The American Dream is a happy way of living that is desired by most Americans as they view it as something that can be achieved by anyone in the United States, especially through working hard and becoming successful. The American Dream represents the ideals of a nation, the pursuit of happiness, liberty, equality, and democracy. The desire to live the American Dream also pushes people into doing unorthodox activities so as to achieve the dream. By concentrating on the Great Gatsby’s pursuit of the American Dream, Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” demonstrates how the dream cannot be successful because of the way it is misunderstood by people and society’s materialistic perception of modern life.
The narrator, Nick Carraway, in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” tells a story that mostly focuses on Jay Gatsby. Jay Gatsby was born into a poor family and became one of the richest men in the West Egg. The richness that Gatsby manages to have is attributed to the relationship he had with Dan Cody, a millionaire. The desire for wealth by Gatsby was motivated by his love for Daisy Buchanan. However, after he manages to have the wealth that he had been pursuing so that he can be with Daisy, he finds out that Daisy has been married to a man named Tom. After learning that Daisy has been married, Gatsby does not give up on his love for Daisy as he concentrates on throwing numerous parties each week, hoping that Daisy will show up and see how successful he has been. After Nick Carraway finally shows up in the neighborhood, he is used as a foundation for an affair between Gatsby and Daisy because Nick is a close relative to Daisy. Even though Gatsby somehow manages to get close to Daisy and they have an affair, in the end, she goes back to Tom, and this proves that their relationship was not real. By focusing on Great Gatsby’s futile pursuit of the American dream, Fitzgerald shows that the American Dream cannot be fully achieved mainly because those who believe in the dream constantly strive for something better than themselves. By using Jay Gatsby, the author of the novel demonstrates how dangerous it is to attempt to reach for something more than one attains. Through this, Fitzgerald shows that the desire to achieve the American Dream usually pushes people to become so involved in material things that they miss the chance for real happiness.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” depicts an immortal illustration of the American dream. In the pursuit of the American dream, people are usually focused on achieving the goals of financial success and independence. The author of the novel shows the pursuit of the American Dream through Gatsby. “Having been born to a poor agrarian household, Gatsby successfully escaped poverty. Without any noticeably extraordinary abilities, Gatsby was able to acquire millions of dollars and achieve widespread fame in a matter of a few years. Along with the riches comes the opportunity for a reinvention of his identity. The financial success of Gatsby implies that he is well aware of the American Dream, and he has mastered his own identity and realized the potential of his labors.” (Islam, P. 2). Wealth is often seen by most Americans as a source of happiness since one can be able to afford whatever one wants. However, most people usually struggle with being happy since they indulge themselves in relationships with individuals that are only interested in their wealth and not based on sincere feelings. Despite Gatsby achieving what he believed was the American dream, he realizes that he would have a mountain to climb since Daisy, whom he believed would love him back voluntarily because of his wealth, does not. Gatsby is forced to literally show Daisy how rich he is in the hope of winning her back. Even though Gatsby somehow succeeds in winning her back, she only loves him because of material possessions and not because she truly loves him.
The author portrays Gatsby as a true embodiment of the American Dream. The author reveals the background of Gatsby when growing up by explaining that “(Gatsby’s) parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people… For over a year, he had been beating his way along the south shore of Lake Superior as a clam-digger and a salmon fisher or in any other capacity that brought him food and a bed” (Fitzgerald, p. 98). Gatsby’s background is a common background for people who became motivated to achieve the American Dream mainly because of their childhood experiences. Issues and challenges due to poverty usually push people to achieve their dream. Other than his desire to achieve Daisy’s love, Gatsby was motivated into achieving the American Dream mainly due to his childhood experiences when he was living in poverty.
A contrast between Gatsby’s lifestyle in the past and in the present reveals how much people struggle to achieve the American Dream. The author describes Gatsby’s mansion as “a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of rawy ivy, and a marble swimming pool and more than forty acres of lawn and garden” (Fitzgerald, p. 5). The American Dream is viewed as a success if one, after working so hard, gets to live a comfortable lifestyle. Gatsby was motivated to achieve extravagant wealth by Daisy. Gatsby viewed himself as not worthy of Daisy’s love in his past situation, and therefore, he focused on himself to be a better person for Daisy. By rising up on social rank and obtaining financial success, Gatsby managed to achieve the American Dream. However, he could only achieve part of it since, after gaining all the wealth and social status, he could not get the woman he loved to love him back as he did.
The author of the novel uses the life of Gatsby to portray the culture that is most desired by most Americans because they view such life as the American dream. Gatsby’s life depicts a culture of extravagance and excessive consumerism. By Focusing on Gatsby’s life, Fitzgerald shows the common experiences of people who come from the bottom part of society, somehow achieve the so-called American dream, but struggle to maintain their position in the newly gained status in society. “Fitzgerald depicts Jay Gatsby as a paragon of a self-made man of success. He starts everything from the very beginning and, from living his childhood days in poverty, becomes a millionaire. He achieved the success that everyone in America was seeking at the period. Gatsby has a huge house, servants, and many friends that attend his parties.” (Hodo, p. 302). Gatsby manages to have the wealth that he has always desired. However, life is not the way he prophesied. Fitzgerald shows that the dream is not successful mainly due to people and society’s materialistic perception of modern life.
Gatsby’s perception of happiness is different from the real-life nature of happiness. His American dream since he was young was to gain wealth so that he could be with the woman he loved and live a happy life. However, the materialism of the American Dream does not always lead to happiness. “Gatsby’s parties were filled with glamor and exemplified the carelessness of America during that time. Guests who were not invited still came to indulge in the food, drinks, and luxury of the party without ever meeting Gatsby. Most of them only used Gatsby to enjoy his wealth and the luxury of the American Dream.” Each week, Gatsby hosted parties hoping to lure Daisy and make her fall in love with him, “At least once a fortnight, a corps of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby’s enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors d’ oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys” (Fitzgerald, p. 40). He believed that, by gaining wealth, he would get Daisy to love him back, and they would live a happy life, but in reality, Daisy loved him because he had wealth and not because she truly loved him. Nick was able to read between the lines of Gatsby and Daisy’s relationship and found that Gatsby was blinded by his love for Daisy to the point he could sacrifice himself to go to jail for a love that was non-existent. In the end, Fitzgerald teaches readers that money or wealth cannot buy happiness. After Gatsby is killed for something that Daisy did, Daisy does not hesitate to go back to her old life. She does not show any shred of remorse for having contributed to the death of Gatsby.
The pursuit of the American Dream can distract an individual to the point that they fail to live the moment. Gatsby’s pursuit of the American Dream disrupts him from building genuine relationships with people, “He’s a bootlegger…One time he killed a man who had found out that he was nephew to Von Hindenburg and second cousin to the devil” (Fitzgerald, 61). He is treated with suspicion by the people who are supposed to be close to him. He does not establish genuine relationships until he meets Nick. It is not surprising that Nick is the one that organized Gatsby’s burial ceremony since he was the only genuine friend. Even though Gatsby showed generosity to all, all the people who were close to him except Nick did not care about him, as they only cared about themselves. The only reason they associated with Gatsby was mainly because of his generosity and extravagant lifestyle. While the pursuit of the American Dream was meant to make Gatsby Happier, it was not until he met Nick and Daisy that he became happier.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, “The Great Gatsby” focuses on making readers see the pursuit of the American Dream as endless due to the continuous desire for something better. Therefore, it is impossible to completely achieve the American Dream because of the constant desire for something better. After Daisy claims that she loves Gatsby, Gatsby is not satisfied and demands that say she never loved Tom, “Just tell him the truth- that you never loved him” (Fitzgerald). The pursuit of the American dream is a continuous desire for something better. The author demonstrates that no matter how those who go after the American Dream achieve, they always believe that there is something better to strive for.
Fitzgerald reveals that the pursuit of the American Dream can only be achieved if one gains happiness and not just wealth. After spending all these years looking for wealth so that he can be happy, the only source of happiness for Gatsby is a union between him and Daisy. “If it wasn’t for the mist, we could see your home across the bay,” said Gatsby. “You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock. “Daisy put her arm through his abruptly, but he seemed absorbed in what he had just said. Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy, it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one” Fitzgerald, p. 122). The dream seems to vanish as soon as Gatsby gets Daisy and starts a relationship with her. However, the pursuit of the American dream is endless since after one goes on a quest for it, it’s only death that can prevent one from pursuing the dream.
By concentrating on the Great Gatsby’s pursuit of the American Dream, Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” portrays how the dream cannot be successful because of the way it is misunderstood by people and society’s materialistic perception of modern life. People mistake the pursuit of the American dream with the pursuit of material gains instead of happiness. However, Fitzgerald demonstrates that it is difficult for those who are on a quest for the American Dream to be happy since they have a constant desire for more.
Fitzgerald, Francis Scott. The Great Gatsby (1925). na, 1991.
Hodo, Zamira. “The Failure of the American Dream in “The Great Gatsby”-Fitzgerald.” European Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies 2.7 (2017): 299-305.
Islam, Tubah Saika. The Failure of the American Dream: The Great Gatsby. Diss. BRAC University, 2014.