While there are numerous themes throughout the text of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the most prominent is that of the American Dream. The American Dream is the idea that any person, no matter what he or she is, or from where he or she has come, can become successful in life by his or her hard work; it is the idea that a self-sufficient person, an entrepreneur, can be a success. In this novel, however, it is the quest for this ‘dream’ (along with the pursuit of a romantic dream) that causes the ultimate downfall of Jay Gatsby.
Throughout the book, Gatsby avoids the reality of his simple, difficult childhood in efforts to avoid the embarrassment of having lived in poverty during his youth. At the age of seventeen, Jay Gatsby changed his name from James Gatz, marking the beginning of his version of the American Dream. “His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people [and] his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all […] the truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself [when he] invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would” (104). And although masked for most of the story, Gatsby’s childhood provides a key source of determination in his endeavor of achieving the American Dream.
During Gatsby’s early adulthood, he joined the army (where he first met Daisy). He initially loved her because of her extraordinary house and because many other men had already loved her. One evening in October, Gatsby fell in love with Daisy Fay, and in turn she fell in love with Gatsby. “[Daisy] was the first ‘nice’ girl that he had ever known” (155). Their love was uneasy at first but this uneasiness was lifted when he and Daisy fell in love, and he found that “she thought [he] knew a lot because [he] knew different things from her” (157). While their month of love was physically ended when Gatsby went abroad, their emotional love was not and Daisy, in her artificial world, could not understand why Gatsby could not come home; she wanted her love to be with her, she needed some assurance that she was doing the right thing. It was not long however, before Daisy fell in love with a wealthy, former All-American college football player named Tom Buchanan. Gatsby’s heart was br...
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...s romantic dream was dead, his American Dream remained alive and beaming. He still had everything going for him; he had his youth, money, and personality. He was morally superior to his fellow East Eggers and Nick acknowledged this when he told Gatsby that he was “worth the whole damn bunch put together” (162). To have it all taken away for something he had not done was the greatest misfortune of the entire novel and his death became even more disheartening at his funeral when, despite Nick’s efforts to make it respectable, only he, Gatsby’s father and servants, and one of Gatsby’s acquaintances attended. None of his ‘friends’, nor did the ‘love of his life’ come. Nick truly cared about Jay Gatsby as no one else did; he exemplified what a true friend is and did what only a friend would do for another. Daisy, however, did not seem to feel even a shred of sadness, or guilt, over Gatsby’s death which is apparent in her not attending his funeral and instead going away on a vacation with Tom. In the end, it was Gatsby’s strong desire for wealth and Daisy, his version of the American Dream, which proved to be the greatest reason for his grave downfall at the hands of a ruthless society.
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