An American Dream: The Fatal Gambit For Sutpen And Gatsby
Strohmaier, Sharon Shreve
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The intention of this thesis is to demonstrate the parallel lines that delineate the characters of Thomas Sutpen from William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! and Jay Gatsby from F. Scott Fitzgearald's The Great Gatshy, as men of distinctive American character in fatal pursuit of the American dream. The attainment of that dream, defined as an individual goal of personal success, which is sought in a state of unlimited possibility, which is ultimately expressed in socially acceptable terms, and which can be gained by faithful and arduous pursuit, is the all consuming passion of each character's life. Using the dream-goal and common American character traits as a basis for comparison, ten parallels between the lives of Sutpen and Gatsby are explored through close analysis of the texts of the novels. These parallels include (1) insignificant beginnings and lack of family ties; (2) lack of formal education and the resultant reliance on self-education; (3) self-creation of one's own personality; (4) self-discipline and the use of a timetable in pursuit of the dream; (5) the accumulation of wealth as a secondary but integral part of the dream-goal; (6) "shady" methods and manipulations to obtain wealth; (7) qualified success after achieving wealth; (8) attempts at social respectability and acceptability although remaining essentially "outsiders;" (9) over-simplification of reality leading to ill-founded assumptions of success; and (10) the failure to ultimately achieve the dream goal. The discussion attempts to demonstrate not only that Sutpen and Gatsby are parallel literary figures, but also that the undeviating pursuit of the American dream-goal is a fatal process for the dreamer who fails to recognize the difference between the ideal and the real, the spiritual and the material, aspects of the dream. This dream quest carries perilous consequences for the dreamer who ignores the responsibilities inherent in human relationships. However, the dream, which is part of America's national heritage, also holds the promise that to fail magnificently is also a feat, one which both Sutpen and Gatsby achieve.
- Theses