Gatsby and the American Dream
Advanced Writing 201
The American Dream is what we all aspire to achieve. The idea of starting off with nothing and to become something has caused millions of people from all corners of the world to immigrate to this country for over 300 years. However, what exactly is the American Dream? F Scott Fitzgerald answers this question within his novel The Great Gatsby. Through the eyes of Nick Carraway, Fitzgerald analyses the high class of the 1920s and reveals that the American Dream has been distorted from a pure ideal of security into a convoluted scheme of materialistic power. Fitzgerald incorporates the aspects of both the Oold dreamO & the Onew dreamO in his tragic story to depicts how the inflexible dream has been corrupted and lost forever.
Fitzgerald illustrates in The Great Gatsby that the qualities of the original dream are perseverance and hope. The most glorified of these characteristics is that of success against all odd. The ethic of hard work can be found in the life of the young James Gatz. His focus on becoming a great man is thoroughly depicted in his OHopalong CassidyO journal. When Mr. Gatsby showed the tattered book to Nick, Mr. Gatsby said, OJimmy was bound to get ahead. He always has some resolves like this or something. Do you notice what heOs got about improving his mind? He was always great for thatO. The OHopalong CassidyO symbolizes the continual struggle for self-improvement, which has been the basis of America a land of opportunity.
Social Classes have always been apparent in civilization and America in the 1920s is no exception. Often those who rank in the lower classes usually feel that their problems will be resolved if they gain enough wealth to reach the upper class. This then offers a false connotation that the American Dream is this passage into to high social status and upon reaching that level, you are then able to abandon all economic worries. However, the American Dream involves more than acquiring wealth and a high social status. The dream involves attaining a balance between the spiritual strength and the physical strength of an individual. In the end of this book Jay GatsbyOs ultimate goal to have Daisy love him never comes to fruition solely because he chooses to pursue his dream by engaging in a lifestyle of high class.
The product of hard work is the longing Jay Gatsby, who contains the purest characteristics of the American Dream: everlasting hope. GatsbyOs true aspiration to win DaisyOs love symbolizes the basis of the old dream: an ethereal dream and a never ending search for the opportunity to achieve that goal. When the reader is first introduced in the novel, we see him Ostanding with his hands in his pocketsO and supposedly Oout to determine what share is his of our local heavensO. Nick watches GatsbyOs movements and comments: OHe stretches out his arms toward the dark in a curious way, and as far as I can swear he is trembling. Involuntarily I glance seaward-and distinguish nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might be the end of the dockO
GatsbyOs dream give him a purpose in life and sets him apart from the rest of the wealthy class on Long Island. He never gives up his pursuit to win over Daisy; from the moment he is seen reaching towards her house in East Egg to the final days of his life, patiently waiting outside DaisyOs house for hours when she has already decided to abandon her affair with him. Gatsby is the only character that retains the purest traits of the old dream, but loses in the end by attempting to achieve his dream by transposing his original ambition into the dreamOs modern state.
After Jay Gatsby return from World War I, he realizes to live a life of high class you must make money the top priority; wealth in-turn becomes GatsbyOs superficial goal overshadowing his quest for love. He creates a necessity to become fantastically wealthy, which will enable him to be with Daisy.
Money is clearly identified as the central advocate of the dreamOs destruction; it becomes easily entangled with hope and success, inevitably replacing the American Dream with materialism. In GatsbyOs case, his use of illegal practices and underground connections to attain his enormous fortune. His lavish parties, gigantic mansion and extravagant clothing are all signs of his unknown corruption. While GatsbyOs attempt rise to the upper class is symbolic of the nature of the new dream, the qualities of the new dream are most prolific in Daisy and Tom Buchanan, who live their lives with no hopes or regrets, because the basis of their characters is their wealth. Daisy is never heard from again after Tom says to Nick OI told him the truthEwhat if I did tell him?E That fellow had it coming to himO. Tom admits that he is responsible for GatsbyOs murder and WilsonOs suicide, however he claims to be innocent due to the fact he has never known guilt or shame as a member of the established elite. Through Nick, Fitzgerald portrays the effects the modern dream has on the upper class, condemning an entire group of people and its revered society:
OI couldnOt forgive him or like him but I saw what he had done was, to him, entirely justifiedEThey were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had madeEO
Tom and Daisy symbolize the class of heartless citizens how became successful at the price of dehumanization. Their opulence prevented them from ever having true emotions, which resulted in a world apathy, which was supported by their status and power.
Fitzgerald proves the purity of the American Dream is dead, at the end of the novel with the introduction to DaisyOs baby, GatsbyOs death and WilsonOs suicide. The first step of the tragic loss is the introduction of BuchananOs daughter, whom Daisy refers to as OBlessed PreciousO. When the girl comes into the room, Nick notices a change in GatsbyOs attitude, thinking, OGatsby and I in turn lean down and take the small reluctant hand. Afterwards he keeps looking at the child with surprise. I donOt think he had ever really believed in its existence beforeO. Daisy refers to her baby as Oan absolute little dreamO crushing all hopes Gatsby has of genuinely recreating the past. Furthermore, moments later in the book the replacement of money over the American Dream is pointed out when Nick and Gatsby attempt to pinpoint the charm in DaisyOs voice. At the moment Gatsby is quick to state, OHer voice is full of moneyO After hearing this Nick comes to a revelation, which alters his view of society:
OThat was it. IOd never understood before. It was full of money- that was the inexhaustible charm rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, and the cymbalsO song of itE High in a white palace the KingOs daughter, the golden girlEO
From this moment on, all of DaisyOs charm and beauty are gone, leaving nothing but money to be admired underneath. The dream that Gatsby has been relentlessly pursuing is now ripped apart into dollar bills as he discovers he was not pursuing love, but cold, hard, money, that was hidden behind a beautiful face. Subsequently, when Gatsby is murdered the possibility of the American Dream surviving in this dehumanized world also dies with him. Nick later reflects on what could have been GatsbyOs last thought before he died, assuming: OHe must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was the scarcely created grass. New world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifting fortuitously aboutElike that ashen figure gliding toward him through the amorphous treesO. After shooting Gatsby, George Wilson, Fitzgerald symbolization of the common manOs now impossible struggle to achieve his own success within the modern realm, commits suicide. The Death of a rich man, Jay Gatsby, and a poor man, George Wilson, both pushing themselves towards an impossible dream, symbolize the death of the original dream on which America was founded on. ONick then moves back to the Midwest and reflects on GatsbyOs life as the struggle of the American people in a society losing its humanityO: OSo we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the pastO. The dream is now completely gone without a possibility of being resurrected.
Through unfolding events of a doomed romance, F Scott Fitzgerald also depicts the inevitable doom of the American Dream. Gatsby had no balance to the extremes of his material and spiritual sides of himself. His dream of winning over DaisyOs love is masked by the desire to become rich. Fitzgerald created Gatsby to show the failure of the individual who believes the American Dream requires money. It is well documented America was to be a land of endless opportunity and wealth, however a nation needs more depth than itOs promise of materialism. The true composition of a nation is the unity of its peopleOs minds in order to achieve a universal acceptance.
Fitzgerald uses Gatsby and the other characters to convey his message- The American Dream, once a pure and noble concept is now dead and buried into the ground by a dehumanized void which revolves around money. Perhaps the book is not a tribute to a man named Jay Gatsby, rather, a tribute of an a noble aspiration of realistic success which is now and forever gone.