city of dreams. New York’s initial appearance is presented positively. “ The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.” The City of Manhattan ‘flourishes’ with gloriousness, it is where anything can happen , “even Gatsby can happen”. Even a concept as profound as Gatsby is possible, at least that’s how New York appears. The city is introduced as a magnificent lifestyle/ location and from an outside perspective, the city materialises the American Dream. The outside appearance gives the impression that New York and its population have achieved the ability to live in the profit of the Dream. However the City truly possess a crude identity, the city is like a child predator offering candy. The illusion of the American Dream allures people toward the city, creating an expectation of great things. Instead people are rewarded with the realisation that the dream is a false reality. Manhattan is where Myrtle lives out her ideal life, her glamorous and sensual life. It’s where Myrtle and Tom indulge in one another and where they come to escape their other lives. They come to a place where ‘anything can happen’. Myrtle’s life in the city compared to her life in The Valley of Ashes is an exact example of the facade that is the Dream of America. She looks like she has the ideal life when she is in Manhattan, the life of her dreams, but her actual life is not at all like her life in the City. Fitzgerald also represents the illusion of the Dream through Nick’s perception of the city. Nick introduces New York as a “…first wild promised of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.” Later in the novel whilst in Manhattan, Nick is haunted by his own mind and pensiveness as he watches an observes the city. “At the enchanted metropolitan twilight, I felt a fainting loneliness sometimes and felt it in others- poor young clerks who loitered. In front of windows waiting until it was time for a Solitary restaurant dinner- young clerks in the dusk wasting the most poignant moments of nightlife.” The illusion of New York City’s dream has become apparent to Nick and he sees the Manhattan through the eyes of Fitzgerald. Its deceptive appearance has tricked Nick earlier but now he has uncoded it and he spies the loneliness, gloom and fake glamour. He notices the “poignant” manner of the people in the city. New York firstly appears a lot like Gatsby’s parties, especially to Nick. Glamorous, full of excitement and full of people, but they’re both revealed to be melancholic, still full of people, but full of a lot of loneliness.

The Valley of Ashes is nothing but, a Valley of Ashes. This desolate town located halfway between Long Island and Manhattan is a rich man’s rubbish bin.  The Population of this burdened town work day in and day out, trying to bike up a staircase. They try to climb their way up, so that society will stop looking down on them.  The people of this town have been promised the ‘The American Dream’.  The guarantee they were given by America was untruthful and the town works toward an unachievable goal. Therefore The Valley of Ashes is the failed American Dream. They have failed to succeed even though they have worked diligently in the philosophy of the Dream, but because the Dream is a lie they never gain any achievements or results. The first time The Valley of Ashes is mentioned in the story the description comes from Nick’s perspective. The Valley of Ashes is “ … A fantastic farm where Ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens…” The Valley of Ashes unlike a normal lush farm is a “fantastic farm”. Contextually fantastic means remote from reality, The Valley of Ashes is a civilisation that is inexplicably remote from reality, pushed aside from society and unequally treated. This unrealistic farm grows dusty Ashes amongst the fields, instead of wheat, the only thing that this town can produce is failure and it produces “ridges and hills” of failure. They can only grow “grotesque gardens “ and any sign of flourishing life has been made ugly. This unfortunate town is “…where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.” The ash, failure, forms everything. This town is full of grime that coats any sign of prosper and every sign of life. The men have worked till their exhaust to become something more, but they are still composed of ash, still composed of the hopes of the failed American Dream and they’re destined to fail. Poverty smothers the town and the ash and soot suffocate it, concealing any potential for growth. Wilson eventually realised that he needed to leave this forsaken town. His efforts were noted, but they were not successful and his attempts at fulfilling happiness (an aspect of the Dream) failed. His wife was murdered, which lead him to death by his own hand. Fitzgerald may have insisted to us through this plotline that you can not escape societies labels. Fitzgerald definitely insinuated that the American Dream is a rotten lie and all that it stands for has failed. Illustrating The Valley of Ashes as the epitome of The American Dream’s failure.

Fitzgerald presents the idea of the American Dream as a myth. He critiques the American society through the 3 locations East egg, Manhattan/New York City and The Valley of Ashes. These settings illustrated the Dream as a lie, an illusion, and a failed concept. All these points are described throughout the book as vividly as a fluorescent vest in a crowd of black shirts. F.  Scott. Fitzgerald was ahead of his time not only in his literature but also his conception in society and its standards. He clearly states his opinion by beautifully expressing the American Dream through the perspectives of various settings. No character in ‘The Great Gatsby’ has been presented as someone who has achieved the American Dream. This is because the American Dream is unachievable, it is just a myth.


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  1. Hey Billea,

    It is clear you have a solid understanding of the settings in ‘The Great Gatsby’. Well done!

    Next time you write an essay, I want you to think about:

    • Using simpler sentences. I think at times you believe you have to say something that sounds really sophisticated and there are definitely moments where you pull it off and come out with some winning phrases. There are more moments, however, where the idea you are presenting gets lost in the embellishment of your sentence. Don’t over think your language choices.
    • Avoid tautology in your essay. Often, you repeat yourself and alter the words slightly. There is no need to do this and it makes your work confusing to read at times.

    I would like you to have a go a re-working this piece Billea. Try to cut out about a quarter of your material and reword some of your sentences to be less embellished. Don’t loose some of your magic moments (i particularly like the metaphor about the people of the VOA climbing a staircase on a bike) but do remove sentences that are convoluted and unnecessary.

    Mrs. P


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