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Failure of Jay Gatsby of The Great Gatsby
A society naturally breaks up into various social groups over time. Members of lower statuses constantly suppose that their problems will be resolved if they gain enough wealth to reach the upper class. Many interpret the American Dream as being this passage to high social status and, once reaching that point, not having to concern about money at all. Though, the American Dream involves more than the social and economic standings of an individual. The dream involves attaining a balance between the spiritual strength and the physical strength of an individual. Jay Gatsby, of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, fails to reach his ultimate dream of love for Daisy in that he chooses to pursue it by engaging in a lifestyle of high class.
Gatsby realizes that life of the high class demands wealth to become priority; wealth becomes his superficial goal overshadowing his quest for love. He establishes his necessity to acquire wealth, which allows him to be with Daisy. The social elite of Gatsby's time sacrifice morality in order to attain wealth. Tom Buchanan, a man from an "enormously wealthy" family, seems to Nick to have lost all sense of being kind (Fitzgerald 10). Nick describes Tom's physical attributes as a metaphor for his true character when remarking that Tom had a "hard mouth and a supercilious manner...arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face...always leaning aggressively forward...a cruel body...[h]is speaking voice...added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed" (Fitzgerald 11). The wealth Tom has inherited causes him to become arrogant and condescending to others, while losing his morals. Rather than becoming immoral from wealth as Tom has, Gatsby engages in criminal activity as his only path to being rich. His need for money had become so great that he "was in the drug business" (Fitzgerald 95). Furthermore, he lies to Nick about his past in order to cover up his criminal activity. Gatsby claims to others that he has inherited his wealth, but Nick discovers "[h]is parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people" (Fitzgerald 104). Gatsby enters a world where money takes precedence over moral integrity. Materialism has already overshadowed a portion of his spiritual side. A quest for true love is doomed for failure in the presence of immorality. Once wealth has taken priority over integrity, members of the high social class focus on immediate indulgences, rather than on long-term pleasures of life such as love.
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True, binding relationships amongst individuals no longer exist once wealth has taken precedence. Family relationships exist superficially amongst high-ranking members of society. Marriages become simply labels of society rather than bindings between two individuals. Catherine observes the superficiality of marriages when remarking about the couples of the story, "Neither of them can stand the person they're married to" (Fitzgerald 37). The binding of a marriage has become very weak when Daisy "had told [Gatsby] that she loved him, and Tom Buchanan saw. He was astounded" (Fitzgerald 125). Gatsby accepts the fact that marriages rarely represent true love, and does not hesitate to tell his love to Daisy right in front of her husband. More than the institution of marriage, Gatsby loses all sense of family. His wealth has metaphorically become his family. He relies on his money rather than a family to bring comfort and security to his life. Gatsby's musician sings, "The rich get richer and the poor get - children" (Fitzgerald 101). Gatsby makes an attempt to regain the loss of family he experiences through his wealth. Nick describes a story about how Gatsby "agreed to pay five years' taxes on all the neighboring cottages if the owners would have their roofs thatched with straw. Perhaps their refusal took the heart out of his plan to Found a Family" (Fitzgerald 93). Yet again, Gatsby takes advantage of his wealth to replace his deteriorated spirit and emotions. As a result of superficial family relationships, all love for that matter becomes based on social status. Myrtle's love for Tom is ultimately doomed to failure due to her standing in a lower social class than Tom. This large social gap appears when Tom "had discovered that Myrtle had some sort of life apart from him in another world" (Fitzgerald 130). The couple is never meant to be. Gatsby had experienced this exact situation with Daisy when he was in the army. His love for Daisy was impossible in society because "he was at present a penniless young man without a past...he had no comfortable family standing behind him" (Fitzgerald 156). Gatsby encounters his dream of love at this point of his life. He knows that at present time a relationship of love is impossible with Daisy due to his low social standing. Gatsby becomes determined to breach that gap between them in order to have a loving relationship with Daisy. This dream is the representation of the American Dream. He does reach the physical circumstances necessary to love her, but he has focused too much on money and power the previous five years of his life. He wants his love with Daisy to flourish while occupying the rest of both their lives. Unfortunately, he has lost the ability to love. He no longer possesses moral integrity or the ability to handle a relationship. In resignation of his dream he can simply hope to prove that Daisy "never loved [Tom]" (Fitzgerald 116). Gatsby leaves his mark proving that true love is bound to fail amongst extreme wealth.
Gatsby possesses an extreme imbalance between the material and spiritual sides of himself. His ultimate goal of love swaps places with his secondary goal of becoming rich. He portrays the ultimate failure of the American Dream in that individuals tend to believe wealth is everything. Historically, America was the New World of endless opportunity and wealth. But a nation cannot operate solely on materialism. The spirits of individuals are the true composition of a nation.