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Textproduktion, Comment: "Airworld" by W. Kim


Assess the lifestyle outlined by the protagonist and relate it to the lifestyle preferred by a protagonist referring to material discussed in class. (30 BE)


Ryan Bingham the main character of the novel Up in the Air and Jay Gatsby the protagonist of Scott Fitzgerald’s famed novel The Great Gatsby both epitomise the image of the great American self-made man, although their character and the way they acquired their position could not be more different.

Walter Kirn’s protagonist is a businessman who leads a restless existence without a home or any personal ties. He spends the greater part of his life at airports, in business meetings and hotels. He has come to regard the impersonal and artificial world of airports and planes as some form of home as it seems to free him from the obligation of any deeper commitments. He takes responsibility only for himself and his professional advancement. It is essentially an existence that reveals how the core values of the American Dream, diligence, hard work and persistence, can hollow the human life and leave nothing but a meaningless quest for the acquisition of material wealth and economic success.

Jay Gatsby, too, has climbed the social ladder from a downbeat existence in rural North Dakota as the son of an impoverished family, to a colourful, enigmatic dandy of fabulous wealth and celebrated for his lavish parties. In essence, Gatsby has lived and breathed the American Dream from an early age. His abhorrence of poverty made him acquire a splendid fortune without shying away from using dubious and criminal means including the distribution of illegal alcohol and trading in stolen securities. His pursuit of wealth – even though he always wanted to be rich – is not an end in itself, which makes him quite different from Ryan Bingham whose actions do not seem to be directed towards a fixed aim in life. Gatsby’s main goal when he attained his fortune was to win back the love of the glamorous, charismatic Daisy Buchanan whom he met before he joined the First World War in 1917. Yet, despite his constant attempts to win Daisy, Gatsby is far from being a happy man. His life resembles a perpetual conjuring trick to impress the lady of his heart who is already married to another. It is his talent to put on a great show that makes him “great”. Only after his violent death when the smoke screen begins to fade, people become aware of the emptiness and moral corruption of Gatsby’s life.

What both novels have in common is their unveiled criticism of the American Dream as a mere pursuit of money and wealth. While Ryan Bingham has detached himself from all forms of family life and friendship in order to follow his career as a business consultant, Jay Gatsby is attempting to win love through money and does not mind being morally corrupted along the way. Their existences appear as a misinterpreted way of living the American dream.

(470 words)

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