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The Great Gatsby and American Dream

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The American Dream has always captured the interest of people. It can be defined as a belief in the opportunity to be able to prosper and have success in all areas of a person’s life. In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald demonstrates how the characters in the novel strive for the American dream and implies to the readers how it is an unattainable concept to achieve. The author does this by focusing on the actions the characters do to fulfill their dreams and how those characters end up being insatiable.

Throughout the novel, the main protagonist Jay Gatsby builds himself up from nothing to try and achieve the American Dream. Yet his popular status was not enough in society to complete his ideal dream and by trying to achieve further, it led him to his death. Daisy, who was already married, was Gatby’s past love but Gatsby was still overly obsessed with her. He had the intentions to reunite with her which is what led him out of his way to build his home right across from Daisy where he can see a “single green light, minute far away… at the end of the dock.” (Fitgerald, 24) The author in the novel proves to the readers that Gatsby reached the status in which he is financially and socially stable to build his house anywhere he wants but Gatsby feels the need to build his house right across from Daisy who represents the “single green light” to try and feel closer to her and feel like he is achieving the missing part of his dream. This evidence proves that as hard as Gatsby tried to fulfill his dream, it was impossible to complete it considering the extent he went to. At the end of the novel, Gatsby ends up dead and without Daisy. In his life, Gatsby amounted to so many riches that “his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it” yet that’s what exactly happened. His dream of becoming rich was already achieved but the dream of being with Daisy even though she was married and the fact that he was extremely close to her, was not successfully completed. Gatsby did not know that [his dream] was already behind him, somewhere in the vast obscurity beyond the city…” (Fitzgerald, 193) Fitgerald brings the idea that even if Gatsby lived, he would have never known that his desire to be with Daisy was a mission impossible and that would lead him on a life long journey to persistently continue to persevere for a life with Daisy that would never happen. Gatby’s actions prove the argument that the American Dream is an unattainable dream which leaves people wanting more but not being able to get more. Moreover, other characters who seem to share the same fate as Gatsby are George and Myrtle Wilson. 

The American Dream didn’t exist for George Wilson who was a hard worker that couldn’t leave the west with his wife, Myrtle, due to the lack of funds which resulted in the couple dying. George Wilson was a mechanic who was oblivious to his wife Myrtle cheating on him with Tom Buchanan, Daisy’s husband. Myrtle was a woman who wanted more than what a blue-collar husband could give her which is why she had an affair with Tom. George reveals to Tom that he has “been sick all day… [and that he is] all run down.” (Fitzgerald, 131) Attempting to make enough money for his wife and him to move was very stressful and it was making him physically ill which is why “in the sunlight his face was green.” (Fitzgerald, 131) In this section, Fitzgerald proves the point that George and his wife are not from the same social class as Tom Buchanan because George does not have enough money to pursue his American dream which is to leave town with his wife. Gerorge has to work painstakingly hard to try and make enough money which is having a detrimental effect on him. Later on in the novel, Myrtle is killed by a car running her over in which Geroge suspects was her lover. George then continues to assume that Gatsby is her lover because he was the owner of the car that ran Myrtle over so George kills Gatsby and then himself. (Fitzgerald, 162) The death of the couple symbolizes how the efforts of trying to climb up the social class was not ever a possibility for them because they didn’t come from rich families and actually had to work for what they needed. Gatsby, Myrtle, and George are all characters in Fitzgerald’s novel who have to work very hard to become someone of high class in society yet they never fully achieve it. Myrtle attempted to take a short-cut and try to reach a social upgrade with someone who was already privileged and yet she wasn’t able to achieve what she wanted. Gatsby and Wilson worked hard but their hard work only took them so far. Based on the character’s actions in the novel, it can be determined that the American Dream doesn’t exist and can also be considered dangerous to try and achieve. Regardless of Fitzgerlad’s novel, the U.S has conducted many polls that demonstrate a common trend of the idea that citizens have over the American Dream. 

For several years, Americans have built their opinions over the American Dream as it adjusted. Specifically in the late 1900s and early 2000s, the American dream was a hot topic that represented materialistic and financial security with the stronger influence of technology. Before that, it used to be more centered on equal opportunities, respect, and freedom. A journal article constructed by Sandra Hanson and John Zogby shows a collection of polls from various different sources asking people in the U.S their opinion on specific questions or statements. Table 7 in the journal article asks surveyors to answer how they feel about the statement: “Hard work offers little guarantee of success.” The survey shows a mixed review of answers that are consistent throughout years between “Completely Agree” and all the way to “Don’t know”. Even though the majority sides with either “Mostly Disagree” and “Completely Disagree”, it should be noted that the percentage of people saying “Completely Agree” and “Mostly Agree” is consistent over a span of 10-years. The opinions on this survey varies across all answers which shows how people in the U.S are indecisive on whether hard work pays off for their success which contributes to their American Dream. Based on these outspread data points, I can establish the idea that the American Dream is an unattainable concept because many Americans are still unclear whether hard work may or may not pay off. In addition to this journal article, Table 8 is another survey in which people are asked: “Do you agree or disagree: The American Dream has become impossible for most people to achieve?” This survey collects opinions from 1995 to 2003 which makes this table more recent than the previous table presented. In Table 8, the percentage of people agreeing to the question is slightly higher than the disagreeing percentage throughout the years the survey was conducted. Additionally, the percentage numbers never seem to show a huge relative change for both categories. This table can conclude that in recent years, more people don’t believe in the American dream and what it is associated with it. These 2 tables prove the point that people in the U.S are still undetermined on the actuality of the American Dream and furthermore, I can determine that the American Dream is an unattainable concept because people in the US have not come up with an overall conclusion on whether they believe in or not. Be that as it may, the American Dream continues to be a common presence in many art works.

Novels, movies, articles, and many other artists have displayed their own version of the American Dream. Authors and directors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nathaniel West, Evelyn Waugh, and Joan Didion have works that display the common theme of the American Dream and how they view it. According to an article written on Hollywood Literature and Film, “Characters become so enmeshed in pursuit of career success that they lose any sense of their own identities; the dream proves unachievable even for the successful; and moral disarray prevails, anticipating the fall of America.” (The Hollywood Novel, 64) Authors commonly view the American Dream as a dangerous path that leads a person down rather than up. One may become successful but the “fall” is still something that will occur. The American Dream according to the authors cannot be achieved without the person going through chaos which furthermore leads the person further away from their American Dream. This article also comes to the conclusion that the “American dream has spun out of control, and images of apocalyptic vision suggest that the moral disarray of Hollywood anticipates the decline and fall of American Society.”(The Hollywood Novel, 67) This quote from the article displays that there cannot be an American Dream without the “decline and fall of American Society.” The American Dream is a crazy topic that proves to be different for each person yet it still holds the same result which is never being able to accomplish that dream. This article supports the idea that American Dream is a far-fetched idea that isn’t possible for anyone to accomplish. Furthermore, the American Dream is just a dream. 

In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald demonstrates how the characters in the novel strive for the American dream and implies to the readers how it is an unattainable concept to achieve. The author does this by focusing on the actions the characters do to fulfill their dreams and how those characters end up being insatiable. The American Dream is considered as this ultimate life achievement in society yet it is a perception that will never be met and can even lead to death. People can overwork themselves and may never get what they deserve from their hard work. It is a perception that adjusts as the world changes and it cannot be expected of someone to always try and keep up.  

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The Great Gatsby And American Dream. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 17, 2022, from
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