Analysis of today's society reveals a deep-rooted desire for success. Indeed, it is human nature to strive to achieve, and it is encouraged to the point where ambition and competition become a way of living. For some, this translates into a life of blind devotion to a cause that is increasingly elusive; to others it represents an exercise in futility and artificiality; and still to others it is some combination of the two. Yet, what is certain is that regardless of one's approach to the lifelong mission of success, the ultimate goal is happiness, for no individual seeks depression and misfortune. At worst, those who are comfortable in their own misery reveal that it is in such a state that they are most happy, or most pleased with life and its processes.
[...] In the end, only he can judge its worth and assign a value to the merits of his thought process and his ultimate sacrifice: his life. What is clear, however, is the fact that Gatsby's aspirations for higher moral standards of success are nonetheless corrupted by the intrusive force and influence of society. Okonkwo's incentives, as mentioned above, are his fears. These fears are derived first and foremost from society as a whole. Yet, such a blanket statement is ineffective at accurately analyzing the root of the problem. [...]
[...] In truth, he is an exercise in irony, for in a certain sense he is the very symbol of the blind materialism of the decade, but conversely, he is its antithesis, in that his happiness and success are realized through love, perhaps the most noble of causes. Both texts thus make a point of emphasizing the ideological impetuses behind their protagonists' drives toward success. For Okonkwo it is a fear of failure and validation within the community. For Gatsby it is instead the desire for ultimate happiness as attained through love. [...]
[...] The underlying theme of Things Fall Apart is revealed in an obsessive dream for greatness. Okonkwo, the novel's protagonist, operates in a world ruled by ambition and ideological visions. The problem that emerges, however, is a function of this dream, as Okonkwo's driving force is based in false pretenses. While on the surface his pursuit appears to be of noble roots, the truth is that he is forced into his quest for greatness out of fear fear of failure, fear of his own insecurities, and “fear of his father's contemptible life and shameful death” (Achebe 18). [...]
[...] Yet, this desire stems from the very concept of communal acceptance, in that it imposes standards and expectations on its members. The purpose is so to establish moral codes and principles of conduct so to not only regulate behavior, but foster a productive and progressive society, one that is not content to wallow in mediocrity, or even worse, failure, but rather is intent on living life with a purpose. In essence, this implies a return to the question of the derivation of the desire for success, one that must be examined from a philosophical perspective. [...]
[...] Each of these elements inherently speak to the idea of societal pressure, in that they represent the need for success as a means to acquire materials goods so to conform to the established trends and standards of the day. Fitzgerald's approach in The Great Gatsby illuminates this issue with a character who comes to embody the very essence of the time period: Jay Gatsby. In truth, Gatsby's transformation from a small- town, middle-American boy into a wealthy millionaire with no economic constraints is the story of the emergence of the United States as a whole; he is a metaphor for the transformation of the country from a mediocre world power limited by the narrow-minded scope of its geopolitical ideologies to one of the most dominant and progressively liberal nations in the world. [...]
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