The American Dream

"The American Dream" is a phrase signifying the ideal of a nation: homogenous and constructed around notions of hard work, determination, aspiration, equality, independence and freedom. It harks back to the 1776 Declaration of Independence and its idealism resting on liberty and equality. It was individualist in thrust as it propounded an ethos whereby any man could make it if they worked hard enough - reward and effort being linked and pioneering individual effort being the key to success. The American Dream was a product of the enterprising West and Frontier, opening up a world of possibilities and belief in opportunities forming a rebuke against Calvinistic notions of man's tainted and predetermined fate as spouted in New England and Puritan tradition. It is a vision encapsulating a desire for both the material and the spiritual apogee, wealth and freedom of the mind (this is heavily influenced by Jefferson). It insinuates an almost secular Heaven, as Christian connotations can be drawn through the dream vision and eternal promises and youth of spirit and body.

Fitzgerald explores the degraded aspects of this fantasy and illusion as Marius Bewley points out in "F. Scott Fitzgerald and the collapse of the American Dream". The artist deals with the problem of determining the hidden boundary in the American vision of life at which reality ends and illusion begins. Fantasy is open to distortion, ruin and the grotesque; darker tinges and portentous undertones tarnish the dream- like and idyllic façade of Tender is the Night. The first book - which sets the scene on holiday amongst beauty and luxury - appears calm, jovial and light but is haunted by what Violet McKisco might have seen in Villa Diana: Abe's darker alcoholic excesses, the murder of Freeman and Nicole's outbreak in the bathroom. He explores the American dream as it exists in a corrupt period; innocence and idealism is brutalised "under the grossly acquisitive spirit" as life becomes centred on money. He reveals the lust for power and money, the darker elements concealed beneath the dream and illusion.

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