Criticizing the American Dream

June 7, 2010
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Did Gatsby achieve the American dream? Well to answer that what is the American dream? Gatsby’s lifestyle may have represented the idea of what the American dream was at the time, but the man was never satisfied with his life. Fitzgerald clearly wrote a criticism of the American dream. He created this character as a reflection to himself and to show a criticism of America and its’ vision of success. He also may have had the same philosophy as that of Socrates, on his beliefs of virtue. This being the ignorance to everyday life and letting it hold us back.

Throughout the entirety of the book, Gatsby is constantly mentioned. In the beginning, he’s even made out to seem like this mysterious mystical person. Then the book introduces him and it shows his lavish and luxurious lifestyle. The man said to be constantly throwing huge parties with large amounts of people showing up. He spends money on live music, butlers, decorations, food, even down to the unnecessary, where he has someone there just to squeeze fruit. In the book there are many examples of this. “As soon as I arrived, I made an attempt to find my host, but the two or three people whom I asked his whereabouts stared at me in such an amazed way, and denied so vehemently any knowledge of his movements.” (42) Gatsby status was so high but yet people have really never met him before. All the people who were invited to his parties had little knowledge of who he was. People saw him as the ideal American dream. But what was the American dream at that time? The average idea of the American dream was that people wanted money. Money would give them everything they could want. Money would solve all their problems. Most of all give them status. And with money and status came happiness. And they wanted to let people know they were happy. “I’ve got a man in England who buys me clothes. He sends over a selection of things at the beginning of each season, spring and fall.” (98) Gatsby had everything that people could only dream of. Though Gatsby wanted the one thing everyone at some points wants, love.

Fitzgerald clearly wrote a criticism of the American dream. Gatsby is a reflection of Fitzgerald living at the same time in life going through similar problems. Gatsby had everything, but still needed love, and not just any ones love. He wanted Daisy. Daisy was a symbol of everything Gatsby wanted in his life. She was the perfect girl in his mind. Gatsby’s parties, mansion, and everything he owned were all to impress Daisy, if that day ever came. The American dream wasn’t enough for him, he needed a companion. And it had to be the one that got away. Fitzgerald is simply showing an average guy who has came into money, and it starts moving up the ladder. But Fitzgerald shows the audience that they were wrong, none of this makes people truly happy in the end. He wants people to see that they are flawed when it comes to knowing what they want. This being because people chase after what they are taught to chase after. Fitzgerald knocks that idea down and says that it can create a sort of artificial happiness, but real happiness comes from love. And this is what Gatsby realized. The only wrong thing with him coming to that conclusion is that he was blindly in love with Daisy. He latched onto the idea of being with her and wouldn’t let go. And because of this his life became devoted to getting her back. He didn’t even stop to think, realistically, about what would happen when he finally got her. He failed to think about how it would affect everyone around them. And so when he finally got her it caused a ripple of disaster. “She never loved you, don’t you hear?” he cried. “She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me. It was a terrible mistake, but in her heart she never loved anyone except me!” (123) Gatsby then leaves with Daisy believing he’s gotten what he’s been after for so long. But then they get into a car accident killing Myrtle. From this point on Gatsby is rethinking his decision, and if Daisy really loves him. By the end Gatsby takes the blame and gets murdered or it, while Daisy leaves with Tom. Gatsby reached the American dream and went after his delusions of love and ended up getting killed. Fitzgerald could be telling us that no matter how hard we try we’ll never be able to reach that point where we’re satisfied.

Fitzgerald’s take on the American dream could be compared to the ideas of the Greek philosopher, Socrates. Socrates believed that one’s life should be dedicated to the search for virtue. He taught that to be able to reach the point of happiness you have to be able to remove you ignorance to the world around you. And because of our ignorance we don’t knowingly or willingly do wrong. Gatsby realizes his ignorance to the American dream but not to Daisy. He continues to be ignorant and it inevitably leads to his death. Everyone else in the book is also ignorant to everything around them. They all chase after the imposed American dream. Everyone in the book commits wrong, whether it’s cheating, abuse, or murder. Everyone was too ignorant to think twice about the wrongs of what they were doing. Nick was the least ignorant out of everyone and didn’t chase after anything and by the end of the book he was in pretty much in the same place he began in.

Fitzgerald’s story of Gatsby was all criticism of the American dream. Gatsby creates a world filled with drunks and rich people and throws in a character, which on the outside seems to have everything. But Gatsby merely wanted something he couldn’t have and fooled himself into thinking he can have it without any repercussions. Fitzgerald showed us love was stronger goal than chasing after material things. Most of all he didn’t create an ultra fictional world with happy endings. The characters were realistic and made big mistakes due to their ignorance.

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