The Concept of “American Dream” in the Novel “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
California senator Kamala Harris once said, “The American Dream belongs to all of us.” This idea is what brings thousands of people to the U.S. We are a beacon of hope for the oppressed and less fortunate. Our country is the Dream that people can only hope to achieve and risk their lives to even get a taste. The American Dream symbolizes hope, prosperity, and happiness. But in the novel The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald the American dream is examined from a different perspective. A point of view that sheds light on those who twist the Dream’s ideals to aide in their own selfish fantasies. Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby takes the Dream too far, and becomes unable to differentiate reality from his self created fantasy. Fitzgerald believes that humanity’s ravenous desires for wealth and power topple over the ideals of the American Dream.Jay Gatsby is the embodiment of endless wealth and prestige, a beacon of hope for the aspiring rich. Nick Carraway is awestruck by Gatsby.
He believes Gatsby is filled with “some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life”(8). To any regular onlooker, it appears that Gatsby successfully attains the American Dream of achieving fame and fortune. Instead of being happy with what he has, Gatsby believes that he can, should, and will recreate the “platonic conception of himself” (89) and become the god of wealth and power that he portrays. The American Dream Anderson 2has many different meanings, but Gatsby holds onto only the idea of wealth. As well, he fails to see that he can better himself through hard work and labor. One understanding of the American Dream which is bettering yourself to achieve a higher social status, inspires people like Gatsby to achieve social dominance through means like wealth. Because of this, they never find true happiness. Gatsby has his eyes set on that false reality and believes that “the rock of the world is founded securely on a fairy’s wing” (89).
Gatsby places himself into that idealistic world as his escape from the cruel world that is reality. To him, Gatsby’s money was the best thing that ever happened to him. But, as a reader, we see he that it has affected his mental state. Much like the majority of upper class Americans, Gatsby fails to understand that the American dream is not only about money. It is also about finding happiness in life, which Gatsby is never able to achieve.Gatsby tries to replace his lack of happiness with his parties and hope to at one time get Daisy back. This corrupted idea of the American Dream serves only to improve his reputation to the society that initially rejects him because of his state of poverty. Gatsby believes that his wealth makes him a “son of God”(89), possessing material objects that have nothing to do with real happiness. To get them, he exploits the “Land of Opportunity” and dabbles in illegal activities, bootlegging and hanging around individuals who commit crimes.
The true purpose of the American Dream is not understood by Gatsby, as it doesn’t affect his conscience, it becomes an signal that becomes “uncommunicable forever” (100). Jay Gatsby’s indecorous rising into power as a king of their society depicts America as a land of the affluent, instead of the land of the free. In this false version of America, Gatsby’s dream “must have seemed so close that he Anderson 3could hardly fail to grasp it” (159). But since he “does not know that it is already behind him” (159), Gatsby continues to seek through adding to his already great wealth. Unable to see past his warped reality, he tries to obtain any object that could possibly satisfy his desires. But unable to find happiness through his quest for wealth, Gatsby turns towards the past, a time when opulence was a dream and not a harsh reality.Not knowing the impossibility of he outcome, Gatsby still aims to try and change people’s views on him with his wealth. He aims to be able to purchase the love of Daisy Buchanan, who he had been unable to woo due to his lack of considerable income. But even though it seems that Gatsby’s “number of enchanted objects have been reduced by one” (84) with the possibility of winning Daisy, he is foiled by her greater attraction to a life of materialistic ideals.
Gatsby is unable to understand that Daisy’s obsession with material possessions is the same as his own infatuation with such objects. Gatsby is aware of the “youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves” (132), but his inability to sacrifice his power and embrace a simpler life is what breaks his soul. Rich on wealth, but poor in happiness, Gatsby “pays the price for living too long with a single dream” (142), he learns that his life is completely cosmetic and lacks meaning. Instead of attempting to change his problems, Gatsby still lives indifferently and maintains living his luxurious life. Gatsby revels in his sorrows, unable to see America as a land where he can be reborn. He becomes a “a boat against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” (159).
According to a classic nursery hymn, “life is but a dream”, a fact that Gatsby silently acknowledges in the end.Anderson 4If one does not reach true happiness, life appears meaningless and empty. Jay Gatsby is a man who was destroyed by the very riches he craved. Gatsby does not only represent the extravagance of the Roaring 20’s, but serves as a metaphor for the people of today. Consumerism is a major factor that happier nations lack. Materialistic lust often times stops countries like America from achieving bliss. Hopefully, America does not take its materialism to extremes, in such a way that its fate is linked to Fitzgerald’s Gatsby. But it seems we may be headed there with our newly elected government. Rather than living the American Dream, we are entering the age of the American Nightmare.
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