The American Dream means that by persistently working hard, one can achieve success; this is in contrast to other countries where the immigrants came from, in which one was either born into money and privilege or not, and if you weren t, there was no way of achieving this success. The American Dream eliminated the barriers between people that social class had held for centuries in Europe. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, shows the corruption of the American Dream from what it used to be in the past. Not only does Jay Gatsby achieve his success without hard work, but this success is not a matter of being able to achieve just like every other person. His success is just a result of the I want materialism of Gatsby s time, the 1920 s.
The figures in Fitzgerald s book all represent different outlooks on the American Dream. Nick, who comes from the Midwest, represents the traditional morality that this country used to have in the past. As the narrator, Fitzgerald is making the reader look through the eyes of America s old morality to see what the American Dream has become. Tom and Daisy Buchanan represent those who were born rich and live wealthy; they do not embody the American Dream because they did not have to work to achieve this success. Gatsby symbolizes the corruption of the American Dream because he was striving to be just like those who had money just so that he could buy happiness.
In the past, Gatsby had a love affair with the wealthy Daisy. But he could not marry Daisy because of the difference in their social status. Daisy married Tom because of his money, which means that money can buy love in Gatsby s world. So Gatsby sets the goal in his life to amass enough money so that he can buy Daisy back. He moves across the bay so that he can be close to Daisy, and worship the little green light that is her house; Nick observes Gatsby raising his arms to the light in silent devotion. The color green represents money. Even Daisy s voice is described as full of money. Gatsby believes that money can buy emotions from people, and this is not at the core of the American Dream.
Gatsby earns his money, not through hard work, but it is hinted that he is bootlegger and deals in illegal things because of his relationship with Meyer Wolfsheim, a known gangster. During Prohibition, when the consumption of alcohol was illegal, people could make a lot of money providing alcohol illegally, and they were called bootleggers. Jay Gatsby was even going against American laws in order to achieve his American Dream of getting enough money to buy Daisy s love.
Through the parties that Gatsby made, America s consumption is symbolized by the way the oranges and lemons arrive full in cartons, and are shipped away as torn apart pulps. It is almost like a factory, where things go in and are processed, and then go out. It seems that these things really were not enjoyed, just processed like machines. This materialism is what was happening in America, and what Gatsby wanted to achieve. Fitzgerald shows the reader how this pursuit of materialism is wrong, it really does not bring happiness. That is why modern America is called the Wasteland, where morals no longer mean anything and material goods are everything.
Gatsby really did believe that Daisy loved him once he had money. Daisy is very impressed by all of his material possessions. And Gatsby is in love with Daisy, or the ideal of Daisy, as he is willing to take the blame for killing Myrtle. He said, Was Daisy driving? . . . of course I ll say I was (151). He protects Daisy as she is returning home and is willing to wait all night if necessary (152) to make sure she is safe.
Gatsby s pursuit of materialism failed miserably in Fitzgerald s book. Gatsby did get what he wanted, Daisy, and then she lost her desirability. She was just another object of his. It is interesting that in the end, Jay Gatsby s love for Daisy in trying to take the blame for Myrtle s death is what kills him. This is Fitzgerald s way of shoeing that this materialistic American Dream is not what the American Dream is meant to be. Materialism was not the true reason that the American Dream was great. It was because hard work was the true value that could make one great, not how they were born and how much money they had. In the end of the novel, Nick returns to the Midwest, a return to the old values of hard work that brings success and money that cannot buy emotions.
Fitzgerald shows how America must look back into its past in order to redefine what its values are and to not let materialism take over people s lives.