How the American Dream is Described in the Great Gatsby Essay Example

The American dream is a strong desire for many people, it “consisted of the belief (sometimes thought of as a promise) that people of talent in this land of opportunity and plenty could reasonably aspire to material success if they adhered to a fairly well-defined set of behavioral rules - rules set forth in a relatively comprehensive form as long ago as the eighteenth century by Benjamin Franklin.”(Trask). For Jay Gatsby, the American Dream was a life with Daisy and he believed that by achieving wealth and owning materialistic objects that he could make her fall in love with him. Throughout the novel, Fitzgerald uses symbols, like the green light, to depict Gatsby’s American dream. The Great Gatsby exposes the negative side of the American Dream, Gatsby’s idea of the American Dream was a life with Daisy, but, in the midst of trying to win over her heart, Gatsby loses sight of his dream, clouded by greed, conspicuous consumption and overcome by riches, so, in turn, he never fulfilled his true American Dream before his death. 

To begin, Jay Gatsby truly had everything he could ever want, except the person he desired most, Daisy. Gatsby loved Daisy so much that he returned to West Egg as a “new man” to win her back from Tom. It is clear how much Gatsby loved her. As Gatsby shared memories of his past with Nick, he spoke of one autumn night five years earlier. Gatsby described the feeling of the first time he would kiss Daisy, “His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God” (Fitzgerald, 110). Daisy's pureness and innocence is the reason Gatsby fell head-over-heels in love with her.

From his description, it is obvious that there is an inexplicable love between them; a love Gatsby thought about for five years until he saw her again. Essentially, Gatsby’s true American dream was to marry Daisy. But, in order to achieve this dream, Gatsby believed that he needed to be wealthy to truly win over her heart, “Gatsby shows Nick that, in order to become rich and to place himself in a position to marry Daisy, he has had to change his identity, alter his history and create a show of his wealth” (Stocks). Gatsby did not feel that his true identity was worthy enough for Daisy. He believed that achieving riches was the way to Daisy's heart. In turn, Gatsby’s American dream of love turned into a dream of material success, which was what many other Americans strived for. The American dream can often lead to greed. Many people who achieve their desired riches are not satisfied, and they want to gain more wealth. An underlying theme, greed, is depicted throughout the novel. Gatsby is someone who strived to have all the finer things in life. His new, extravagant lifestyle was a scheme to impress Daisy. However, Gatsby’s greed got in the way of his original dream to marry Daisy. 

Throughout the Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald uses the symbol of the green light to depict Gatsby’s American dream. This dream grew further away from the original goal due to greed. For example, Nick speaks about watching Gatsby from afar. He says, “He stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward—and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away” (Fitzgerald, 20-21). It seems as though Gatsby was looking toward the green light on Daisy's dock. Daisy was physically and mentally far away from Gatsby. Daisy, like the green light, was untouchable from where Gatsby stood. Therefore, his American dream was out of reach.  

Gatsby’s original dream of a life with his one true love turned into an indirect dream of extensive wealth. At the end of the novel, Nick speaks of Gatsby after he died. He says, “He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the light” (Fitzgerald, 180). Nick speaks about how Gatsby failed to see what was right in front of him because he was overcome by greed. But like many who pursue the American dream, Gatsby’s dream was clouded by his riches and the strong desire for more. 

In A Gatsby for Today, Birkerts reiterates Gatsby’s intentions to gain riches while fueled his American dream, “Gatsby's legendary parties, which are, he eventually learns, nothing more than shimmering nets thrown out in the hopes of snaring Gatsby's long-lost love, Daisy” (89). In Gatsby’s pursuit of wealth, he lost Daisy. Perhaps she originally loved him for his true self, not the rich man he strived to be. Also, it is possible that Gatsby loved a false perception of Daisy. Marius Bewley believes that Gatsby loved the idea of Daisy. Bewley writes, “When, at the end, not even Gatsby can hide his recognition of the speciousness of this dream any longer, the discovery is made in universalizing terms that dissolve Daisy into the larger world she has stood for in Gatsby's imagination.” (97).  This statement suggests that Gatsby had a false perception of Daisy. Therefore, he returned to West Egg for the wrong reasons. His false perception of love caused him to not fulfill his American dream.  

The Great Gatsby is a novel that is faithful to the present, yet is haunted by the past. It is clear that Gatsby had a construed fantasy of a future with Daisy because of their past together, and as a result he went to extreme measures in attempt to win back her heart. His American dream was mislead because he believed that extreme wealth and extravagant parties was the way to win over Daisy’s heart. Miller Jr. argues a similar point in the excerpt The Jazz Age. He writes, “In short the novel embodies and expressed the simple, basic human desire and yearning universal in nature, to snatch something precious from the ceaseless flux and flow of days and years and preserve it outside the ravages of time” (85). Gatsby’s riches were not enough to make him happy because he never got what he truly desired. Throughout the novel, Fitzgerald depicts this through themes, like greed, and symbols, like the green light. Overall, Gatsby did not fulfill his American dream and instead he died.



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