The Pursuit and Corruption of the American Dream
Throughout F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the American Dream is the central concept, and this theme affects every character. Gatsby’s attempt to capture the American Dream of happiness and love is through wealth and power. Gatsby spent all of his time, energy and devotion towards his dream. The pursuit of Gatsby’s dream was tainted by the corruption surrounding his dream, and the dream itself. The energy that might have gone into noble goals was directed to the search of power and pleasure, and an ostentatious form of success.
The American Dream is based on the belief that every individual is able to succeed in life on the sole basis of his/her skill and effort. The heart of this dream is that everybody has the same opportunity to succeed. Gatsby has the opportunity to succeed in life- and achieve happiness love. His personal dream represents the larger American Dream where all have the chance to get what they want. Gatsby is a self-made man; he cast himself to fit the mold of a man in order to fulfill his dream. He worked very hard and made a strict system of life so he could fit his ideal life of money and success “‘Jimmy was bound to get ahead. He always had some resolves like this or something. Do you notice what he’s got about improving his mind? He was always great for that.’ (Pg. 182)” Mr. Gatz, Gatsby’s father said this about him at his funeral after displaying a schedule Gatsby kept while he was young. Even at that age, Gatsby had strict set goals, and a dream he was aiming for. !
Gatsby’s dream of rekindling the love between himself and Daisy is his driving force. He is nothing without her, more importantly, without the dream that he could have her. He spent all the years of his life that they were apart dedicated to her and being able to someday get her back; no matter what he had to do in order to get there. “‘When I said you were a particular friend of Tom’s he (Gatsby) started to abandon the whole idea. He doesn’t know very much about Tom, though he says he’s read a Chicago newspaper for years just on the chance of catching a glimpse of Daisy’s name.’ (Pg. 84)” He fixed all his wonder and ability on the dream of Daisy. He used material things, the green light at the end of her dock, and even Daisy herself to focus the power of his dream. He had objects signify Daisy, and keep him thinking of her even when she wasn’t there. “Gatsby believed in the green light…. (Pg. 189)” He believed so deeply in the dream nothing else was of much importance!
. His whole career, his confidence in himself and in life is devastated when his dream is shattered. He had nothing to drive towards besides Daisy. Gatsby’s dream of getting Daisy back relates to the American Dream because he invested all of his time, effort and being into achieving his ultimate goal. All of the meaning in his life was devoted to Daisy. She was his object he believed he could work toward. He believed he had the opportunity to get her with the proper energy and exertion. Daisy was his idea of success, and so by acquiring her, he acquired his dream. Gatsby doesn’t rest until his American Dream has been fulfilled.
Gatsby’s American Dream was doomed from the start because of the means he hoped to bring about ends. He corrupted the American Dream. His dream was ruined with money, illegal business, and fake goals. Daisy, who is wealthy and beautiful, is the object of Gatsby’s affection, and furthermore, the focus of his dream. She had a life which was different from the one Gatsby had, which was more attractive because it was out of reach. This is very much like the idea of the American dream; the strive to become more successful, and the belief in the opportunity that you can. Gatsby saw this goal, to become wealthy and powerful, and expected/tried to attain it. He struggles to fit himself into another social group. In his attempt, he changes his name from James Gatz to Jay Gatsby. “James Gatz- that was really, or at least legally, his name…. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a 17 year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the!
end. (Pg. 104)” American democracy is based on the idea of equality among people, but it fails to state the condition of social discrimination and class divisions. This separation of classes was the factor that produced the change in Gatsby, and corrupted the American Dream. He achieved this class transformation through shady bootlegging. “‘Oh, I’ve been in several things,’ he corrected himself. ‘I was in the drug business, and then the oil business. But I’m not in either one now.’(Pg. 95)” He believes the only way to impress Daisy is to show off his wealth, as a way of showing her that he is as good as her. “‘Do you like it [his house]?’ ‘I love it, but I don’t see how you live there all alone.’ ‘I keep it always full of interesting people, night and day. People who do interesting things. Celebrated people.’ (Pg. 95-96)” Directly following this passage, Gatsby brings Daisy to his house, and watches as she admires every crevice of it. He then takes out all of his !
fine silk shirts, and she starts to cry over the beauty of them, and their missed relationship. This is the first time we see Gatsby “break” Daisy. She had broken down with awe of him, and the only way he got her to do this is through his pride in his mansion and his expensive clothing. He comes to riches only so he can fulfill his dream. She was Gatsby’s material substitute of a dream. Something for him to concentrate his high hopes and desires on that he had for himself ever since he was a boy. He felt the only way to get her was to change himself into something worthy. He bought a huge house across the bay from her, “Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay. (Pg. 83)”, and held extravagant parties every weekend, in the hope that she would attend, and he could astonish her with his wealth.
The Great Gatsby is an example of the intense pursuit and corruption of the American Dream. Gatsby didn’t rest until his dream was so close he could almost touch it. The American dream still holds true in today’s time, be it love, wealth or recognition. At heart of the American Dream, everyone wants something in life, and they strive to get it. Gatsby is an example of this desire, however, he dishonored the dream, by letting wealth, and the dream itself become too important. “If that was true, he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. (Pg. 169)” He believed so deeply in his dream, that without it, failure was inevitable. His death is basically insignificant; without his dream, he is essentially dead already. He had no more will to live, and no meaning to his life. His entire existence was chasing after a dream.