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Dust In The Great Gatsby Essay, Research Paper

Dust in The Great Gatsby

In the novel The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald incorporates many

different themes, but the most prevalent message is that of the impossibility of

the American Dream. Fitzgerald writes of two types of people: those who appear

to have the ideal life and those who are still trying to achieve their dreams.

Tom and Daisy are two characters who seem to have it all: a nice house, a loving

spouse, a beautiful child, and plenty of money (Fitzgerald 6; ch. 1). However,

neither of them is happy, and both end up having affairs. Their lovers, Gatsby

and Mrs. Wilson, are two examples of characters who are still trying to attain

the perfect life. By the end of the novel, the hopes of both Gatsby and Mrs.

Wilson have been dashed and they have passed away. While discussing the lost

dreams of these two people, the image of dust is used several times. In The

Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald used dust to symbolize the destruction of the dreams of

the common man.

For instance, Mrs. Wilson was an ordinary woman who had high hopes for

creating a new and better life. She couldn’t wait to escape her life as the wife

of a poor car repairman (35; ch. 2). Her husband had settled for this life, but

Myrtle still hoped for better things. "A white ashen dust veiled his [Mr.

Wilson] dark suit and his pale hair as it veiled everything in the vicinity -

except his wife, who moved close to Tom" (26; ch. 2). Fitzgerald uses dust

to emphasize that Mr. Wilson had no dreams, and that Mrs. Wilson still had

aspirations of living the perfect life. Myrtle’s dreams are destroyed along with

her life when she was hit by Tom’s car, and Fitzgerald uses dust in her death

scene to symbolize what she had lost. "The other car, the one going toward

New York, came to a rest a hundred yards beyond, and its driver hurried back to

where Myrtle Wilson, her life violently extinguished, knelt in the road and

mingled her dark thick blood with the dust" (138; ch. 7). Dust is again

used, this time to insinuate the lost dreams of a common woman.

Fitzgerald also uses this symbol when he writes of Gatsby’s vanquished hopes.

Gatsby was a man who had fulfilled most of his dreams. He had a large house,

lots of money, and he mingled with the rich and famous, but he still had one

thing that he needed to make him happy (50; ch. 3). Gatsby had achieved all that

he had for one purpose: to win the woman that he loved, Daisy (79; ch. 4).

Gatsby finally had realized his dreams for a short while, when Daisy told him

that she loved him (116; ch. 7). However, this perfection didn’t last very long.

Daisy soon went back to Tom, and Gatsby’s visions of his ideal life were

destroyed. When Nick visits Gatsby’s house after Daisy had gone back to Tom, he

noticed that "there was an inexplicable amount of dust everywhere"

(147, ch. 8). This dust was what remained of Gatsby’s obliterated fantasies.

Fitzgerald foreshadows the end of Gatsby’s hopes in the very beginning of the

novel also by talking about dust. "It is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul

dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest

in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men" (2; ch. 1).

This reference to the conclusion of the book shows Fitzgerald’s view that

happiness is only available for a short period of time. Dust again portrays the

image of the tiny fragments of hope left in the trail of dashed dreams.

In conclusion, F. Scott Fitzgerald writes of many themes and uses many

symbols in The Great Gatsby, but none is more obvious than the theme of the

impossibility of the perfect life. By the end of the novel, none of the

characters has achieved happiness through their dreams or actions, and

Fitzgerald often refers to dust in order to symbolize lost hopes and aspirations

of the common-born characters that try to move up in society. Myrtle Wilson was

an ordinary, poor woman who dreams of a better life, and dust is used in her

death scene to signify the destruction of her attempts to rise in social class.

Gatsby was another common person, but he had already attained many of his

dreams. However, he still needed one thing to complete his vision, and this was

Daisy. Gatsby’s ambition was rewarded with a small glimpse of happiness when

Daisy told him that she loved him, but she soon went back to Tom. After this had

happened, dust covered everything in Gatsby’s home, representing what remained

of his dreams. Therefore, Fitzgerald uses dust in the novel The Great Gatsby to

symbolize the lost hopes and dreams of the common man.

Work Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Collier Books, 1925.

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