Letters About Literature National Winners 2009
Honorable Mentions, Level 3: Xinyue Ye
Dear Mr. Fitzgerald,
I am afraid. I am terribly afraid that my dreams will not come true. I have always been afraid of that ultimate failure, but now I am more afraid than ever. Suppose if my life winds up like Jay Gatsby’s, suppose if I leave this world without my footprints on the earth’s soil, suppose if I lose the one and only thing I care for, tell me, Mr. Fitzgerald, what shall I do then? Or rather, I should ask, what should I do now?
In this world, everywhere I look, I see prospective Jay Gatsbys. I look to my left, and I see my friend, cheating on her test. I turn a corner and I see my neighbor, copying homework. I look behind me and I see my lab partner faking her lab results. And I ask myself, why are they cheating? They are intelligent people. But I already know the answer. They cheat so they can get a better grade than they deserve, so they can get a better GPA than their honest peers, so they can get into a better college than they should, and so they can get a better future than the rest of the minions. Their rise to the high end of society will be just like Jay Gatsby’s – through the assistance of lies and deceit, and under the façade of pretentious humility and affected generosity, there’s a layer of scandals and depravity. Their American Dream is even more similar to Gatsby’s – boundless wealth and the careless freedom to squander away their money on frivolities.
I will admit to you, Mr. Fitzgerald, that that used to be my dream too. But not anymore. Not since reading your novel. I don’t want to be another Jay Gatsby. I don’t want to be bound by ropes of fantasy. I don’t want to live a lonely life, forever longing for something out of my reach. I still have a dream, and I want it to come true, but I’m afraid that it won’t. I’m afraid that I will fail to escape the grasping hands of society, pulling me into a downward spiral until I forsake my integrity and conscience to achieve a lost dream.
Yet I know that I can turn around. If I look to my right, I will see another friend, diligently studying. If I look around me, I will see my classmate writing his own essay. If I look ahead of me, I will see myself joining them. And if I open my eyes a little wider, I will see my own happiness, my family and my friends, all enveloped in our sincere love and appreciation. I know that I can succeed without cheating because a bright future awaits me, one that is not enshrouded by a web of lies and fantasy.
You, or rather your novel, The Great Gatsby, has warned me of the faults of the American Dream and the idolized rich, Mr. Fitzgerald. I want to learn from Gatsby’s mistakes. I want to move on from the past and I want to live deliberately free of nostalgia and regret, and I want to show you, Mr. Fitzgerald that the American Dream does not have to be corrupted.
So thank you for Jay Gatsby. He is a wake-up call, a forewarning, and a challenge.