Failure of the American Dream in the Great Gatsby Essay Example

Classic literature provides today's world a better look at the past. They can show us what people thought of the world and their problems during the time. F. Scott. Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is no different. The novel follows Mr. Gatsby, an early middle-aged man in the early 1920s trying to create his own little American dream. He wanted to win over the love of his life, Daisy Buchanon, who is married. However, Gatsby forgot that dreams could sometimes only come true at the right place at the right time, which ultimately led to his demise. Fitzgerald uses Gatsby's story as an example that reveals the illusion behind the American dream and the destruction that it can cause.

In the novel, Nick mentions to Gatsby that he should not expect too much from Daisy as "You can't repeat the past" (Fitzgerald 110). But, Gatsby is trying to do just that. Nick discovers that "He talked a lot about the past, and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was…" (Fitzgerald 110). Gatsby is obsessed with trying to recreate the past in the present. Gatsby expects Daisy to be the same person she was five years prior when they first met. His obsession has resulted in him forgetting to live in the present and stop yearning for the past. The further Gatsby goes in trying to recreate the past, the more it becomes unattainable. Gatsby's obsession with having the "perfect" life with Daisy fogs his mind into seeing that it is simply not possible to turn back time. Gatsby's choice to not accept this truth is what ultimately leads to his death as he fails to realize that his vision of Daisy is nothing but an illusion in his dreams.

Gatsby's dream is to have the perfect life with Daisy and act like they have been together for the past five years. Ignoring the fact that she is married to Tom, Gatsby does several things to win over Daisy's love. When Gatsby and Daisy meet for the first time in five years, her behavior is confusing to him, but he quickly dismisses it because it opposes his reality. One afternoon when everyone is together, Daisy admits that she loves both Tom and Gatsby. "'Oh, you want too much!' she cried to Gatsby. 'I love you now—isn't that enough? I can't help what's past.' She began to sob helplessly. 'I did love him once—but I loved you too.' Gatsby's eyes opened and closed. 'You loved me too?' he repeated" (Fitzgerald 132). Daisy has not put her love for Gatsby on display for everyone to admire the way Gatsby has.

Gatsby is shocked by Daisy's confession because he has been dreaming about Daisy for years and sees her as his one true love. However, she cannot even put her love for Gatsby above her love for Tom. Even after Daisy's rejection, Gatsby still refuses to believe that he will not have the perfect life with Daisy. His dreams are so profound that he does not hesitate to cover for Daisy and take the blame for Myrtle Wilson's death. "'Was Daisy driving?' 'Yes,' he said after a moment, 'but of course I'll say I was'" (Fitzgerald 143). Gatsby's obsession with Daisy has done the exact opposite of his intentions and caused death and pain along the way. Daisy got caught up in Gatsby's ambitions of a perfect life that she can never live up to his inflated image of her and what she represents to him.

Gatsby's naive idealism obstructs his view of the world. While Nick is over at Gatsby's house, he says, "There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams— not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusions" (Fitzgerald 95). Even Nick can see that Gatsby perceives Daisy as a perfect woman. Gatsby thinks he can repeat the past and redo everything; but, this blinds him to what is going on right in front of him. Gatsby cannot see past the image of Daisy that he has created, which would reveal a corrupt, shallow, money-loving fool. He believes that people will accept him if he surrounds himself with riches and wealth and can erase his former life. Gatsby is idealistic because no matter what he does, he can never erase his former life. He is the only one that sees himself ending up with Daisy because he is too blind to see the truth. 

Gatsby's attempts to recreate the past only strengthened the truth that his dream is merely impossible. The American dream is just that, a dream. There is no straightforward path to success, and life has obstacles to which people must adapt. Gatsby's distorted reality and blindness to the truth result from the American dream's misconception, saying that hard work will lead to success. The Great Gatsby is an example of what happens when a misconstrued person is trying to reach that green light of happiness that only moves further away the closer you get.


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