The Great Gatsby and Death of a Salesman Comparison

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Scott Fitzgerald authors the Great Gatsby, the book depicting the American Dream and its destructive aspects. The author demonstrates how society can be morally corrupted by the precipitate chase of high social status and wealth. It is pronounced, in this regard, that the two primary characters in the narrative who meet catastrophic and devastating deaths, Willy Loman and Jay Gatsby, are individuals from humble backgrounds who saw the American Dream as a way to liberation and a better life (Alhalb, 2022). Death of a Salesman, on the other hand, is authored by Arthur Miller. The book addresses The American Dream, loss of identity, and a man’s failure to accept change within himself and the community. Death of a Salesman is a collection of dreams, arguments, and confrontations, all of which summarize the life of Willy Loman. The Great Gatsby and Death of a Salesman depict the moment’s reality clearly defined in the plot, style, historical, and art contexts.

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The Plot

Both The Great Gatsby and Death of a Salesman talk about the pursuit of the American Dream; to be successful in life, to own a house, to own a car, and to become financially rich and independent. All the rewards will come to Americans willing to work and sacrifice enough for it. However, Willy Loman’s and Jay Gatsby’s respective chase of the American Dream contradicts this ideal. Jay Gatsby has access to everything; a nice car, a huge mansion, and weekend wasteful parties. Nevertheless, Jay reached the top to remain independent and financially wealthy by making, distributing, and selling goods illegally (Fitzgerald, 2021).

On the other hand, Willy was always in debt. His idea of the American Dream is a shortened and small version of the real thing. Like any struggling American, Willy believes that he will certainly make it. However, his notion fails him, leaving him gloomy, miserable, and unhappy for not attaining success. With the failure of both Jay and Willy to achieve the real American Dream of happiness and security, they qualify as sad characters. For Jay, the failure results from absolute idealism. Daisy becomes the epitome of everything Jay hopes to achieve; beautiful, powerful, and wealthy (Fitzgerald, 2021). Jay’s dream proved too big for him because he built everything on a weak foundation.

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Style, Historical, and Art Context

The style of The Great Gatsby is complex, lamenting, and melancholy, employing extended poetic language, figurative language, and metaphors to create a sense of loss and regret. “Time” and “past” are some of the most frequently occurring words, showing the act of recollection and resemblance. Gatsby is described as an exceptionally stylish and good-looking character (Alhalb, 2022). In Death of a Salesman, the common style is using flashbacks. Much of the family’s past events are revealed through Willy’s flashbacks in his narration and memories (Harrington, 2022). Here, a flashback is a dramatic technique in which the characters present the current and future. Unfortunately, Willy is too obsessed with the past over the current. In desperation to give grounds for his life, Willy destroys the links between present and past.

In terms of the historical context, The Great Gatsby is set during the economic boom and controversial extravagance in the roaring twenties. The stark class difference was evident during this period. For instance, women needed to be liberated. Despite the community’s changing nature, some women were not accepted as independent, and the male-dominated society criticized their actions. Death of a Salesman, on the other hand, was written a few years after the end of World War II. The war caused an increase in the industrial production markets. For poorer people in the United States, the economic condition was not improved as the nation started experiencing high inflation, causing problems for the poorest of the poor to purchase the basics (Khan, Zeb & Noor, 2022). A new version of the American Dream had to be presented to liberate citizens.

The Great Gatsby is linked to the Jazz Age of 1920s America. The period persuaded the American community to remain free-spirited and fast-paced to achieve the ideal American Dream. In contrast, Death of a Salesman is a formal charge of the fundamental American values. However, the accusations might seem somewhat docile in the current age of constant personal self-analysis criticism. As a work of art, Miller links free-market capitalism to the devaluing of American employees and, later, the crumbling of the American family.


Fitzgerald sees success through hard work as unusual, while Miller presents corrupt means as failing. The writers suggest that the ideal dream encouraged selfishness and greed, which breed corruption. Corruption leads to the decline of the idealized American Dream, such as truthfulness and honesty. In the Great Gatsby and Death of a Salesman, material success through hard work is seen as extraordinary. Daisy and Tom found themselves in riches and never had to work hard to become successful. Wilson and Willy, however, work hard but still do not become successful. America is presented as a corrupt land, with the rich having it all while the poor struggle to make ends meet. In addition, Miller presents discrimination surrounding Willy. Unlike Willy, Gatsby is part of the new wealthy Americans.

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  1. Alhalb, A. D. N. S. (2022). F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in Scope of Post-Colonialism Theory. International Journal of Literature Studies2(2), 01-08.
  2. Fitzgerald, F. S. (2021). The Great Gatsby-Francis Scott Fitzgerald. Phoenix Classics Ebooks.
  3. Harrington, G. (2022). Word/Play: Death of a Salesman. The Arthur Miller Journal17(1), 4-20.
  4. Khan, R., Zeb, K., & Noor, S. M. (2022). Exploration of Idealism and Realism in Arthur Miller’s Play, Death of a Salesman. Global Language Review, VII.
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