Great Gatsby: Analysis of the American Dream

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The Great Gatsby is a novel that illustrates the society in the 1920's and the associated beliefs, values and dreams of the American population at that time. These beliefs, values and dreams can be summed up be what is termed the "American Dream"; a dream of money, wealth, prosperity and the happiness that supposedly came with the booming economy and get-rich-quick schemes that formed the essential underworld of American upper-class society. This underworld infiltrated the upper echelons and created such a moral decay within general society that paved the way for the ruining of dreams and dashing of hopes as they were placed confidently in the chance for opportunities that could be seized by one and all. Scott Fitzgerald illustrates the American Dream and the "foul dust" or the carelessness of a society that floats in the wake of this dream. By looking at each character and their situation and ambition it can be seen that the American Dream was not limited to one social class or type of person, that it was nation wide and was found within everyone.

From the position as narrator the reader has access to the thoughts and feelings of Nick Carraway more than any other characters; but this same position also reduces the effectiveness of the reader as a judge of character because he is presented in a biased way compared to others. With that said, it can be seen that Nick suffers greatly from his experiences in New York. His regard for human decency is ruined and he leaves with his hopes dashed and a disgust at how the materialism that runs rampant throughout his social class is capable of ruining lives and dreams. Nick, as with all characters is a believer in the American Dream because even he moves East to work in the bond business - then a booming industry. Because of the actions of his cousin Daisy, her husband Tom and the beliefs held by his love interest in the novel Jordan, Nick is finally privy to how the dreams and values held by all these people overrun their sense of sensible behavior and how the general society caused their personalities to be affected this way.

The transformation between James Gatz and Jay Gatsby is an example of how people can transform themselves according to their ambition for wealth and prosperity. The use of illegal activities to gain Gatsby's wealth is alluded to in the book; this shows the extent of how the American Dream circumvented the moral revulsion and pushed people who were crazy about money into crime - driving the moral standing of wealthier citizens into the ground. To Gatsby, his dream was symbolised by Daisy; Gatsby even says that her voice sounds like money, a direct correlation between Daisy and the wealth and happiness that Gatsby would supposedly enjoy if only he could have married Daisy but could still enjoy if he had married her five years later. His pursuit of happiness with Daisy was the ultimate cause of the degradation of Gatsby's morals and realistic dreams. This is because he held an unrealistic view of life and how he could recreate the past. His dreams had distorted reality to the point where when his rationality realised that the image of life and of Daisy did not coincide with the real life version his mind did not grasp that perhaps the dream had receded to the point of no return, consequently his dreams helped to result in the devastating end that was the finish of The Great Gatsby.

This difference in Gatsby's mental image and the real image of daisy was due to the incompleteness of daisy's character. Her rendering of the American Dream included fun, comfortable living with money and influence. To do this her marriage choices were limited to men with money, preferably with old inherited money, the type that prestige accompanies. The reader can see that Daisy is a superficial character who considers happiness more of a physical state than a mental state by the scene when she is talking about her daughter and what she said when she...
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