The American Dream in the Great Gatsby

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The American Dream can mean different things depending on who is asked. Some will answer it is the freedom of religion, class or race, others will claim it is about the ability to choose where they want to work, what they want to wear, or what’s for breakfast the next day.

For Jay Gatsby and many others, the American Dream is about gaining wealth and material possessions in an attempt to find happiness. Through his novel, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald shows how the American Dream is only the concept of perfection, something that can never be acquired, but always can be reached for.

Daisy Buchanon was always mesmerized by wealth. Her dream is to have a luxurious lifestyle filled splendor. Before the events of the novel, she could not see Gatsby providing this lifestyle for her. Before Gatsby went to war, she promised him that she would wait for him to come back and they would get married. Instead, she met Tom and married him, not for his personality, she married him for his money. Her promise to Gatsby before he left was an empty one – she never intended to follow through with it. Gatsby wasn’t upper class at the time they met, he was relatively poor and could not satisfy her desire for wealth. Even Gatsby realized he was below her and he felt that, “he was in Daisy’s house by a colossal accident . . . he was at present a penniless young man without a past, and at any moment the invisible cloak of his uniform might slip from his shoulders.” (149). Gatsby showed no ability to be able to support her, so she lost interest while he was away and eventually forgot about him. She only started showing renewed interest when he began throwing extravagant parties every night. While over at Gatsby’s, Daisy comments about...

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... will store up in his ghostly heart" (101). Gatsby expected perfection from Daisy, but was instead met with a shallow corrupt woman, who could never fulfill all of Gatsby’s dreams. Daisy was never meant to be Gatsby’s, she was only supposed to be the thing he tried to get, the false image of perfection. The real fulfillment of the American dream was Gatsby’s path towards perfection, not his eventual failure to reach the end.

Throughout his novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald shows many characters trying to find perfection. Daisy, Myrtle, and Gatsby all believed wealth would lead them to happiness, though, no matter how hard they tried, they could never quite get there. These characters show that the American Dream is about striving for perfection, but never reaching it.

Works Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992.
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