The Emptiness of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby

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Jay Gatsby’s sole purpose in life is to achieve the American Dream: to become a land owner, married to the love of his life, who live in comfort and abundance. However, he never gets everything he wants as his love for Daisy is not as fully reciprocated as he wishes it to be. His dream, and the one Nick pursues as well, are only dreams in the end. The culture of the time only gives empty fulfillment with no real substance. The people, like their dreams, are only illusions of what they want to be.
Gatsby’s life after the war is his search for his American Dream, which, in his eyes, culminates in Daisy. Nick observes that Gatsby “found that he had committed himself to the following of a grail” (149). Fitzgerald chooses to compare Gatsby’s quest for Daisy to that of a quest for the Holy Grail as they are equally futile. The Holy Grail and the American Dream both do not exist and so Gatsby is chasing an imagined idea. Thus, his quest is for something not grounded in reality. Gatsby’s relationship with Daisy is based on false pretenses as he “had deliberately given daisy a sense of security; he let her believe that he was a person from much the same stratum as herself—that he was fully able to take care of her” (149). At the foundation their “love” is based on falsehoods, and so their love is, perhaps, doomed from the beginning since it has begun in a dream state as well. Gatsby’s father, Mr. Gatz, believed in the American Dream and is as naïve as his son. He says, “Jimmy was bound to get ahead” (173), as if it was Gatsby’s right do so as a pragmatic person. His pragmatism does get him his job with Wolfsheim, an example of an incredibly pragmatic man, and thus gets him his wealth. However, the time he lost in attaining his riches was ...

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...k seems to realize how deplorable and synthetic his friends from his summer on Long Island actually are. When he encounters Tom, he refuses to shake his hand and says to him “‘You know what I think of you” (178). He sees through everyone’s affectation and realizes how perverse their behavior was. He also abandons the East and moves back west because he has discovered that his dreams can never be accomplished and thus resolves everyone’s hopes. In the world of Gatsby achieving the Dream is impossible unless one is to abandon all sense of propriety and become as “careless”, cruel, and essentially empty as Tom and Daisy.

Works Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 2004. Print.
Turner, Fredrick J. "Turner: The Frontier In American History." Turner: The Frontier In American History. University of Virginia, 30 Sept. 1997. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.
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