Although I’ve read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby more times than I have fingers, there is something inexplicable about the work that renders it inexhautibly interesting. The story is in a sense like an onion- each time I read it I come away with a different take on what Fitzgerald’s intent was when writing the novel. Set during the roaring twenties, The Great Gatsby offers an insight into an era when unprecedented prosperity graced the nation. Desguising it as a love story, Fitzgerald wrote the novel as a critique of the moral and social decay the country suffered during the decade long economic boom. Moreover, he sheds light on the ways in which the American Dream, built initially on the pursuit of individualism and happiness, had been corrupted by greed and rampant hedonism. Illustrating through Gatsby’s character the affluence harvested from hard work, Fitzgerald does not go as far to deny the haven of possibilities stemming from this social cliché, however he examines the ways in which social mobility has been perverted by the empty pursuit of money.
The disillusionment of the wealthy can be partially understood by the old sayings: POWER CORRUPTS, ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY. American society has struggled throughout its history to reconcile the economic disparity resulting from the recurring situation wherein an unprecedented amount of wealth and power is placed in the hands of but a few. The disconnected bourgeois class projects the disillusion that happiness can be bought. The motivation to achieve a greater social standing is thus skewed, as the masses are mislead to believe that financial gain, rather than passion, should be the driving force behind their social mobility. Fitzgerald delineates in his work how our ambitions can be blindly fueled by flawed motives instilled by society, and how often times upon realizing financial splendor, we find ourselves unhappy, our accomplishments ultimately rendering themselves in vein. Gatsby proves that through hard work the American Dream can be realized, however with his motives rooted in impressing Daisy via money, he inevitably fails because someone’s heart is not a commodity that can be bought. Although Fitzgerald wrote this novel nearly a century ago about a social phenomenon that graced a bygone era, the work emerges as his finest achievement namely because it demonstrates a resistance to the decay of time. Despite the economic and political changes that have reshaped the nation, his critique of the repercussions of affluence and the social gap that results is still applicable to today’s society, as is the fact that hard work renders the possibility of social mobility. Yet his most timeless illustration is how financial gain, if not achieved through motives outside of money, will yield to an empty and materialistic existence.
I am not one to prescribe to the idea that everything happens for a reason, nor is Gatsby for that matter. Gatsby rejects the social limitations of his class, and through hard work earns a pretty penny for himself. In a sense, he’s evidence of the endless prospects the cliché of the American Dream promises. Defying the odds, he extricates himself from the economic implications of his class, climbing in social standing. It not fate as much as circumstance. Via good work ethic, he overcame the ocean of obstacles that would prevent someone of his intial status to achieve the lavish lifestyle of his later years. In truth, the only limitations in life are those in which one erects. F. Scott Fitzgerald illustrates in his novel how we as humans create our own realities, an idea that is as formidable as it is ageless. For years, I have carried this belief along with me. My insecurities about professionally pursuing photography waned once conscoius of the possibility that I may not have to comprimise either my passion or my material confront, just as long as I believe in myself and my ability to overcome the odds. The idea presented by Fitzgerald in his novel that determination and ambition vanquishes limitations has played a role in my creative process in that I feel as if there is nothing that I cannot do, no where I cannot go and no feat too great to overcome. Like I said, reality is ours to manifest, and thus the possibilities are boundless- when told to think outside the box, I retort- what box?
It’s difficult to say what fuels our ambitions. In the case of Gatsby, it was his love for Daisy that drove him towards prosperity, as he couldn’t afford as a young men to cater to the absurd materialism that defined her lifestyle. Unlike many, his wish to be financially successful was rooted not material excess, but rather in his hope to impress a woman. I find that often times, we entangle ourselves in the expectations of others, our ambitions fueled by motives not of our own. Consumed by desires planted in our minds by outside influences, we blindly strive to emulate the ideals society has put forth for us. So often people in their uninhibited pursuit of wealth find themselves miserably stuck in money-driven careers, believeing that their happiness resides in a paycheck. From this predicament, a paradox emerges. I’ve always been torn between whether I should focus on becoming financially stable with a job that pays the bills or if I should risk comprising my work and quality of life by pursuing a career I’m passionate about- such as photography. Although money has the facility to buy time, fine food, a ticket to Tibet and an apartment in Paris- there is no promise that it will make you happy in the end. Ultimately, I’ve embraced the fact that I would rather sacrafice the promise of prosperity than abandon my passion for art. Life is too short to be disillusioned by the superficial happiness rendered by materialism.
Reservations remain, nonetheless, in my resolution to become a photojournalist. Although I have no doubt that my descision is based on my own expectations and fueled by a strong ambition, life is still an ocean if incertainity. In short, even with a good work ethic driven by justifiable motives its difficult to go as far to say that disapointment and failure is unavoidable. Fitzgerald illustrates this fundamental fact of life by showing how Gatsby proved unable, despite his efforts, to win over the heart of Daisy. Throughout my life and, in particular, my career as a photographer there has been countless instances that my hopes have been let down. Ultimately, I’ve come to embrace that one must cultivate a thick skin to be in a business such as this one. My career thus so far has been laced with rejections for galleries, museum shows, magazines and prestigious art schools. I’ve learn not only to accept it as part of the job, but furthermore I not longer allow myself to be dissuaded by discouragement. Disapointment is a part of life and, in truth, satisfaction is the death of desire. Once able to separate yourself from the expectations of society and those who opinions you trick yourself into believeing matter, you will realize your hands are free and your creativity unrestrained.