The American Dream in The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby (Vintage Classics): Fitzgerald, F. Scott, Grisham, John:  9780593312919: Books

In the decade after the end of the Great War, the world was in shambles. Though relatively untouched by the devastation, America, along with the rest of the world, experienced a reactionary period against the brutal war, during which materialism flourished alongside the economy. The result was an era known as the Roaring Twenties, a cultural revolution that emphasised entertainment rather than functionality.

However, this veneer of excitement was underscored by the most important idea of the time – the American dream, the idea that all people have equal opportunities in life. Unfortunately, as people soon realised, the American dream was just that – a dream. The following disillusionment with society and life was reflected in the modernist works of the time, arguably the most significant of which was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

Nick Carraway, a young man from Chicago, moves to the “new-money” district of West Egg in New York, hoping to become a bondsman. Instead, he finds himself reconnecting with his “old-money” cousins in East Egg, Tom and Daisy Buchanan, as well as befriending the mysterious and even wealthier Jay Gatsby. The tale of Gatsby’s fabulous parties on the Long Island Sound is underscored by Gatsby’s obsession with his old love, who turns out to be Daisy Buchanan. Over the course of the novel, Gatsby uses Nick to reconnect with Daisy, but it is when Gatsby is closer than ever to achieving his dream that it is all torn away from him, and Fitzgerald’s message of the unattainability of the American dream shines through. 

This theme appears in various other characters as well, most notably in George and Myrtle Wilson. George, a destitute auto shop owner, dreams of running a successful business and of having a woman who loves him. He is foiled in the former because though he dreams of selling Tom’s blue coupé, Tom’s reluctance to sell it to him leaves him despairing for the future. He is also let down in the latter, considering that his wife, Myrtle, is Tom’s mistress. She, in turn, dreams of marrying Tom and therefore ascending to the upper class, but her hopes are fatally crushed in the novel’s chilling climax.

In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald writes his characters to each reflect a different section of society that aspires to achieve the American dream, ultimately concluding that no such thing exists or is attainable. Interestingly, the novel’s focus on the detrimental effects of materialistic culture and the relentless pursuit of the American dream lends itself to foreshadowing the Great Depression, which only proves Fitzgerald’s claim – the American dream is dead.

– Mahak M.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

The dystopian fiction novel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins serves as a prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy, and it narrates the story of 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow. It is set in Panem, the same setting as the Hunger Games trilogy and most events take place in the Capitol or District 12. Readers of the trilogy know that Coriolanus will go on to become President Snow, the main antagonist of the Hunger Games. I think that it was an extremely smart idea to write this book after the Hunger Games trilogy because it gives readers an extra interest and pulls to the book, especially with the very beginning.

The introduction of Coriolanus Snow is completely contradictory to readers’ views of President Snow, since he is shown as extremely rich and lofty in the trilogy, but he is introduced in the prequel as extremely poor; in addition, readers can clearly understand how important Coriolanus’s family is to him. As a big fan of the Hunger Games series, I do not recall any emphasis on Coriolanus’s family, except for his famous motto, “Snow lands on top!” (which is reiterated multiple times in this novel). The implication of Coriolanus’s love for his family (consisting of his grandmother known as Grandma’am and his cousin Tigris) is only strengthened throughout the book, and the pure irony of this description and portrayal of Coriolanus is extremely captivating to readers. 

I must mention that Coriolanus’s grandma insists on taking care of roses in a roof garden, and these roses make multiple appearances throughout the book. In the trilogy, roses also have significance in symbolizing the evil of Coriolanus Snow.

Moving on, Coriolanus is one of the 24 students selected to mentor tributes in the 10th annual Hunger Games, and he is matched with the District 12 girl named Lucy Gray Baird. Lucy Gray is a singer from the Covey in District 12. She seems extremely strange, with her optimistic outlook, her behavior at her reaping, and many other unusual qualities. The mentor of the winning tribute will receive a scholarship to attend the University, which Coriolanus needs, but he is highly doubtful of Lucy Gray’s capability to win. However, the two seem to acquire an extremely strong bond. 

In my opinion, the ingrained animal instincts in human nature is the most well established theme in the novel. Although the prime example of this theme is in the ending (and I believe that endings should never be disclosed in book reviews), it can be seen throughout the book, especially in the arena of the Games. The significance of 24 people locked into an arena and told to fight to their deaths is self explanatory in the theme of animal instincts in human nature. 

Another theme in this novel is the theme of morals. Again, the Hunger Games are completely immoral, and to readers’ surprise, the rest of the Capitol feels the same way.

This novel has an invigorating plot line, multiple twists, and amazing literary devices, and it is easily one of my favorite books I have ever read.

-Ayati M

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Don’t Let Age Kill To Kill A Mockingbird

Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill A Mockingbird, is a beloved work of fiction that has definitely left its mark in the world of literature. That being said, many modern readers roll their eyes at the thought of reading “classic” literature and opt for more current works to fit their current palette. Classics, Little Women, A Tale of Two Cities, Tom Sawyer, etc., tend to get a bad rap for not being applicable to today’s obstacles. However, if we take these books out of their settings, they have valuable lessons to teach us. To Kill A Mockingbird is a prime example.

For Starters, The Strong Female Heroines

From Scout to Miss Maudie to Helen Robinson, To Kill A Mockingbird is chock-full of heroines. Scout, with her “tomboy” appeal and rugged attitude, throw off the social norm. Refusing to give in to the petty gossip of Aunt Alexandra’s lunch group, Miss Maudie is a strong advocate for girls. Helen Robinson going to work to support her family in place of re-marrying. All of these ladies are heroines in a town where Atticus gets to be the ringleader of morality.

Secondly, The Timeless Appeal

Despite the fact that the story is set in the time of the Great Depression, the story has minimal markers of its period. For example, if the characters were traveling in a covered wagon, we would presume that the story took place in the past. Also, the characters are not time traveling. By not adding these elements, the author shows that the story is not set in another time period. Because there are not factors that make you feel that you are indefinitely stuck in one time period or another, you can imagine the story in your own context, therefore personalizing it. When a reader can personalize a story, the theme resonates more strongly with them.

The Theme

Today, the world is undergoing major construction in the frontier of equality. The most prominent theme of To Kill A Mockingbird is to treat others as one would like to be treated. Considering the tremendous strides in activism that have happened recently, To Kill A Mockingbird will stoke the flames in today’s advocates just as it was meant to do when it was published. Now more than ever, as a society we need this energy to keep up the good fight for justice.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee was a phenomenon in its day. Due to being deemed a classic of literature, it has lost the appeal in today’s reader’s eyes. However, it still has so much to offer from the strong female heroines, it’s a timeless theme and the way that it can empower us to keep fighting for equality.

-Ainsley H. 

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive