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Jay Gatsby and Ben Cash as The Examples of American Dream Obsession

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Just because society follows the ‘American Dream’ of monetary wealth, does this mean we must chase the dream? In all generations people strive to be rich and famous like it is a timeless behaviour. People are pushed to chase the dollar above anything else. In the pursuit of true wealth they can forget their morals and values and only focus on one dream and one dream only. This pushes them to be seen as someone who they are not. In F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s novel, “The Great Gatsby” and Matt Ross’ film “Captain Fantastic” both the main characters of Jay Gatsby and Ben Cash depict unrealistic perceptions of true wealth. This perspective from both creators makes us question how we live and strive for ‘true wealth’. 

In F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s novel, “The Great Gatsby” Jay strives for wealth not because he is greedy, not for personal gain, but to win Daisy’s love back. Jay believes that once he has attained his wealth all his problems will be resolved and everything will be perfect. But we later find out this is not the case. Instead of showing Daisy affection, Jay decides to try and impress her with his wealth by throwing lavish parties across the bay. “In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and he champagne and the stars.” As we all know, Jay aspired to be wealthy. With his upbringing so poor, it isn’t necessarily a bad desire for him to have. We begin to hear rumours shadowing around Gatsby’s name. How did he become so wealthy? His plan begins to become a little unstuck when we find out Jay’s wealth is not legit. He was bootlegging for his money just to become rich. As a reader, we are persuaded to questions Jay’s morals and values. Has he forgotten in his chase of the ‘American Dream’. Not once did Gatsby reflect on his actions or alter his opinions on the dream of being rich and famous. As a child Jay views wealth as being able to solve all problems that he might face. Gatsby’s perception on wealth was flawed to begin with, as young Jay only cared about being rich. Jay didn’t switch his mindset and never realised that true wealth was valuing what he already had, family. 

The view of wealth may have shifted to connections over materials he could of made real friends that really cared about his well-being instead of his money. If Jay realised he was in isolation and no one really cared for him, it wouldn’t have ended in such a tragedy. The green light at the end of Daisy’s dock is a vital symbol Fitzgerald portrays throughout the novel. The light is symbolic of Gatsby’s American Dream ; his pursuit to change the past for a better present and obtain Daisy’s love. The light gave Gatsby something to strive for, a goal and desire to achieve. When Gatsby’s reaching for the artificial light, Fitzgerald is highlighting that his dream is ‘unrealistic’. 

In Matt Ross’ film, “Captain Fantastic”, Ben Cash’s view of ‘true wealth’ is the total opposite to Jay Gatsby. Ben interprets wealth as his utopian world that he has created in the forest for himself, his children and beloved wife. We later find out his perception of wealth is every bit as unrealistic as Gatsby’s. Ben Cash brought his children up to believe wealth was shown through bonds in family. Living in an idyllic state forest at the foot of Mount Rainer, Ben raises his children with the fundamental skills to survive with so little. Although they are able to hunt a deer and protect themselves through any type of conditions, Ben isolated them from their social skills. When visiting Leslies sister Bens parenting skills are questioned, is he restricting his children to reach their full potential. “We are defined by our actions, not our words”. For most of the film Ben would push the children beyond the point of too far. Later on Ben’s mindset takes a major shift when he nearly losses Vespyr when she falls off the roof of the grandparents’ house. This is different to Gatsby’s story as Ben had a wakeup call which ended up causing change. Ben rethought his actions and made a decision to do what’s best for his children’s future. If only Gatsby had that wakeup call that Ben had, he could have realised his perception of ‘true wealth’ was totally wrong and his life wouldn’t have ended in such tragedy. 

In conclusion, both Jay Gatsby and Ben Cash both demonstrate harmful obsession with the chase of the ‘American Dream’. Being stubborn and not wanting to change their views affected the accomplishments of not only them but others. 

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Jay Gatsby And Ben Cash As The Examples Of American Dream Obsession. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 16, 2021, from
“Jay Gatsby And Ben Cash As The Examples Of American Dream Obsession.” GradesFixer, 06 Aug. 2021,
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