The Great Gatsby, a novel by Scott Fitzgerald, is about the American Dream, and the downfall of those who attempt to reach its impossible goals. The attempt to capture the American Dream is used in many novels. This dream is different for different people; but, in The Great Gatsby, for Jay, the dream is that through wealth and power, one can acquire happiness. To get this happiness Jay must reach into the past and relive an old dream; and, in order to do this, he must have wealth and power.
The American Dream had always been based on the idea that each person no matter who he or she is can become successful in life by his or her hard work. The dream also brought about the idea of a self-reliant man, a hard worker, making a successful living for him or herself. The Great Gatsby is about what happened to the American Dream in the 1920s, a time period when the many people with newfound wealth and the need to flaunt it had corrupted the dream. The pursuit of the American Dream is the one motivation for accomplishing one’s goals, however when combined with wealth the dream becomes nothing more than selfishness.
Jay Gatsby, the main character of the story, is one character that longs for the past. Surprisingly, he spends most of his adult life trying to recapture it and, finally, dies in this pursuit. In the past, Gatsby had a love affair with the attractive young Daisy. Knowing he could not marry her because of the difference in their social status, he leaves her to gain wealth to reach her standards. Once he acquires wealth, he moves near to Daisy, “Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay (p83),” and throws extravagant parties, hoping by chance she might show up at one of them. He, himself, does not attend his parties but watches them from a distance.
When this dream doesn’t fall into place like he planned, he asks around if anyone knows her. Soon, he meets Nick Carraway, a cousin of Daisy, who agrees to set up a meeting, “He wants to know if you’ll invite Daisy to your house some afternoon and then let him come over (p83).” Gatsby’s personal dream symbolizes the larger American Dream where all have the opportunity to get what they want. Later, in the Plaza Hotel, Jay still believes that Daisy loves him. He is convinced of this and even takes the blame for Myrtle’s death. “Was Daisy driving?” “Yes . But of course I’ll say I was (p151).” He also watches Daisy as she returns home to make sure her husband doesn’t harm her. “How long are you going to wait?” “All night if necessary (p152)”. Gatsby cannot accept that the past is gone and done with. He believes that he acted for her and beyond his personal interest and that that should guarantee his success. Nick attempts to show Jay that his dream is unobtainable, but Gatsby innocently replies to Nick’s comment by saying, “Yes you can, old sport (p141)”. This shows the confidence that Jay has in fulfilling his American Dream.
For Jay, his American Dream is not material possessions, although it plays a big part in the fulfillment of his true American Dream, Daisy. Gatsby does not rest until his American Dream is finally fulfilled. However, it never comes about and he ends up paying the ultimate price for it. Gatsby’s own characteristics, especially his obsession, contributed to his fate. Despite his attitude toward Daisy and her friends who “are rich and play polo together,” he, too, has been drawn in by the lure of money and fame. Unable to control his obsessive desire to have daisy, he cares little about the means by which he acquires the money to marry her. He associates with known criminals, appears to be involved with bootlegging, and is rumored to have killed a man. Finally, he lies about himself and his family to get Nick’s help for his quest. The means he uses to achieve his goal ends up to be everything that he despises about the people who come to his parties. He prefers the pretty illusions he thinks of rather than the harsh reality of the obsession that he has allowed to corrupt his life and dream. The result of this corruption is that his so-called American Dream has vanished before his eyes.
The idea of the American Dream still holds true in today’s time, no matter if it’s wealth, love, or fame. But one thing never changes about the American Dream; everyone desires something in life, and everyone, somehow, strives to get it. Gatsby is a prime example of pursuing the American Dream, and I think that this story would teach the reader to be less cynical so that we try to achieve the American Dream and not leave it as that just a dream.