SAT Sample Essay (page 699)
Can Success Be Disastrous?
Growing up in twenty-first century America, one is brought up with the perception that they are living in a time and place of unparalleled opportunity; that the world is at their fingertips. The determination for reaching the top is one often instilled into children at a young age, in tangent with the values of their society. Indeed, the “American dream” is one in which success is the ultimate goal, and many become the products of their upbringing and will settle for nothing less. However, sometimes people get consumed in their drive for success, caught up in their pursuit of a single goal until it becomes their lone reason for living, only to find that success is not at all the equivalent of happiness. This theme is one that has permeated throughout scores of great literature, particularly within the novels “The Great Gatsby,” and “Brave New Word,” with both of these works presenting the darker aspects of success.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” tells the story of an affluent society during America’s Roaring Twenties, a time characterized by its rampant consumerism and economic prosperity. It was a period during which many were able to make quick fortunes, one such man being Jay Gatsby – a member of the “newly rich” whose motivation lies in his need to succeed. Outwardly, Gatsby’s purpose for amassing his riches stems from his effort to impress and woo Daisy, the love of his youth, who is also a member of the aristocratic “old rich.” However, as the novel progresses, it becomes evident that the only thing attracting him to Daisy is the wealth and affluence that she symbolizes, the world of grander and social success that she represents. His infatuation with the world of material wealth leads him to be blinded by the need for success, and it is this very success that corrupts his life and ultimately leads to its end.
In Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” the protagonist, John the Savage, is driven by the achievement of a single goal as well, although this time it is not for the purpose of material wealth. Having grown up alienated from his community on the Reservation, John’s life is characterized by an all-consuming desire to leave his world behind in favor of the image of another, better world that his mother has drilled into him. However, when he succeeds in this venture, he finds that this new world and everything it stands for is utterly abhorrent to him, and the fact that the very thing he spent his whole life aiming towards; abandoning the Reservation for a glittering utopia, has brought him such misery upon his attainment of it, crushes him and drives him to suicide.