F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is set in New York City’s wealthy suburb during the 1920s. This was a time of great economic success. The 1920s economic boom was seen as an example of the American Dream, which is the belief that anyone can become rich and have a better life in America if he or she works hard enough. F. Scott Fitzgerald offers a new perspective on the American dream. He shows how it is flawed. Fitzgerald achieves this by showing Jay Gatsby as the protagonist, a man who becomes too caught up in American dreams and is unable to discern reality from fiction. Fitzgerald’s character Jay Gatsby, shows how greedy human desire for power and wealth can undermine the basic principles of America’s dream.
Jay Gatsby, who had to work hard to make his money, represent the American dreams. Gatsby is a typical American who achieves the American dream through his success in achieving wealth and social status. Gatsby isn’t content with his wealth. He believes he can be the ‘Platonic conception” of himself… a child of God. This phrase, if it has any meaning, only means …’ (89). While the American dream can have many aspects, Gatsby only believes he must be wealthy. He is unable to see how hard work can improve his character. People like Gatsby believe they can attain social superiority through flaunting their wealth, but this leads to them never finding true happiness. Gatsby believes the “unreality” of reality, which is a promise that the rock that will make the world a better place, was created by a fairy (89). This means that Gatsby believes what he believes to be true, which helps him find comfort in the false reality that he has created. Gatsby’s enjoyment from material objects dulls his perception of true happiness. Like many Americans of upper class, Gatsby doesn’t realize that the American dream does not only revolve around financial success but also the joy of living. This perk is something that Gatsby has never achieved.
Gatsby instead of seeking happiness, he uses his wealth to bring joy to a lonely and sad life. Gatsby’s financial success is only for the benefit of his image, and not for his personal pleasures. This is illustrated on page 153, where Gatsby says, “You know old sport, I haven’t used that pool all year?” The reader can infer that the pool was only there to please his guests. Gatsby used bootlegging to obtain his wealth. This is illegal alcohol sales during the United States’ prohibition era. Gatsby has lost the essence of America’s dream because he made his money illegally. Jay Gatsby’s indecent rise to the top and his inclusion in the elite wealthy represents both the corruption in America in the ’20s and the flaws in the American dream. Gatsby’s dream seemed so near that it was impossible for him to miss it. It was not his dream, he didn’t know it was behind him” (180). This means that Gatsby pursued the pleasure of increasing his social standing without realizing that he had already achieved this goal. He is unable to see beyond the illusions he has created for himself and he attempts to buy any object that will satisfy his needs. Gatsby is unable to find happiness in his material possessions and turns to the past to see a time when wealth was a dream, not a harsh reality.
Gatsby also shows off his wealth to attract Daisy Buchanan’s attention and win her back. However, he doesn’t realize that it is impossible. Gatsby had been denied the right of dating Daisy years before due to his poor family. He may have the chance to win Daisy back but his plans are thwarted by Daisy’s greater attraction to her husband Tom and the secure life they lead together. Gatsby knows the ‘… mystery wealth preserves and imprisons. However, his inability to give up his wealth and live a simple life has thwarted his dream. thus suffered a heavy price for living too long in pursuit of a single dream (161) because he has no goals to achieve. Instead of trying to overcome his misfortunes, Gatsby accepts them with indifference and wishes to continue living his pointless existence. Gatsby is now ‘a boat against he current, borne back inexorably into the past’ (180). Gatsby tried to separate his impossible dream from the reality until it was too late.
Life will seem meaningless and empty if one doesn’t achieve happiness. Jay Gatsby was a man who lost his fortune due to the very wealth he longed for. Gatsby is not only a symbol of the American dream, but also a metaphor for how money can’t buy happiness. Fitzgerald uses Gatsby to symbolize the American dream’s ugly side.
Do you think Jay Gatsby represents the American dream?
How does Jay Gatsby represent the American Dream essay?
Gatsby’s actions were for the purpose of gaining wealth and power to attract Daisy, and this represents the American Dream taking precedence over him. In his attempts to charm Daisy, he ends up corrupting himself because he’s living in a fantasy that is unattainable