The Illusions of the American Dream

The American Dream - is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideas (democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity, and equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in society. “The American Dream is a term that is often used but also often misunderstood. It isn't really about becoming rich or famous. It is about things much simpler and more fundamental than that” (Rubio). The idea entwined inside F. Scott Fitzgerald’s mind of the American dream and the pursuit of that dream is inside the critically acclaimed book, The Great Gatsby. Materialism is a key component of the book, everyone in the novel is money-obsessed, whether they were born with money (Tom, Daisy, Jordan, and Nick to begin with), whether they made a fortune (Gatsby), or whether they’re eager for more (Myrtle and George). The theme presented shows a distinct and defining flaw that ends up corrupting the American dream by showing it’s an imperfection. The characters are all perceived through Nick Carraway (narrator) who perceives his own ideas and opinions inside the story to further show the downfall of hopes and desires of other characters, despite their most pitiful efforts. The Great Gatsby shows why dreams and reality are often so close but yet so far away.

Many characters were given many opportunities to show their true selves when the influence of money was involved. Characters like Tom and Daisy’s choices were heavily persuaded by money and Nick observes them through this comment. “Why they came East I don't know. They had spent a year in France for no particular reason and then drifted here and there unrestfully wherever people played polo and were rich together” (Nick). Nick provides the scattered life choices that Tom and Daisy have made, which ends up creating an unstable relationship on both sides. Daisy provides another example of materialism when she and Gatsby reunite with the comment “It makes me sad that I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts before” (Pg 89). Fitzgerald portrays the 1920s as an era that lacks social and moral values fade away in replacement for the pursuit of pleasure. Daisy is a materialist like many other characters/Americans at the time. People desire for wealth and material possessions during this era more than any.

“Hope is the desire for a certain thing to happen. The theme of hope is expressed throughout the novel The Great Gatsby.”(Brooklyn Gasiorek- Author of The Gorgon) Fitzgerald uses this theme to illustrate Gatsby's hope that he will reunite with Daisy. Everything Gatsby does is to impress Daisy. He builds a house straight across the bay just to be near Daisy. He owns an expensive house and expensive possessions so that Daisy will notice him again. He hosts huge parties hoping that Daisy will show up. Gatsby has always loved Daisy and the significance of the color green stood for Gatsby’s hope that he will be reunited with Daisy. Daisy Buchanan provided an important comment on her daughter’s future. “I hope she'll be a fool - that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” This provides insight into Daisy’s attitude towards her daughter’s future. She hopes that the world will allow her to keep her child wonder so she won’t have to face the harsh reality of the world. “To Gatsby, Daisy represents the paragon of perfection—she has the aura of charm, wealth, sophistication, grace, and aristocracy that he longed for as a child in North Dakota and that first attracted him to her. In reality, however, Daisy falls far short of Gatsby's ideals”(Joel Achenbach- Washington Post). The idea of all these dreams coming to reality in the story is common and in all cases that hope falls short for what the characters really want to happen.
There is another important lingering element that The Great Gatsby present, which is the theme of the past. One of the most important quotes that summarize this theme is when Jay and Nick are at Gatsby’s party. Nick comments to him “You can’t repeat the past.” To which Gatsby replies “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!”

Gatsby is clearly living in the past which only gets more noticeable when he and Daisy reunite. “As soon as he gets Daisy, Gatsby no longer needs "new money" parties. But Gatsby can't escape the way he corrupted himself in his quest to become rich enough to win Daisy”(H.L. Mencken). The explanation and dissection of the quote give the reader insight into Gatsby's mindset in achieving his goal and now not knowing what to do from there. Even the later reveal of Daisy’s choice to choose Tom over Gatsby leaves Gatsby empty, like all of his efforts were for nothing to win her back. In chapter 6, when Nick and Gatsby are talking after the party that Daisy and Tom attended, Nick warns Gatsby that he shouldn't ask too much of Daisy. Nick is thinking of the fact that Daisy has obligations: she's a wife and a mother. He sees that Gatsby wants to be able to ignore the five years that have passed since Gatsby first fell in love with Daisy. Gatsby wants the impossible - he wants the Daisy of five years ago. Overall the past is a love/hate relationship for many characters but it is especially interesting for the psyche of Gatsby himself.
The last important element remaining in the novel is the theme of Class. The theme of class, particularly the elite versus the middle and lower classes, is extremely present throughout The Great Gatsby. This theme is demonstrated via geography: East Egg represents the elite with old money, West Egg represents the elite with new money, and the "valley of ashes" represents the middle and lower classes. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and . . . then retreated back into their money . . . and let other people clean up the mess they had made. In this quote, which comes toward the end of the book, Nick comments on Tom and Daisy’s indifference to the negative effects of their own actions. this quote illustrates his frustration at how much trouble Tom and Daisy cause. The novel as a whole views the wealthy as taking advantage of their class status to do whatever they please. The character most likely affected by the advantage of wealth in a negative way is most likely Daisy Buchanan. Daisy is corrupted with all her wealth that tom and her share and it is expressed through the quote “You see I think everything’s terrible anyhow, she went on. “Everybody thinks so—the most advanced people. And I know. I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything . . . Sophisticated—God, I’m sophisticated!” When Daisy and Nick reunite at Daisy’s Long Island home in the first chapter, Daisy explains to Nick that she has developed a cynical worldview. America is a classless society. True or false? You'll have good support no matter which way you answer, but The Great Gatsby has a pretty clear answer: no. There's no such thing as the American Dream or the up-from-the-bootstraps self-made man. You are who you're born, and attempting to change social classes just leads to tragedy. It's a pretty grim picture of American society—and life, to those who lived through World War I, could feel pretty grim indeed. (Lou Lumenick-Charlotte Observer) The idea of a class that Lumenick presented perceives the grim turn out of class post WW1. It’s clear that class has created a negative impact on society overall in The Great Gatsby.

The American Dream the ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved. In The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby overcomes his poor past to gain an incredible amount of money and a limited amount of social cache in 1920s NYC, only to be rejected by the “old money” crowd ironically. He then gets killed after being tangled up with them. Hope is something that Fitzgerald uses to help influence his characters to drive to achieve their dreams and ambitions. Gatsby's hope of his life is with Daisy when he hopes to recreate the past five years ago. He tries many times to resuscitate the life he had once before but ultimately it’s impossible. The lingering element of the past is extremely important towards the entire narrative of the novel.

The whole focus of Jay Gatsby’s drive to be with Daisy Buchanan is the past relationship they had. They had once loved and cared for each other in a time not long ago, but when Gatsby left Daisy conceived a future with Tom Buchanan, living in the future rather than the past. Society has always been a huge part of The Great Gatsby. Three separate social classes are portrayed in the novel: “old money,” “new money,” and the lowest class known as “no money.” ... “New money” families are those who made their money in the Roaring Twenties and often lavishly display their wealth. Overall each character is impacted by their class and it influences the rest of the story because of it. The Great Gatsby is a fantastic novel that presents multiple illusions that are apart of the so-called “American Dream”.