Gatsby: A Symbol of the American Dream

In the novel The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the narrator Nick Carraway tells the story of Jay Gatsby, one of the richest men in the West Egg. Gatsby was born into a poor family, but came to obtain extravagant wealth through his work with Dan Cody, a millionaire. Gatsby?s desire for wealth was driven by his dream for the love of Daisy Buchanan. Although Gatsby was able to acquire great wealth, he never acquired Daisy?s love in the end. In fact, his dream for Daisy is what ultimately led to his destruction. Through this novel, Fitzgerald conveys that the American Dream cannot be fully attained because those who believe in it are constantly striving for something better than themselves. He demonstrates that it is dangerous for one to reach for something more than what is given and expresses the idea that if people become so involved in materialistic things, they are not guaranteed happiness. Gatsby?s desire to achieve more than what he had ultimately led to his downfall, demonstrating that infinite success is not possible, as portrayed in the stock market crash preceding the Great Depression.

Gatsby is a clear embodiment of the American Dream: he was born poor and rose to achieve a higher wealth and social status. Nick explains, ?[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? (98). Although Gatsby started his life off poor, he was able to earn his way up to being rich by working with Dan Cody. His strong work ethic and ambition to achieve Daisy?s love served him well in attempting to banish his poverty stricken past. The contrast between Gatsby?s lifestyle in the past and the present is demonstrated when Nick describes Gatsby?s mansion: ?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? (5). The American Dream is the hope that anyone can earn success if they work hard enough. Gatsby?s love for Daisy led him to achieve extravagant wealth. In the sense of rising up social rank and obtaining financial success, Gatsby achieved the American Dream.

Despite the wealth that Gatsby achieved, Fitzgerald conveys that materialism of the American Dream does not guarantee happiness. Every week, Gatsby hosted grand parties for hundreds of people: ?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? (40). 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. When Nick is at Gatsby?s party, he hears the rumors about Gatsby amongst the guests: ?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? (61). The gossip of Gatsby demonstrates that Gatsby did not form any genuine relationships with the party guests. Gatsby was so focused on his dream Daisy that he did not establish any true friendships until he met Nick. Fitzgerald conveys that being too focused on the American Dream can distract one from living in the moment. He communicates that it is more important to focus on things that matter more than money, such as relationships. Gatsby?s life became fuller and happier once he became friends with Nick and Daisy, not because of his wealth.

Although hundreds of guests came to Gatsby?s weekly glamorous parties, none of them except for Owl Eyes, came to pay their respects to him at his funeral. Nick explains, ?At first I was surprised and confused; then as [Gatsby] lay in his house and didn?t move or breathe or speak hour upon hour it grew upon me that I was responsible [for the funeral] because no one else was interested? (172). After Gatsby?s death, his generosity to the party guests was ignored and forgotten, illustrating the insensitive and selfish society that the American Dream has produced. Fitzgerald conveys a decline in society?s moral and is critical of the careless lifestyles of Americans. He warns that if Americans continue to live this way, they will come to experience hardship, or even destruction.

Fitzgerald attempts to make readers see that because the American Dream is the constant desire for something better, to fully achieve the American dream is impossible. Even after Daisy proclaims his love for him, Gatsby demands her to go even further to say that she never loved Tom: ?Just tell him the truth- that you never loved him ? (132). This demonstrates Gatsby?s continuous desire for something better. Once he achieved his dream of winning Daisy?s love, he already had a desire something more. Fitzgerald demonstrates that those who pursue the American Dream believe that no matter how much they accomplish, there is always something better to strive for.

During the 1920?s, there was a boom in America?s economy as a result of improvements in technology that led the cost of production to decrease. Between the years from 1922 and 1929, dividends from stock increased by 108%, the profits of corporate businesses grew by 76%, and personal wages increased by 33%. However, toward the end of the 1920s, the excess of the 1920?s and confidence from America?s economic prosperity came to a sudden stop with the 1929 Wall Street Crash. Through The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald foreshadowed that because society was living carelessly and excessively with no control, disaster would approach. Nick reflects on the the failure of Gatsby?s dream ?I thought of Gatsby?s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy?s dock. He had come along way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it? (180). The green light that Gatsby fails to grasp symbolizes the unattainable dream that lives inside everyone. Gatsby?s continuous hope for better is similar to society?s desire for infinite growth in the economy. The destruction of Gatsby?s dream for Daisy and the Wall Street Crash demonstrate that the American Dream is unattainable.

The American Dream in the 1920?s is still alive in America today. Fitzgerald demonstrates that because the American Dream is the continuous desire for better, it is impossible to fully grasp. Fitzgerald illustrates that society in the 1920s was becoming more insensitive and corrupt, foreshadowing a halt to America?s prosperity. The Great Depression that hit America in the late 1920s clearly demonstrates that constantly reaching for more than what is given will eventually lead to destruction, as shown by the fall of Gatsby and the Great Depression that followed the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Fitzgerald suggests that rather than reaching for materialism, one should focus on more important things such as relationships, that will bring true happiness.


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