The Cost of Pursuing a Dream

Nicole Rademacher - Henson 2nd

The Sacrifice and Redemption of Social Status

The heroic idea of the American Dream began to form as early as the 19th century. A time when it was common to see examples of the wealthy wanting more. Often these desires would transcend their wealth. Their dreams could be of family, power, and most commonly: love. In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a man from a long line of wealth named Tom Buchanan dreamed of being able to keep the two women he loved most - his wife and his mistress. "I love Daisy too. Once in awhile I go off on a spree and make a fool of myself, but I always come back, and in my heart I love her all the time," (Fitzgerald, 131). In response to the death of his mistress, Myrtle, Tom shows he loves her too through sobs: "I heard a low husky sob, and saw that the tears were overflowing down his face," (Fitzgerald, 141). Tom tried desperately to keep his affair a secret. If the affair became too common of knowledge, Tom would lose all respect within his prestigious East Egg community. As word got around, Tom's reputation begun to degrade: "The fact that he has one was insisted upon wherever he was known. His acquaintances resented the fact that he turned up in popular restaurants with her," (Fitzgerald, 24). Another famous yet contrasting example would be Heathcliff, in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff must earn a name for himself in order to be worthy of his true love, Catherine. Catherine, who was raised in a wealthy family, is not worthy of Heathcliff who was adopted. Their community knew Heathcliff as "the gypsy boy" and rumors circulated about him being an "illegitimate child". Catherine remarks: "It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now," (Bronte, 80). Unlike Tom, who places his name on the line for love, Heathcliff must achieve a name for love. Both dreams have the cost of social status.

Catherine and Heathcliff

Since these classic works of literature, values have strayed. In the recent economy crash, many Wall Street schemes and scandals bottomed out to reveal the norm of an official with a "million-dollar salary," (Greed is Good). The dreams of the wolves on Wall Street was vast wealth. Many financial companies began to crank out large profits off loan markets. This earned the leaders of these companies their high salaries, but put the security loan system at risk. Companies earning figures such as "11 billion dollars in profits," (Inside Job). While the stability of the system was at stake, now filthy rich officials indulged on a different kind of steak: "bureaucrats, with their steak lunches, their hunting and fishing trips, their corporate jets and golden parachutes," (Greed is Good). These "stockholders who have made a pretax profit of 12 billion dollars," (Greed is Good), quickly obtained "14 million-dollar oceanfront home(s) in Florida," (Inside Job), and other luxuries such as "art collection(s) filled with million dollar paintings," (Inside Job). The cost of living this high life was not only the great potential for national economic downfall, but the credibility of not only their person, but their company as well. Their image in their new overwhelmingly wealthy worlds could be shattered and ruin them in every way when it would be exposed that they caused the "economic fallout," (Great Recession). This would put them at a lower level than when they began scheming- this is the cost of their status. Word began to leak: "They were having massive private gains at public loss," (Inside Job). The status of many officials and their companies plummeted once the system was uncovered. Names were leaked, for example: "Richard Fuld took home 485 million dollars," (Inside Job), and the world is given names and faces to blame for the $30 trillion total "staggering and historic," (Great Recession).

Cited sources:

"American Rhetoric: Movie Speech: Wall Street - Gordon Gekko Addresses Teldar Shareholders - Greed Is Good." American Rhetoric: Movie Speech: Wall Street - Gordon Gekko Addresses Teldar Shareholders - Greed Is Good. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Jan. 2014.

Brontë, Emily, Fritz Eichenberg, and Bruce Rogers. Wuthering Heights. New York: Random House, 1943. Print.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott, and Matthew J. Bruccoli. The Great Gatsby. New York, NY: Scribner, 1996. Print.

"Inside Job - Movie Website for the Documentary Film." Sony Pictures Classic. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Jan. 2014.

"Wall Streets' Great Recession Cost Us All $30 Trillion." The Street. N.p., 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 07 Jan. 2014.