Instant Death: The Shadow of Trauma in The Great Gatsby

This essay was written for English 101 and last modified 5/28/2018. We were assigned something like the failure of The American Dream and The Great Gatsby – I can’t remember the exact question or series of questions. I thought there was going to be two essays – one on The Great Gatsby and The American Dream and the other on Citizen Kane and The American Dream but, as it turned out, these were all supposed to be part of the same essay.

There were also some pretty strict rules about how sentences were to begin, how many paragraphs were to be written, what was to be accomplished in them, how many sentences in a paragraph, so on and so forth. Although I had a hard time understanding much of this –honestly, it read like IKEA directions to me– I did my best to hold to all of these rules. I did, on occasion, go over the sentence limit and I felt it necessary to get permission to add another paragraph, dealing with Chuck E. Cheese, who I think is vital to my understanding of The Great Gatsby and Citizen Kane. While these imposed limitations, in some sense, helped, there are times when I think it cost the piece some readability. There’s spots where I would have liked to let the thing breathe a bit and, being contained by having X amount of sentences meant I had to sometimes sacrifice readability for precision in word-choice. That’s probably just an issue with academic writing in general. I don;t know. Never really done it before.

As far as the content goes, I think I might have been onto something here. Since writing this essay, I’ve noticed a lot of strong undercurrents of trauma in American popular culture. But I came to my thesis because I really didn’t have any idea what “The American Dream” was, is, or is supposed to be let alone how it related to Fitzgerald. Although I’d read “The Great Gatsby” numerous times before this course, I had never once considered it as being about “The American Dream.” Having to read it in that light was, to me, a bit like being told to read “Moby Dick” with an eye to what it has to say about international finance. It was a bizarre interpretative lens and, as a result, I sort of came up with a bizarre sort of answer. It seemed obvious, for example, that Americans spend a lot of time fantasizing about running people over in their cars. (I was working a lot of my shift in a busy Los Angeles parking garage at the time I wrote this and, indeed, much of it was composed in that parking garage.) Gatsby read as a book that wasn’t about the failure of The American Dream. It was about its fulfillment.

Anyway, it’s quite long, so I’ve attached it as a PDF. Also, don’t plagiarize. I’ve been told to say that.

1 thought on “Instant Death: The Shadow of Trauma in The Great Gatsby

  1. Pingback: It's Monster Time | The Grumpy Owl Redux

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