The American Dream in The Great Gatsby

Topics: F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby Pages: 5 (1344 words) Published: May 29, 2014
Just Beyond Reach
According to the U.S. novelist, Jill Robinson, “The American Dream, the idea of the happy ending, is an avoidance of responsibility and commitment” ( What Robinson is saying is that a lot of people expect to achieve the American Dream, i.e. happiness, through the accumulation of external things, meanwhile avoiding the true origins of happiness, which are internal. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby’s character also faces this dilemma as he reaches for the American Dream, believing that his happiness will come from accumulating wealth, and in turn, gaining the love of Daisy. Throughout the story, the motif of the color green appears as a symbol of love and wealth for Gatsby, the pursuit of which ultimately leads to Gatsby’s demise, symbolizing the decline of the American Dream.

The green light at the end of Daisy’s dock symbolizes hope and love to Gatsby, which are central to his idea of the American Dream. Daisy’s cousin, Nick, describes his /reaching out across the water trembling, appearing to be looking into a dark abyss. Nick explains, “Involuntarily I glanced seaward and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock” (21). The green light at the end of Daisy and Tom’s dock is all that Gatsby can see of their house, and Gatsby grows to associate the green light with Daisy. This green light represents a ray of hope for Gatsby in his attempt to regain the love he once shared with Daisy. However, Gatsby’s dream, like the light, is just beyond his reach, remaining remote and difficult to attain. Ultimately, hope for love fades for Jay Gatsby, as does the light across the bay, symbolic of the decline of the American Dream, and the uselessness of chasing it. The green light symbolizes Gatsby’s idea of true love, which is embodied solely in Daisy. He makes her aware of this by telling her “If it wasn’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay. You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock” (92). He wants to regain the love he once had with her, at any cost. When Daisy does not reciprocate Gatsby’s affections as he assumed she would, Gatsby’s green light of love began to slowly fade away, signifying the decline of his American Dream.

Furthermore, the color green also strongly represents wealth and achievement for Gatsby. Gatsby often engaged in extravagant displays of wealth for others to see. Nick describes Gatsby’s first attempt at dazzling Daisy with his wealth at their first meeting. Daisy is tricked into coming to Nick’s house for tea, only to have Gatsby show up. In preparation for her arrival, Nick uses a hyperbole of a “greenhouse” to describe the excessive amount of flowers Gatsby had delivered to his home in order to impress Daisy. Nick recounts, “…for at two o’clock a greenhouse arrived from Gatsby’s, with innumerable receptacles to contain it” (84). Having tricked Daisy into meeting with him, so Gatsby lavishes her with fresh greenery. The fragrance intoxicates Daisy and against her best wishes she begins to fall for Gatsby and the wealth he represents. Soon Gatsby insists that Nick and Daisy join him at his estate. While there, Gatsby continued to display his excessive wealth by showing off his expensive collection of shirts. Nick describes the scene saying, “While we admired he brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher—shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids and corral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange, with monograms of Indian blue” (92). Nick’s use of repetition adds the sense of excessive displays of wealth when he describes the many different colors of the shirts. Daisy herself becomes overwhelmed by the beauty and begins to sob. The shirts push her over the edge because of the intense colors, including the ubiquitous apple-green, that symbolize the life she could be living, the wealth she could enjoy. Even...
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