University High School
Instructor(s): Scott Boehnen, Peter Millett
The American Dream in the Green Light
The American Dream in the Green Light
The American dream: the principle or belief that anyone, regardless of class, can advance in life and achieve social mobility. This American dream is the foundation of American society; it is what draws thousands to America's shores; it is what makes America the land of the free. But the American dream is just that, a dream. It is no concrete reality, and people choose whether or not to believe in it. This is reflected in the last page of The Great Gatsby. This last page references three different levels of dreaming that are told through two different perspectives. While the narrator Nick Carraway expresses a sense of pessimism towards dreaming, disenchanted by the experience of Jay Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald himself takes a more positive approach, claiming that while the goal may not be attainable, the pursuit and hope of that goal are good within themselves.
The first level of dreaming, and the narrowest, is about Gatsby's particular dream of being reunited romantically with the wealthy Daisy Buchannan. This is described through the perspective of Nick Carraway and is the one he has directly experienced. Throughout the book, the green light represents Gatsby's dream. The biggest obstacle to Gatsby achieving this dream, however, is the difference in class status between him and the "old money" background that Daisy comes from. When Nick says, "He [Gatsby] had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him" (Fitzgerald 180), he references Gatsby's struggle to be accepted into high society. In order to be accepted by Daisy and her peers, Gatsby went through great lengths to build up his wealth, reputation, and social status. The blue lawn that is mentioned is the blue lawn in front of Gatsby's house, a symbol of the image and material possessions that he worked so hard to cultivate. When Nick says "He [Gatsby] had come a long way", he not only means this in a figurative sense, but a literal one as well. When Gatsby joins the military, he travels across the world and even goes to Oxford. Once he had made his fortune, Gatsby moved back to New York, just a short distance from his beloved Daisy and the green light. In the end of the first chapter, Nick observes Gatsby physically reaching out towards the green light across the water at the end of Daisy's dock, so close to touching it after years of travelling abroad. The physical movement of Gatsby is symbolic of his personal journey; there is a parallel between Gatsby's travels and journey back to New York, and his efforts to reinvent his entire persona in order to reach his goal of marrying Daisy. In addition, just as he cannot physically reach out across the water and touch the green light, neither can he achieve his goal of crossing the class divide and marrying Daisy. The fact that such an ambitious and aspiring man, Gatsby, dedicated everything he had in pursuit of this singular goal, and yet still fell short, serves as evidence that dreaming is futile in Nick's eyes. The traditional elite will never accept newcomers into their ranks and so attempting to move up in society in pursuit of a better life is pointless.
Fitzgerald's own views are reflected in the next two levels of dreams. The second dream is the dream of Dutch sailors arriving at the New World. When talking about the third type of dream, Fitzgerald shifts to a first-person plural point of view, as if he were referring to himself, the readers, and humanity as a whole. Thus, the third type is about the human activity of dreaming as a whole. Both dreams have many of the same parallels and symbols that the first one did. The Dutch sailors sought the "fresh, green breast of the new world" (Fitzgerald 180). Fitzgerald uses an implied metaphor to describe the new world as a land of untapped potential, and as a symbol for unlimited opportunity. The color green, as seen in the green light, represents hope and a chance at upwards mobility and prosperity. It represents the American dream. The green Statue of Liberty stands out in New York Harbor and welcomes refugees from around the world, standing as a beacon of this dream. Fitzgerald says that this is what we as humans also dream of. Just as in Gatsby's dream, both types of dreams involve physical movement. The Dutch sailors navigated across the ocean to come to the promise of the new world. In regard to humanity dreaming as a whole, Fitzgerald writes, "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past" (Fitzgerald 180). There are two different incidents of movement in this quote, running and stretching out arms, and beating on as boats against the current. The movements of the sailors and humankind all are directed towards a goal or a dream, either the fresh green breast of the new world or the green light. They represent the efforts and the steps taken to achieve the dreams. But like Gatsby, humans also seem doomed to fall short of their goals. The green light recedes before us and we are pushed back by the currents, minimizing any progress we make towards our dreams.
However, while there is a sense of futility and pessimism from Nick regarding the failure of Gatsby, there is a sense of strength and hope from Fitzgerald's analysis of dreaming. This is because while the end goal may not be achieved, the process of achieving it still presents benefits within itself. This goes back to the physical movement that represents this journey. In order to reach the green light and achieve our dream, we strive to "run faster" and "stretch out our arms farther". These actions stand as metaphors for the internal improvements that we attain as a result of dreaming. When athletes want to win a competition, they push themselves and train harder and harder. They become stronger, healthier, and enhance valuable social skills like leadership and teamwork. Regardless of whether they won or lost, the struggle to become better moved them closer to their goal and made them grow and improve. In addition, despite the dreams not being attainable, the hope that they provide gives people a reason to continue on with life and push forward. Without the dream, there is no push to achieve it. Dreams give people something to strive for, something to run faster and reach out farther for, and something to continue beating on against a current for.
The two carefully crafted founding documents of the United States, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, are echoed in Fitzgerald's sentiments. The Declaration of Independence states that all men have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The key part of this is the fact that the pursuit of happiness, not happiness itself, is one of the three guaranteed rights. This implies that happiness is not able to be guaranteed as a right and that the pursuit of such happiness is a good within itself. Likewise, the Constitution uses interesting diction when it states that the government was created by the people to form a more perfect union. The use of the phrase "a more perfect union" means two things. First, it signifies that perfection is impossible. Second, it means that we should still strive for perfection and get as close as possible. This is the basis of the American dream. Not every American will fulfill the American dream and not every American will enjoy happiness and prosperity. But faith in the American dream gives people hope, encourages them to work hard and do their best, and makes America a better place.
Eugenics in some ways, is a perversion of the American dream and its ideals. While the American dream says that anyone can cross social and economic classes, which is what makes the nation strong, eugenics claims the exact opposite. The eugenics movement in America took place in the early twentieth century. Eugenicists wanted to sterilize individuals they considered as inferior and slowing American progress and placed the poor and disadvantaged into this category. The eugenics movement wanted to stop individuals from moving up through social classes as they thought their genes were corrupting America. Fitzgerald's stance on dreaming serves as a sharp rebuke to this movement. Not only does eugenics and the classist ideals they are based upon directly stop people from achieving their dreams and rising, but they also attempt to squash those dreams and remove them from the national consciousness.
Crafting a Revival in the Manufacturing Industry
Crafting a Revival in the Manufacturing Industry
All across the country, when people think of Ohio they think of industry, they think of manufacturing, and they think of the rust belt. But increasingly over the past two decades, the reality in Ohio has not met the image that it holds. One of the largest and most consequential problems facing Ohio is the decline of manufacturing jobs in the state for the past several years. In fact, manufacturing jobs in Ohio have decreased by a third from 2000-2017 (Caniglia and Knox). This decline has led to many families scrambling to find jobs and has left entire communities reeling from its impacts. Since manufacturing is Ohio's top industry, this decline is to the overall detriment of Ohio. Not only are thousands out of work due to lack of manufacturing jobs, but the overall economy as a whole is hurt, and other jobs are indirectly lost since manufacturing is such a core part of Ohio. This has resulted in a declining population and the lack of investment opportunities in Ohio today. Now some academics have said that this decline is a natural result from the rise of automation, but in fact, this is actually due to three separate factors. I argue that this is due to foreign competition and trade deficits, the overall decline of the auto industry in America, and a rising gap in the skills that are required in modern jobs and the skills that many workers have. In order to solve these issues, I propose two solutions. First, I believe that as a whole, we as a people should try to buy products made in Ohio, both out of pride and patriotism for our state, and out of necessity in order to keep our manufacturing communities afloat. This can also encourage corporations to try to keep as many factories and manufacturing jobs in Ohio, as a point of advertising, even in a global economy. Second, I propose that the state should invest in renewable energy as much as possible in order to create new jobs that are sustainable in the long term.
The decline of manufacturing jobs in Ohio is a major problem in terms of both its severity and its impact. With the rise of the steel industry in the 20th century, Ohio used to be a booming place of business and industry, while Cleveland became one of the most populated cities in America and a center of manufacturing. But over the past two decades, Ohio has just been bleeding manufacturing jobs. While Ohio as a whole has lost a third of manufacturing employment, many counties have been hit even harder. Cuyahoga County has lost 50,000 jobs since 2000, roughly 43% of its manufacturing jobs; Montgomery County, which includes Dayton, has lost half of its over 50,000 jobs; and Monroe County has been stripped of its thousands of manufacturing jobs to the point where only 11 jobs remain (Caniglia and Knox). These losses have had major impacts on the communities where they have taken place. In Monroe County, people are hard pressed to find new jobs. If you can find one, you're considered lucky. These places become near ghost towns, and it becomes extremely difficult to attract investors to rejuvenate the community. In addition, the loss of manufacturing jobs has serious consequences on other industries and on the economy as a whole. In fact, for every 100 jobs lost in manufacturing, there are 744 indirect jobs lost, showing just how inextricably linked manufacturing is with nearly every other sector ("Job Loss in Manufacturing Has a Large Ripple Effect on Other Jobs"). The serious decline of manufacturing jobs has hurt not only the communities that are dependent on the industry, but a rather broad spectrum of people as the ripple effects are widespread and lead to the decline of other industries as well.
The issue of manufacturing jobs declining has several underlying causes. Among them is the controversial issue of foreign competition. For instance, it's a well-known fact that China offers some of the cheapest labor rates in the world and as a result, is a major manufacturing power. This has led to friction both between China and the United States, and members of opposing political parties. But regardless of where you stand on the political aisle, it cannot be denied that trade deficits with China is a major problem and is a source for the loss of manufacturing jobs- not only in Ohio- but all over the US. Currently in the US, there is a several hundred-billion-dollar trade deficit with both China and other foreign countries (Amadeo). This means that the US is both importing more goods and products than it is exporting, and that US companies are making more of their products overseas rather than making them domestically. This directly has led to millions of manufacturing jobs nationwide being lost. In fact, competition from China has led to about a fourth of the manufacturing job loss in the 2000s (Hernandez), and trade deficits with both China and the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries accounts for three-fourths of manufacturing jobs lost in the past two decades nationwide (Scott). The evidence is clear: Trade deficits are gravely wounding the manufacturing industry here at home.
One of the lifelines of the manufacturing industry is the transportation sector, and more specifically, the auto industry. This is particularly true in the Midwest and in Ohio where large automobile manufacturing plants often make up the local economies of the towns they are located in. But as the world keeps growing, and innovation creates new breakthroughs in technology, the auto industry and its demand has been declining. GM was the number one employer in Ohio in 1995. Now? After a 73% workforce reduction it is stunningly only the 72rd largest employer in Ohio. In fact, over the past 2 years, the transportation sector has decreased 23 percent, more than any other sector in the manufacturing industry in Ohio. This has led to several large auto plants shutting down in various parts of Ohio and thousands of workers being laid off. (RP News Wires). And naturally, as the ever-so-important auto industry continuous on a downward spiral, so goes the manufacturing industry as a whole.
Now some scholars have thought that the loss of manufacturing jobs is natural in Ohio. They assume that these manufacturing jobs are simply being phased out with the increase of automation involved in making products. However, in recent years, it has become clear that this is not as big of a factor as it may seem. In fact, Susan Houseman, an economist who compiled an extensive review of the research literature regarding this issue, says that she "finds little evidence of a causal link to automation" (Scott). For further proof, we can look at the fact that in a two-year period, Ohio lost 1077 manufacturers, showing not that automation is taking jobs away, but that there are fewer employers ("Ohio Manufacturing Employment Declined 12% over Past Two Years."). Finally, the last piece of evidence disproving this theory is the fact that job openings in manufacturing have actually increased nationally over the past two decades, demonstrating that the manufacturing industry still has a large need for human workers (Hernandez). This indicates that there is a growing gap between the skills that many workers have, and the skills that are required for a modern workforce. As the world advances, different skillsets are sought after, leaving behind workers with lower levels of education. Workers with a high school level education saw a much higher level of work hour reduction compared to their college educated peers (Hernandez). It is vital that we find a way to keep these workers relevant and keep the manufacturing industry alive in Ohio.
In response to these causes that I have laid out I suggest two potential solutions. When it comes to rising trade deficits and foreign competition, government regulations and trade policies are what cause these and are what can end these. But rather than focusing on various political ideas and trade deals, I am going to look in a different direction: what we as Ohioans and Americans can actually do to make a difference. Over the past couple years, there has been a growing sentiment among the American public that people ought to start trying to buy eco-friendly products, and there also has been growing awareness of the indirect consequences of buying certain products. I believe that we, as Americans and Ohioans, should start looking at the consequences of what we buy in regard to our manufacturing industry as well. We should start looking at Ohioan, and in general, American made products as a source of pride and patriotism in our state and in our country. Not only that, but it is also time for us to start buying Ohioan, and more sustainable and higher quality, products out of a sense of necessity. Just as environmentalists encourage buying environmentally friendly products out of fear that our planet will deteriorate beyond repair, we should encourage each other to buy Ohioan made products as well. If we don't, and continue to buy foreign made products, then manufacturing jobs will continue to bleed out of Ohio. We need to make a stand and make sure that this great state we call home continues to thrive for years to come.
One challenge that faces us is what to do about the declining auto industry that has been losing the manufacturing industry jobs for decades. Because this decline is a result of natural factors such as lower demand for cars and the introduction of new technologies, it will be difficult to find a solution to permanently revive the industry. However, what we can do is find a new source of manufacturing jobs that will be sustained for future decades. In order to do this, I propose that Ohio jumps on the renewable energy band wagon. With access to the Great Lakes and a bounty of space, Ohio is in prime position to benefit from the growth of the renewable energy sector. Already, Ohio ranks among the top states in clean energy job creation (Kuhlman). In fact, clean energy jobs grew six times faster than the overall job growth rate in Ohio (Dvorak). The growth of the clean energy sector stands to provide thousands of jobs to the manufacturing industry as construction accounted for 47% of all clean energy jobs, 29% percent of clean energy jobs go directly to manufacturing, and approximately 1 in 8 clean energy jobs go towards "advanced transportation"-including hybrid and electric cars- potentially giving the auto industry a much needed boost (Kowalski 18). It is important that Ohio prioritizes the clean energy sector and invests in it as much as possible as commitments could bring in over 20 billion dollars in private investments and thousands of additional jobs (Kowalski 18). Investing in renewable energy can provide a sustainable source of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investments for Ohio.
In conclusion, the decline of manufacturing jobs is a massive problem plaguing all of Ohio. The impacts not only extend to those who have unfortunately lost their jobs, but also touch every single Ohioan life. It is essential that we sustain the lifeline of our economy and preserve the traditional pride and dignity that comes with having a decent manufacturing job. We need to look at and buy Ohioan products with a sense of both patriotism and pride, and a sense of necessity. We also need to invest in renewable energy in order to provide a long term and sustainable source of jobs and investments. If we do these things, we will ensure that our great state is in position to stay relevant in a growing and changing economy.