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McKenna Huntzinger

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Disillusionment
In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the narrator Nick states it is what preyed
upon Gatsby, the foul dust floating in the wake of his dreams (2). By saying this at the very
beginning of his tale Fitzgerald immediately opens up the subject of disillusionment and the
parasites that cling to the American Dream. The American Dream and the disillusionment that is
attached to it is still prevalent in the early 20
th
century, and the in The Great Gatsby. The
disillusionment has not become extinct with time but instead lives in American Society today.
People are however disillusioned in different ways that different times and different
circumstances have brought about. The causes of disillusionment today are the belief that
money and power will bring one happiness, the belief that hard work and perseverance will
always result in one achieving their dreams, and the standard of the American Dream being
raised to an almost unachievable level.
The society of today, like the society of the 1920s has a very skewed perception of
happiness. People believe that if they only achieve their goal or dream, they will finally be
happy. This is in fact not what happiness is, the truth of the matter is that one must be happy
and learn to love every single day despite what they have, or they will never be able to be
happy once they achieve their dream. In The Great Gatsby all that Gatsby desires in life is Daisy
Buchanan and he will go to any extent, legal or not to win her. Gatsby in the process of winning
Daisy acquires so much but he never for a moment takes the time to stop and enjoy life for
what it is. In fact, even when he has won Daisy over it is still not enough for him, she must tell
Tom that she never loved him, shown when he states Cant repeat the past? Well of course
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you can (110). This is in fact Gatsbys downfall and where disillusionment begins to play a role
in the story. Gatsby was never able to acquire happiness and there for he was disillusioned
from the American Dream. This plays into todays society as well. People are always wanting
more and more, believing that once they acquire what they seek they will achieve happiness.
However they do not achieve happiness, instead they reach a state of disillusionment realizing
what they have is not nearly as remarkable and perfect as they made it out to be. It is stated in
the article Modernism and Experimentation that The chief business of the American people is
business, this plays into disillusionment in that everything Americans do is in order to make a
profit to make them happy. This is perhaps the greatest cause of disillusionment in that one will
work so hard and acquire so much but still never realize that material things and wealth are not
going to make their lives content.
American youth has been raised to believe that if they work hard enough, go to college
and save their money they will be able to achieve the American Dream. A major role of
disillusionment in todays society is that youth is working hard to achieve this dream but they
are unable to due to the recent recession. Hard work not paying off as it was supposed to, does
in fact contribute greatly to disillusionment in that believing and trusting that one will have
success but be unable to reach it creates a feeling of desperation and isolation. Yes, it is still
possible to reach the American Dream but it is much harder that it was in the time of the
previous generations. Youth often times blame their inability to achieve the dream they were
promised by the past generation, and as stated in Census: Recession turning Young, they risk
living in poverty more than others nearly 1 in 5. Todays young adults believe that if their
parents generation had kept them out of the recession they would not be facing these
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hardships now. America faced a similar disillusionment in the 1920s as youths question the
previous generations involvement in World War I, in a way throwing away American interest.
Americans, pre WWI, believed the world to be a much more innocent place but they were
disillusioned to find that the world was a harsh place with the introduction of foreign warfare.
Youths of today come to a similar conclusion realizing that life is not as easy as it used to be and
it will take a lot more work and perseverance to achieve the universal dream. As stated in
Modernism and Experimentation, Americans could never regain their innocence after WWI,
as this generation will never be able to regain their innocence after the recession.
The Final way that the disillusionment plays into todays society is with the expanding of
the American dream into a more elaborate vision of the future. People in this decade are not
wishing to achieve the same things that the previous generations have. The original American
Dream was to have a family, a car, and a home, but as time progressed people began wanting
more and more. It is clear in The Great Gatsby that no matter how much Gatsby acquires, he is
never content. He wishes to expand his dream to an enormous scale, never enjoying what he
has achieved, shown when he Nick states but his heart was in a constant and turbulent riot.
The most grotesque and fantastic conceits haunting him in his bed at night (99). Todays
society faces a similar problem in that people want more and more, making the American
Dream so elaborate that it is nearly impossible to achieve. The dream being out of reach
creates a sense of disillusionment in todays society and creates an air of longing for something
that is out of unachievable. This can be related to The Great Gatsby in that the magnificent
dream todays generation is much like the Green Light, in view but not within reach. Adding
Daisy to Gatsbys dream is what eventually destroys Gatsby. Adding more and more aspects to
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todays American Dream will be what eventually disillusions and destroys the new generations
dream.
The causes of disillusionment in todays society are a false belief that the more one has
the happier one will be the obstacles that now stand in the way of a dream so long promised to
youth, and the expansion of the dream to a glorious but unattainable level. As the American
Dream lives on in todays society the disillusionment of not achieving what one thinks that they
are chasing lives on as well. Some may say that Americans have learned from that past and
realize the corruption behind the dream, and to an extent this is true, however there is a part of
human nature that propels ones desire to achieve the dream at all cost. There is nothing
human kind wants more than to be truly happy and content with their lives, it is the method
people use to achieve the dream that create the feeling of disillusionment. Disillusionment has
been a downfall in society throughout history and will continue to be as it a major human fault.







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