Is the American Dream driven by love or desire?

The entire story of the Great Gatsby centers around Jay Gatsby’s desire to return to the loving state he once shared with Daisy. In addition to this central storyline, the other main characters exhibit desire through their own desires: Tom’s desire for more success as he already has money and a wife, Daisy’s desire for higher status and more material items, and Nick’s desire to be accepted by people in a higher class than he was born into. Desire drives the idea of the American dream, not love, as proven by Jay Gatsby and the surrounding characters in the Great Gatsby.

The American Dream is built from the idea of the “self- made man” which developed in the Gilded Age. During this time thousands of immigrants came to America because of the welcoming message of the Statue of Liberty; the Statue of Liberty was symbol to show that success is possible for everyone with hard work. This idea was also shared amongst lower class Americans who wanted to reach the status of higher class people. This was shown in the Great Gatsby by Nick, who came from a middle class family in the West and traveled to the East coast in order to become wealthy and acquire position in the upper class. He explains this on page 9 when he says, “Instead of being the warm center of the world, the Middle West now seemed like the ragged edge of the universe- so I decided to go East and learn the bond business. Everybody I knew was in the bond business, so I supposed it could support one more single man.” Nick did not have a love for the bond business: he had a desire to acquire wealth and independence.

Hence, the American Dream is driven by desire. Jay Gatsby represents the American Dream in the Great Gatsby, along with the other main characters, because of the way he worked his way up to the top and achieved the classic “large suburban house, dazzling parties, high social status” American ideal that was the American Dream in the 1920’s. Jay Gatsby was driven by his desire for Daisy because of how unattainable his love for her was, as shown on pages 86-87 when Nick says, “There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams–not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion.” Even if Gatsby loved Daisy, he more so was in love with the idea of her, with his illusions of her, with the memory of what they once were.

Even Nick (who is relatively objective and disconnected to the other characters throughout the book) knows that Gatsby is driven by an idea of a memory which is unattainable. On page 87, Nick says, “He talked a lot about the past, and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was . . .” This is a good representation of people who desire the past; often they do so because they left a piece of themselves in the past and they wish to retrieve it. So of course Gatsby could not ‘find out what that thing was’ because that thing is his love for her which has been replaced by desire.

Desire is a state of being that can only be achieved if the thing being sought is not yet achieved. The green light at the end of Daisy and Tom Buchanan’s dock represented Gatsby’s desire for Daisy; he wanted to go back to the state of love which he and Daisy once had. It is impossible to return to a state of love that once was, just like how it is impossible to reach the green light at the end of the dock. This symbol is introduced when Nick first sees Gatsby on his front lawn on page 24, and he says: “…I didn’t call to him for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone—he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward—and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock.” The symbol of the dock shows that Gatsby’s “love” for Daisy is distant and surrounded by a desire for the idea of love.

Lastly, desire goes hand in hand with greed because once the person achieves what they seek they no longer have desire, so they strive for more to continue this lust for desire. Greed was exhibited through Daisy and Tom who constantly sought more. They both had already achieved wealth and love, but Daisy wanted material items and to raise her social standing in any way possible, and Tom wanted more love and respect. In chapter seven Nick said about Daisy’s voice: “I’d never understood before. It was full of money—that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it . . . High in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl . . .” This shows that she was so driven by her desire for material wealth that her character/voice/personality has been shaped around it. Daisy has never had to struggle: she was born into a great amount of wealth and married into it young. Gatsby’s desire for Daisy forced him to strip himself of his own character and achieve wealth instead, in order to make Daisy love him as much as she once loved the idea of his wealth.

In conclusion, the Great Gatsby is a tale of desire mistaken for love. Love is only present when those who experience it are content in it, and none of the characters in the Great Gatsby are satisfied with their success or love. The characters are representative of the American Dream in this way, and the story of the Great Gatsby shows that the American Dream is driven by desire.

Advertisements

The Tongue Survives

The story of “La Malinche” tells the legend of Malinalli, The Tongue (translator) for the Spaniards as Cortes colonized the Aztecs. Malinalli was a survivor from birth to death, through all of her experiences as a slave, treks through Mexico with Cortes, and battles between her people and her allies. I will never experience the amount of pain and victory that Malinalli went through, but everyone who lives endures pain and victory in different ways. The story of La Malinche can guides us to make a great story of our sorrow.

In the beginning when Malinalli is being birthed, the umbilical cord is wrapped around her neck like a serpent, which also happened to me. My mother was told not to push because it would choke me, but animal instinct told her drive me out. Malinalli’s grandmother was ready to cut her out, which would have killed her, but Malinalli pushed through and came out alive, as did I. “Grandmother shouted like a warrior to let everyone know that her daughter- in- law, a great fighter, had come out victorious in the battle between life and death.” (pg. 5) I felt a connection to this quote, because I can imagine the victorious spirit in my loved ones after my successful birth. This is clearly included in the book as a foreshadowing to her victorious triumph over death during fatal battles and adventures. If this was the true story of Malinalliś birth, then it was either a spectacular coincidence or a great anticipation to her future. Perhaps Malinalli was so inspired to survive later in life because she remembered the story of her birth and felt the need to continue the legacy. Nonetheless, this was a great passage to intrigue the reader about the survivor in Malinalli, which was continued later in the story.

I was continuously amazed at the courage and strength exhibited by Malinalli in every moment of her life. Repeatedly sold as a slave, faced with life changing and world altering decisions far too early in life, forced to face the consequences of her trust, struggling to find a place where her heart feels safe. Although my situation is no comparison to hers, any teenager can relate to the feeling of being lost in a world where the decisions we face feel far beyond our control. ¨Migration is an act of survival. Malinalli wished she could have relied on the lightness of butterflies and migrated on time, flown through the high skies, far above the clouds, where she would not have to hear the weeping and lamenting, where you could not distinguish the mutilated corpses, the rivers of blood, the smell of death.” (pg. 92) Malinalli imagines this because she constantly has to survive all of those sorrowful situations, and she wants a way out. I relate to her state of anxiety, and I often find my escape in literature and music, imagining a world free of disaster and misery where I can be free.

At Malinalli’s death, she was also reborn. She became one with all of eternity, all of the universe, everything living and everything dead. This was a symbol of survival, because it showed us that even through death she survived in spirit. Malinalli dies on her own terms, and is immediately merged with the universe by being struck by lightning. “At that moment, a bolt of lightning, a silver tongue, lit the sky, heralding a storm and filling with light the still body of Malinalli, who had died instantaneously some moments before. Her eyes were absorbed by the stars, which immediately knew everything that she had seen on earth.” (pg. 185) Even though many of us believe in an afterlife, or in the simple decomposition of our body with no existence after death, we all wish to be remembered somehow by the world we experience every day. Malinalli had a story that we will never forget, a story that will influence the world for centuries after her death. The absorption of her eyes into the stars is a symbol of her legend on the earth and the way she will always “look over” us and influence the human race.

La Malinche was a magnificent story to warn us against ourselves. Malinalli learned through all of her adventures and moments facing death that she is a survivor. I learned through Malinalli what is truly means to survive and to thrive, and I will carry on this story by conquering my own plights.

A Quest Seeking Wisdom

Life has no meaning, unless one gives a purpose to himself. According to Sartre, man feels alien in a world without meaning. Therefore, we must have a life long quest for our purpose. It is essential to have a quest, and any quest is a quest for wisdom. A person must always undergo a quest to find wisdom.

Siddhartha exhibits this need to find wisdom when he went on a path to self- discovery. “He learned to walk away from the I. He walked the path of self- distancing through pain, through volunteering, enduring of suffering and vanquishing of pain, hunger, of thirst, of exhaustion.” (page 15) Siddhartha found wisdom through “self- distancing.” Suffering is a part of any discovery, and Siddhartha went through this to fully experience the world. He needed to fully experience the world in order to truly understand himself. Siddhartha acquired the wisdom of the world by experiencing suffering, and later, joy.

Vasudeva exemplified another form of wisdom. As Siddhartha told Vasudeva his story, with all of his joys and suffering, he was also admiring Vasudeva’s wisdom of listening. “Among all the ferryman’s virtues this was one of the greatest: he understood how to listen as very few did. Vasudeva spoke not a word himself, and yet the speaker sensed how he allowed the speaker’s words to enter him, with tranquility, openly, waiting, how he lost not a one, waiting without impatience, without praise or blame, simply listening. Siddhartha felt what a joy it is to tell everything, to sink one’s own life, one’s own seeking, one’s own suffering into such a listener’s heart.” (page …) Vasudeva later explained that his wisdom comes from listening to the river and he later shows Siddhartha this wisdom. When he listens to the river, it is within his constant quest for wisdom.

When Siddhartha leaves Govinda for self discovery, he realizes that he must always be on the quest to find wisdom. “Blue was blue, river was river, and if the one and the divine also lay concealed in the blue and in the river and in Siddhartha, it was just the nature and meaning of the divine to be yellow here, blue here, there sky, there forest, and here Siddhartha. Meaning and essence were not somewhere behind things, they were inside things, in everything.” (page 35) Siddhartha recognized that the quest for wisdom is constant, because wisdom (as he says “meaning and essence”) is in everything.

In this book, Siddhartha is clearly constantly on a quest to find wisdom. Most people today, or even back then, do not live the lifestyle he lived: Solely dedicated to the quest to find wisdom. However, even if we are not on his same path, we must always be on a quest to find wisdom, no matter what kind of wisdom we seek.