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The Death of the Dream

"'Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions, and next they'll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white.'"
--page 130, The Great Gatsby

I picked this quote because it's wonderfully ironic; Tom seems so hilariously hypocritical here. After all, he's been having an affair with Myrtle, and now he's trying to cling onto this concept of "family institutions" and brings up interracial marriages as if it has any bearing on the subject. Perhaps these "family institutions" don't hold up in light of Tom's affair, but as I read on I realized how much Tom actually believes what he says. By the end of chapter 7, he and Daisy are really behaving like a relatively healthy married couple--with an air of "natural intimacy" (145). It's Gatsby's idealistic view that he and Daisy should be together that hasn't held up; when push comes to shove, Daisy goes to Tom for comfort and not Gatsby. Tom's affair with Myrtle seems comparatively insignificant in light of this; he couldn't even stand to hear Myrtle say Daisy's name. It seems that up until now, Nick has been portraying Tom and Daisy's marriage as so desperately unhappy that we root for Daisy to leave Tom. Then Fitzgerald completely subverts our expectations in depicting Daisy as unwilling to be with the man who seems to be the perfect knight in shining armor to rescue her from this awful situation. I've often heard it said that this book is about the death of idealism, particularly the idealism associated with the American dream. This quote particularly points to the state of the nation at the time and the imperfect lives people actually lead. People don't just uproot their lives to go and pursue their dream; they stay stuck where they are out of fear or the need to be comfortable. In such a world, it does seem impossible that interracial marriage could happen. Nick too feels this sense of impending death as he turns 30--starting what he seems to believe will be "a decade of loneliness" (135). This could be lonely because he's doesn't have faith that he will be able to find a meaningful relationship with a woman given his track record, or because he's a gay man in the 1920's, or any other number of reasons. But the world Fitzgerald paints certainly seems to not be hopeful for anyone, in which no one really lives up to the romantic ideals to which they aspire.

Comments (1)

I was so angry at Tom for cheating on her that I never really saw a point where Daisy went to Tom for comfort. However, I do remember when Tom became furious with Myrtle because she kept saying Daisy's name.
thank you for unintentionally helping me.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 5, 2009 11:00 PM.

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