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Is the American Dream a Dream?

By , niles, IL

For as long as people can remember, being rich and successful has been a sought after ideal. This ideal can be considered the American dream and is a shining ray of hope for many.

 

However, the book The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald reflects the hope and wonder that is the American dream in a bleak light. Showing that once the dream has been achieved there is still a sense of a never ending longing and lust. The book tells the story of the character Gatsby, a man that has his riches and is considered to be very successful, but has no family or friends. Fitzgerald shows how the American dream is not perfect through many examples of the book such as with Gatsby having no family or love in his life but many riches.

 

The American dream is being portrayed as a negative thing when Fitzgerald foreshadows Gatsby’s character arc of having no love but many riches. When Nick Carraway the narrator wakes up after the night of gatsby’s party gatsby shows up on Nick Carraway's driveway and says, “Good morning old sport. You’re having lunch with me today and I thought we’d ride up together” (Fitzgerald 64).  This  is just the start to showing how Gatsby’s character arc is changing from lonely to having a friend for once.This is strange because to Nick he is put off out by this invitation to lunch because the night prior he had little interaction with Gastby. Later on the car ride to New York City to get lunch gatsby starts really opening up to Nick when he says “ Well, I'm going to tell you something about my life… I don’t want you to get the wrong idea of me from all these stories you hear” (Fitzgerald 65).  This is weird to nick because of how Gatsby  just opens up to Nick, Nick even describes how strange Gatsby was being when he was just sprinting through his life and completely opening up to him. Nick actually thought that Gatsby was either joking or was insane. “The very phrases were so threadbare that they evoked no image except that of a turbaned “character” leaking sawdust at every pore  as he pursued a tiger through the Bois de Boulogne” (Fitzgerald 66). This also reveals on how Gatsby is more of a socially awkward individual and has a hard time talking to others because he never really talks to others..  It really is a great example of how a person still struggles with being perfect even if they are rich, successful, and somewhat famous.

 

Another way that the book shows how the American dream is more of a nightmare is Gatsby's unhealthy obsession with Daisy. Gatsby throughout the story reveals that the parties he threw and the nice house he had bought and all the luxury items he had in his house where their just to impress and convince Daisy, the woman of his dreams, to love him. “” He was so crazy about Daisy that when she said that she wanted to leave his house and everything in it behind and move back with her parents with Gatsby he was okay with it. This shows how desperate he was to find a love in his life that he would throw away all his riches just to be with her, which in turn, shows the reader that even if you are living the American dream, you could still crave something so much that you would throw away all of your life's work just to get it. 

 

Many literary critics agree with Fitzgerald’s purpose of writing The great Gatsby to show the American dream being a false hope, that having money riches and fame means nothing when you have no family or friends to share it with.  Fitzgerald's use of the character Jay Gatsby to represent the  emotion towards the American dream as if it were a terrible illness to a healthy person.  Literary critic Alfred Kazin states “Fitzgerald could sound the depths of Gatsby’s life because he himself could not conceive any other” (Bachelor 74). Alfred throws out the idea that Gatsby was a reflection of the perfect man and he saw no other more perfect. However Fitzgerald took away one thing from him that made him the perfect man, a women.

 

Literary critic Author Roberts  Marilyn sees Gatsby as a rich and powerful man, but tends to be stupidly careless around Daisy. Marilyn also describes Gatsby when meeting Daisy again with Fitzgerald words by saying, “After Gatsby and Daisy are reunited, Gatsby gives her a tour of his estate, eliciting a delighted response”(Fitzgerald 120). Marilyn describes this as a desperate attempt to impress Daisy and shows how everything he has now is  because of this woman. Gatsby , in the past, was a veteran and was pretty poor. When he returned to the U.S he was invited to a party, here at this party is when he met Daisy. At the time they both fell in love, but Daisy would not marry Gatsby solely because of his finance’s. This crushed Gatsby’s spirit and form that day on he vowed to do whatever it takes to get Daisy back. Through mysterious methods he obtained the riches and a house that many could only dream about. 


Daisy is considered to be a person who always have a “voice is full of money”. Gatsby recognized this; Gatsby got everything for her.   This shows that the American Dream meant nothing to Gatsby and the only reason he worked his way out of a poor life was for the love of one girl he never even got to marry and ended up being the reason that killed him.


The American Dream did in fact show how hard working and ambitions can affect people greatly. However the story of Gatsby show that even if you live the dream it does not make you happy. The American Dream is what many low social level people want and what many high class people live. Living the dream of others however does not equal happiness for yourself and that's how Fitzgerald describes the dream,  unfulfilling and bleak.






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