Great Gatsby and the American Dream

Last Updated: 26 Jan 2021
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The Great Gatsby and the American Dream There is really no set definition of what the American Dream is, everyone has different views on what they see it as. The main idea of the American Dream is pretty much making it big and being successful in life, having everything you need, wealth, prosperity, love and happiness. Jay Gatsby portrays the American Dream in some senses but not to its full potential.

Throughout the novel The Great Gatsby the American Dream isn’t shown in its positive light but, more of the opposite of that: more of the downfall or failure of it. Everyone wanted to be living the American Dream - the pursuit of happiness in life. In the 1920’s instead of going for things that brought happiness everyone seemed to revolve around money, wealth, and power. Instead of finding happiness with what they had they were all trying to attain money and power and believed this would lead to happiness.

If they had all that already they took it all for granted and didn’t see everything that they had right there in front of them. Although it may have seemed someone had it all on the outside, once you really knew the person you could see that they weren’t living the best life and weren’t that much better than anyone else. The American Dream took a lot to actually achieve and no one really lived the actual dream because of many reasons but they were living some aspects of it.

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The three main characters fail to pursue the American Dream to its entirety - for Gatsby he tried to be something he wasn’t only so he could get Daisy and love, without this he was nothing; for Daisy it was because of greed she lived for money and social status which got in the way of her happiness and being with who she really loved; and for Tom his money gets in the way of morals and he took everything he had in front of him for granted. Jay Gatsby went from nothing to something to try to win over Daisy.

His American Dream wasn’t about having material things, although it involved having to get them, instead it was trying to get the love of Daisy. Earlier in his life when he first fell in love with Daisy he was a poor man and Daisy didn’t want that at all. Due to Gatsby’s low social standing she wouldn’t be with him. Gatsby wanted a better life and he thought he could do it if he put his mind to it, which is also a part of the American Dream. Eventually he got money and became rich but he did this through illegal methods.

This is the complete opposite of what the American Dream is because it’s supposed to be achieved through good virtue and hard work. He threw extravagant parties only to try and get close to Daisy, hoping that she would show up to them, but he himself never actually attended his parties. He wasn’t living a very great life as it seemed to everyone else, it was all a lie. The only thing that gave his life meaning was Daisy and that was the one thing he couldn’t have.

She only came back to Gatsby after Gatsby attained his millions and was part of the high social class, but his life still wasn’t very stable. This shows that she let wealth get in the way of her love. Daisy loved Gatsby but because of the fact that there was really no stability in his life she didn’t feel comfortable with it and wouldn’t leave Tom for him. She was after the money and because Tom was settled down she decided to stay with him where it was safe. Greed and the fact that money took priority over everything with her was what held her back from happiness and living the American Dream.

Tom was cheating on Daisy but she still stayed with him regardless just because she was comfortable with that lifestyle of being in the upper class and being seen as wealthy. Tom was a rich, handsome, successful man with a wife and family, and everything going for him, but instead of being happy with what he had he went and ruined others’ lives. He cheated on Daisy with Myrtle who was married to Wilson and destroyed their marriage. His money got in the way of his morals, family, and living the American Dream.

Tom and Daisy somewhat represent the American Dream through their wealth and prosperity this was only a part of the dream not the whole picture because they still weren’t happy they just possessed the material items. The American Dream is contradicted, everyone wanted it but no one lived it for what it was supposed to be. Gatsby in the end sees himself as a failure when Daisy chooses Tom instead of him. The failure of Gatsby's hoped for life relates to the failure of the American Dream. Without his dream Gatsby has nothing - nothing to keep him going, no direction, and no purpose to live.

He was unsatisfied with life and in the end, Wilson had killed him. This shows that Jay Gatsby’s American Dream didn’t go anywhere and wasn’t satisfied to its full extent although he attempted to succeed he failed. The extent of the novel The Great Gatsby representing the American Dream is more of showing that the American Dream isn’t always achieved and doesn’t always work out the way you want it to or think it should. The American Dream is hard to achieve and it seems as if it’s impossible for anyone to actually achieve every aspect of it, so it is just what it is, a dream.

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Great Gatsby and the American Dream. (2017, Feb 20). Retrieved from

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