Is Daisy Buchanan Honest: the Illusion of the American Dream

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The American Dream in “The Great Gatsby”

Books and movies have been influencing the world in many ways for decades. For this writing project, I chose the book version of The Great Gatsby (1925), written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the film directed by Baz Luhrmann (2013). The movie stars actors Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, and Jason Clark and actresses Carey Mulligan, Elizabeth Debicki, and Isla Fisher. While there are many differences and similarities, the plot of the book and film are the same.

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Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) arrives in New York, what Fitzgerald called “West Egg” across the bay from his cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) and next door to Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Gatsby, the newly rich millionaire, is obsessed with a former lover, Daisy Buchanan, who is married to Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), both of whom come from old money.

Class Distinctions and the American Dream

Both the film and the movie highlight the differences in class backgrounds, including the working class, the old money, the newly rich, and the “American Dream,” based on the time period of the “roaring twenties” and how it is imaginary and unattainable. To me, the story of Gatsby doing all that he did to try and get back to Daisy is remarkable. I like that Nick is the narrator because it gives us more than one way to view the story. Gatsby and Daisy had met and fell in love eight years prior to the beginning of the story, but because Gatsby didn’t have a lot of money and was an officer in the Army during WWI, they didn’t work out. Gatsby then went off to war and wrote Daisy a letter asking her to wait for him while he tried to become the person he thought he should be, but when Daisy received the letter, it was the day before her wedding, and instead of facing the public and ridicule, she went ahead and married Tom Buchanan and then eight years later is when the story begins.

First, I asked myself what the American Dream meant to me. I think, to most people, it means having the opportunity to become whoever you want to be, but I’m sure it has many different meanings to other people. This story was written at a time when the United States of America was thriving in many ways, which is why it was called the “Roaring Twenties.” Both Gatsby and Nick had fought in WWI, and it was after the war that the stock market rose, which led to people becoming more materialistic and constantly trying to figure out what they could spend their money on. It was during the prohibition era, which Fitzgerald says backfired and, in return, made alcohol cheaper. It was a time when the American Dream was alive within everybody. Fitzgerald’s writing about the parties that Gatsby always had was related to the lack of morals people had and their constant desires for money and greed rather than morals. There were characters that came from old money (inheritance), the newly rich people who had created it for themselves, and the working class.

?Nick, Myrtle Wilson, and George Wilson are examples of the working class. None of them were born into money, and they are all just trying to get by, but they all have one thing in common: making more money. Nick moves to New York to become a bonds salesman in hopes of becoming rich, Myrtle is having an affair with Tom (Daisy’s husband), and George is always trying to buy Tom a car so he can fix it and sell it to make more money. All these characters represent the American Dream. They are all trying to make more money than they really need in order to fill some void within themselves. How much is getting rich really worth it? I understand wanting things, but not to the extent they go to. I think Nick is the only character in the book that has some kind of morals, but I say that lightly because he also involves himself in situations that are wrong.

?Tom and Daisy Buchanan are examples of old money, seeing as they both come from wealthy families. Finally, Jay Gatsby is an example of a newly rich. He grew up a poor farm boy and reinvented himself by whatever means necessary. In a way, he is the definition of the American Dream, just not in a very good way. He made his fortune by committing crimes and selling bootlegged alcohol. When comparing them to the American Dream, you start to see the pattern that Fitzgerald was making.

Gatsby’s Imaginary Pursuit of the Dream

?I believe Fitzgerald used Gatsby’s longing for Daisy as the imaginary belief of the American Dream. Multiple times, he wrote of Gatsby staring at the green light across the bay, which was on the dock at Daisy’s house, one time even reaching out as if he was trying to grab it while he imagined how meeting with her again after years apart will go. All Gatsby wanted was Daisy, and he had built up an imaginary idea of how it would play out once he got to this point. After officially meeting Nick, Gatsby asks him to invite Daisy to his house for tea, just Nick and Daisy, so that he could show up at Nicks’s house and re-spark his relationship with Daisy, and so she could see his house and how big it was. Gatsby had planned all of this without knowing whether Daisy even wanted to see him, which relates to the idea of the American Dream being imaginary, just as Gatsby imagined his ability to rekindle his relationship with Daisy.

?What was also a key point in the illusion of the American Dream was that it was unattainable. He made it apparent through conflicts within the story. After Gatsby and Daisy had begun their affair, Gatsby wanted more of Daisy himself and wanted her to tell Tom that she never loved him. At one point, Tom, Daisy, Gatsby, and Nick are together in the same room, and Daisy gets nervous and hesitates when telling Tom her true feelings. Then, when Daisy hits Myrtle while driving and kills her, Gatsby stands outside of her window loyally in hopes of being able to defend her. Meanwhile, Daisy is inside with Tom plotting against Gatsby, which relates to the unattainable feature of the American Dream because no matter what he does, he is unable to get Daisy the way he wants.

The Unattainable American Dream

?In the end, Gatsby is killed by George Wilson because Tom convinced him that Gatsby was the one who hit Myrtle with the car, even though it was Daisy, and she didn’t make any attempt to save him. He worked for years to reinvent himself for her and succumbed to the unreality of his dream. Tom and Daisy quickly moved away and didn’t seem to care whatsoever about what Daisy had done or what had happened to Gatsby. Tom and Daisy define the superficial character of their class at that time, which I believe was Fitzgerald’s point. In reality, the American Dream is possible, but you can’t take any shortcuts to achieve it truthfully.


  1. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. (1925). The Great Gatsby. Publisher.

  2. Luhrmann, Baz. (2013). The Great Gatsby. Film. Warner Bros. Pictures.

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Is Daisy Buchanan Honest: The Illusion of the American Dream. (2023, Sep 01). Retrieved from