False Prophet: The American Dream
Samantha Loy 11H
Widely recognized as one of the greatest American novels ever written, The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald is considered the defining work of the 1920s, the decade rereferred often as the Jazz Age. The Great Gatsby is a great American novel and a literary classic that truly captures the essence of an era.
Samantha Loy discusses this topic
The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald is the story of love between a man and a woman. However, the main theme of the novel covers the larger and less romantic aspects such as the decay of the American Dream.
Fitzgerald’s descriptions of events are breath-takingly unambiguous and guarantees to lure in the reader. The strength of the novel not only gains and sustains the reader’s attention, but also sends an important message, about the pitfalls of pursuing the American Dream. The novel emphasizes the social stratification of 1920s Americans and the belief that perspectives of identity are grounded by wealth and authority.
In his 1931 novel, Epic of America, James Adams described the dream as “That dream of a land in which a life should be better, richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”
In the Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby, and Tom Buchanan fail to pursue this dream and follow its entirety. Rather than complying with this dream, both characters do the opposite, destroying the purpose for The Dream. They portray the ultimate failure of the American Dream in that individuals believe that wealth is everything.
One of the most central conflicts in the novel, and perhaps one of the heaviest deciding
factors in Daisy’s choice to stay with Tom instead of Gatsby, is the conflict between ‘Old Money’ and ‘New Money’. Gatsby is the embodiment of a man living the Dream but it’s all fabricated, as he achieved his riches through illegal activities. This dream is also antagonized by the Buchanan’s, who are in possession of old money and therefore are not allured by the concept of this promise. Gatsby was never truly accepted by Tom and Daisy, and in the end, Daisy chose not to be with Gatsby despite his wealth. Gatsby ultimately dies in pursuit of his dream – shot and left for dead in his own swimming pool. His attempt to achieve the American Dream was unsuccessful.
Gatsby is the titular hero of The Great Gatsby. Nick first comes to know him as an unimaginably well off, secretive man who tosses extravagant gatherings, however, in the long run we gain understanding with his experience: a kid from humble inceptions who is desperate to win back the affection for a rich lady, Daisy, and loses everything in his last endeavor to win her over. Jay Gatsby is a refined character that virtually grew up with nothing; however, although he is still socially inept and lacking in some niceties, he aspires to be a chivalrous host wanting to please those around him.
Jay Gatsby is a naive character, and so is his dream. Gatsby symbolizes both the corrupted Dream and the original uncorrupted Dream. He considers riches to be the answer for his issues, seeks after money through shady plans, and reevaluates himself so much that he winds up empty, separated from his past. However, Gatsby's corrupt long for riches is driven by a morally sound love for Daisy. His aching is obvious when Nick sees Gatsby out of the blue and watches him reaching after "a single green light." The green light signifies Daisy and his longing for her, as the light comes from her home straight over the cove. Nevertheless, his fantasy of catching Daisy's affection is impractical on the grounds that he is caught in a state of mind before Tom's presence in Daisy’s life and expects so much from her.
Even with all Gatsby's wealth, all his security, Daisy remains stuck to Tom, the refuge she's grown accustomed to. When Daisy finally decides to reject Gatsby and chooses Tom, Gatsby's life collapses, revealing the corruption and instability of the 1920's ideals of money and power. Gatsby's American Dream is to have Daisy, to collect her with whatever means necessary. When she rejects Gatsby, we come to see how illusory this dream really was.
Daisy and Tom Buchanan challenge the myth of the American Dream and that success and riches equate to happiness. The couple are in control of old money and along these lines have no explanation behind the fantasy, since they are as of now arranged on the highest point of the class chain of command. Both of them are indiscreet and seem, by all accounts, to be without a reason, obvious when Daisy moans: "What'll we do with ourselves this evening… and the day after that, and the next thirty years?"
Through Tom Buchanan, we can see that money itself will not make you happy; Tom, in terms of wealth and status, has nothing left to achieve. This means that he is constantly searching for something of significance in his wealth and status, with his “restless eyes”, “drifting” (178) with a lack of self-purpose. His failure is not in his inability to achieve the American dream, but rather in his inability to find meaning and purpose in his life. The concept of “the American dream” is unfortunately often centered around wealth, so that achieving it does not lead to fulfillment or happiness.
In Tom's eyes, Gatsby is his social inferior. He was brought into the world that money and power always belong to the rich and the well-thought-of. Gatsby, however, worked hard for his riches but will always be below Tom in the social hierarchy. Gatsby is willing to do anything and everything to achieve wealth and status, but not for conventional reasons. Unlike Tom, who revels in his wealth, Gatsby is only using it as a tool to woo Daisy. Tom is also skeptical and disdainful of Gatsby's educational attainment. “An Oxford man! Like hell he is!" (P.116). "Oxford, New Mexico, or something to that effect." (P.116), Tom does not believe that Gatsby was an Oxford man. This social separation and division among classes, which are opposing to the standards of the American Dream, truly possess large amounts of American culture at the time. This also adds to the miscarriage of the American Dream at large.
After all this analysis, I have to ask myself, "What is the American Dream?" What does it mean to me? On one side, I understand the allure of generosity. Having unprecedented amounts of money would allow me to do all sorts of things, good and bad. Having wealth, money, and power is not intrinsically a bad thing—every year, the wealthy donate millions of dollars in charitable funds. Many students attend my dream colleges like Yale and Harvard with financial help from wealthy families. However, money becomes a bad thing when used for selfish purposes, as The Great Gatsby clearly demonstrates. My version of the American Dream includes both money and morals. I believe there is a healthy balance between the two, and I strive to walk that line. I want to be rich, I really do, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that if I use my wealth benevolently. I want to go above and beyond for my future family; I want to have my family go on numerous vacations, attend private school, and experience numerous other benefits that wealth can provide. Money for me is a means to a justifiable end, and I want to go about it the right way. To me, the American Dream is the combination of wealth, morality, and love—a goal I aspire to achieve through hard work and dedication.
In conclusion, the situation in prevailing in 1920s America meant that the true meaning of the American dream had been lost. F. Scott Fitzgerald wanted to give a warning to people at the time that looking for happiness by using the definition of the 1920s American dream was a recipe for disaster because wealth could not bring happiness. The Great Gatsby is therefore not a critique of the American dream itself, but it is a critique of the corruption of the American dream and its state in the 1920s.