The Death of the American Dreams

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “you become what you think about all day long”, and with James Gatz from Francis Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, that is completely true. James Gatz spent his days obsessing over following the American Dream and becoming a wealthy and prosperous man, and from James’ imagination manifested a man named Jay Gatsby. Just as Jay Gatsby spent his life vying for Daisy Buchanan’s love, and obsessing over her as mimicked through several love poems, he truly was only striving to reach his true love; wealth and prosperity, more commonly known as the American Dream.

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Daisy represented that dream. Looking through James’ wants and wishes, his past life, and Gatsby’s pursuit towards Daisy, it is shown that Jay Gatsby is just a character that James Gatz created, and Daisy is just a pawn in this love story James devised. James fell too deep into the role of Gatsby, which inevitably led to his death.

James Gatz grew up on a small farm in North Dakota, yet somehow something led him to become a wealthy party thrower on West Egg in New York City. That something, is the American Dream. Throughout the 1920s the American Dream, which is a type of national ethos for the United States, motivated millions of Americans to follow this ideal of making something of oneself, and achieving a prosperous life. Nevertheless, the American Dream portrayed in The Great Gatsby is warped, it’s turned into a selfish pursuit for pleasure, and greed for materialism. James Gatz follows this American Dream, he’s urged by his desire for being with the rich. This is shown through his schedule from when he was a kid on page 173. James spends an hour everyday practicing “elocution, poise and how to obtain it”, no boy on a farm in North Dakota would bother themselves with that, unless they desired to be with the rich. These wishes led him to create the Jay Gatsby persona. He was no longer a poor farm boy from North Dakota, he was Jay Gatsby, a rich partier with a mysterious past.

When James Gatz first met Daisy Buchanan he saw her as the American Dream, she was everything he aspired to be, or well, she had everything he aspired to have. This put him into the mindset that if he gets Daisy then he will finally be happy, he will have everything. Gatsby’s “love” towards Daisy fluctuated massively throughout all the years he knew her. It first was a lust or greed for her life, but it turned into an obsession, and it soon became the only thing he knew. However, when he got her back, there was almost a realization for Gatsby, he had the wealthy prosperous life he so desperately strived for, so why did he even need her. He didn’t love her and he finally realized that. Still, he was trying to keep something between him and Daisy, even though there was nothing there. I loved you first: but afterwards your love depicts a sort of example of this, “I loved and guessed at you, you construed me and loved me for what might or might not be.” Daisy had loved Gatsby through him being rich and being poor, she loved him for what he might or might not be, her love outsoared his because her love was real. His love is toward money, while her love is to her past. Gatsby and Daisy are so similar in their pursuits for each other, that after all those years of being away from one another it just warped their ideas of love.

The pursuit for love is often more thrilling than actually finding it. Going back to the idea that Daisy was the personification of the American Dream for Gatsby, the pursuit for her gave his life purpose. He was chasing after becoming wealthy and prosperous, which in his eyes was Daisy. He didn’t realize that along the way of his pursuit he became that man, but it was blindsided by a new obsession for Daisy. James fell in too deep into the roll of Gatsby, and he fell in too deep with Daisy, and it cost him his life. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning – So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” (180) Gatsby chased the future, his future with Daisy, and his future of completing his American Dream. Nevertheless, when Gatsby chased the future he was just chasing his own death. This idea eludes him because of his ambition to obtain everything he wants. His death was a wake up call for the greedy. Gatsby’s pursuit of “love” was ignited by his obsession with the rich and powerful, however, Gatsby forgets about this ideal, which concludes the thought that the journey is more memorable than the destination.

To some love may be a clear path doused in light from all directions, for others, love may be a series of dimly lit roads where none of them lead to their heart’s desires. Against Illuminations portrays an idea that someone’s love can be made clear by light. “These oblongs out of doorways, the thin jet under the window shade, beneath the shutter, the match flame squinting at the dark, the glimmer between bent fingers where old men sit.” The thin jet, the match flame, and the glimmer are all synonyms for light and those words illustrate that love cannot be found without something lighting the way. James only loves his dream, while his character, Gatsby, loves Daisy. The only thing lighting the way is the green light on Daisy’s dock, but that is unreachable just like the American Dream.

The destination after a long journey is frequently found to be anticlimactic.

The American Dream in the 1920s basically meant that everyone wanted enough money to buy cars and enough whiskey to crash them.

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The Death of the American Dreams. (2019, Oct 28). Retrieved from