During the Jazz Age, the 1920’s, the American Dream was formed by the upper class society. It was a dream of money, wealth, prosperity, the need to get rich quick, and the happiness that should come as a result of a booming economy. The American Dream was based purely upon materialistic things. The novel The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, illustrates the infatuation one man had toward his “American Dream”, his aspiration to fulfill it, the limitations America set on his dreams, and the disappointment of loosing his dream.
The true American dream is one of a self-made man becoming as successful in life as one can from hard work. Jay Gatsby was a man who fought hard to earn his place in the world. He dreamt of converting himself from a poor farm boy into a wealthy man of high esteem. “He starts with bootlegging, but in the end he seems to be engaged in the theft or embezzlement of securities” (de Koster). Gatsby was a mysterious man who was looking for love and wealth.
The Great Gatsby shows the misconception of the American Dream as being a life of prosperity, parties, happiness, and an all-together idealistic world. Many people in the 1920’s tried desperately to buy their happiness, but continuously failed. They bought themselves the finest automobiles, homes, furniture, clothing, and jewelry. “Beautiful shirts…it makes me sad because I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts before” (Fitzgerald, 98). The Great Gatsby shows how materialistic people were in the 1920’s.
Jay Gatsby loved Daisy. Everything he did in his life was centered on Daisy. She was something he wanted and worked hard to attain even though it would never be possible. “He stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way…and distinguished nothing except a single green light” (Fitzgerald, 25-26). To Gatsby, the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock was a symbol of money, love, infinite dreams, and infinite possibilities.
Gatsby held many parties so he could be near Daisy; he did everything he possibly could to have her in his presence. He loved her to the fullest extent, yet his love was not fully returned. Gatsby’s dream became corrupt because his main goal in life was to have Daisy’s love. Daisy was the ultimate symbol of wealth and happiness and the prime reason of Gatsby’s failure because he could never have her to himself. “Her voice is money!” (Fitzgerald, 127).
The American Dream pushed those who were crazy about money into crime. During the prohibition, when alcohol was illegal, Gatsby purchased lots of it, “and stocked with gin and liquors…. The bar was in full swing” (Fitzgerald, 44). He had parties to show off his wealth to others. He was trying to impress them by providing them with something that was prohibited. The Great Gatsby reflects the decade of the 1920’s, the time when the American dream became a disillusion.
The American Dream became so focused on money that any way of making it was thought to be acceptable, even if it was unethical like the bootlegging of liquor. “Jay Gatsby… acquires a fortune, or at least what appears to be one, by the age of thirty, by means that are far from clear but that are certainly dishonest” (de Koster). Money can have many effects on life, however it cannot buy happiness. The characters in The Great Gatsby felt money could buy them everything they wanted and needed. The American Dream should not be centered on money or material objects but they all thought it did. Money and materialism truly limited the American Dream of the characters in the book and the people of the 1920’s. They were so focused on money and the making of it that they were unable to enjoy the fruits of life. The American Dream became tainted with wealth, corrupting the dreamer and leaving him with a feeling of inadequacy and emptiness.
The tighter Gatsby held to his dream of love and wealth, the more it began to slip through his fingers. The more love Gatsby wanted from Daisy, the less love she felt for him. It became harder and harder for him to live his dream knowing he would not have the love of his life. Just as Gatsby’s dream of money, material, and love failed, so did the American dream. “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly” (Hughes).
The Great Gatsby portrays the corrupted American Dream for money, wealth, prosperity, and happiness. Just as The Great Gatsby was full of dreamers, so was America. Dreaming of wealth and prosperity are fine as long as they do not consume your life and prevent one’s chance for true happiness. “What difference does it make how much you have? What you do not have amounts to much more” (Seneca). Blinded by money and love, the American Dream became the American Tragedy.