The Theme of the American Dream in the Great Gatsby
The American dream is a concept that many strive for and will not be deterred from. Within The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jay Gatsby longs to create the most ideal lifestyle with Daisy, someone he has taken an interest in. Gatsby’s attraction to Daisy, who is married to Tom Buchanan, makes him go to extreme lengths to win her over. Ultimately, this leads to his downfall as this fantasy will not be reality. Although his dream is unattainable, he perseveres. Gatsby’s devotion to his beautiful, yet unrealistic dream of having a relationship with Daisy results in his corruption and demise.
Gatsby’s desire to achieve the American Dream leads to his efforts to win Daisy’s affection. Gatsby’s interest in Daisy started five years earlier, before he left for the war, “The officer looked at Daisy while she was speaking, in a way that every young girl wants to be looked at some time…” (75). It is evident that Gatsby’s love for Daisy began when they were young and has only grown since then. Gatsby convinces himself that Daisy is the key to fulfilling the American Dream, which makes him aim “for a single green light… at the end of a dock” (21). The narrator Nick Carraway first describes Gatsby by saying, “If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures then there was something gorgeous about him” (6). This suggests that Gatsby’s appearance is almost built, in the sense that Gatsby has planned everything in his life for one sole purpose. It is clear that Nick sees Gatsby has plans for his future that were unknown at the time. Also, Gatsby’s wealth is derived from his desire to be with Daisy and live out this fantasy that he had since they first met. “Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay…I think he half expected her to wander into one of his parties…”, and this illustrates the lengths he will go to, so Daisy reciprocates the feelings he expressed towards her (63). He throws parties because he is hopeful that she will attend one. This exemplifies his desire to have a relationship with her. Unfortunately, in the end, “…Daisy tumbles short of his dreams…” because the picture he created exceeds reality (76). Daisy’s denial to the fact that she never loved Tom, crushes Gatsby and his dreams of them living the perfect life together. Gatsby’s expectations overpowered reality and this leads to his defeat.
Gatsby’s continued obsession with Daisy highlights his corruption that results in his death. Gatsby went to extreme measures to become wealthy. He changes his name and is involved in some illegal pursuits in which he gained his wealth from. The ravishing parties at his ornate house were not for his enjoyment, but rather his hope that Daisy would “wander into one of his parties…” (63). He obtains a great deal of money; however, the extent that he went to to do so, changes his character. Most importantly, reality brought Gatsby overwhelming disappointment because of Daisy’s rejection of him. Throughout the past five years, Gatsby attained great wealth, which could have led him to great success. His pursuit of Daisy restricted him from his potential to be great, “…he’d of been a great man…He’d of helped build up the country” (168). As time passed from when he first met Daisy, her life progressed while Gatsby remained stunted. He was fixed in a fantasy that he would not escape and resulted in his death, “…paid a high price for living too long with a single dream” (161). Gatsby’s actions were for the purpose of gaining wealth and power to attract Daisy, and this represents the American Dream taking precedence over him. In his attempts to charm Daisy, he ends up corrupting himself because he’s living in a fantasy that is unattainable. “Her [Daisy] voice was full of money”, which demonstrates that Daisy is not only Gatsby’s dream, but also represents wealth, and this leads to success in America (127). He believes that Daisy is the key to success; however, that is not the case. Gatsby’s accomplishments could have brought him success without Daisy. Once this fantasy dies, Gatsby dies along with it.
Society’s rules prohibit Gatsby from making his dream a reality, however, his determination allows him to persevere. Unlike Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan is aware of her position in society, and does not want to jeopardize this role. She is not satisfied with her marriage; yet, she lives by the social norms of the era, which leaves her morally corrupt because she wants a relationship with Gatsby. Also, the accumulation of wealth differentiates people. “The white palaces of fashionable East Egg” is home to those with “old money”, like Daisy and Tom, who were both born into wealth. They have always lived at the top of the social ladder that society created. On the other side of the bay lives “…the well less fashionable…” West Egg people like Gatsby and Nick, who were not born into high authority, but rather earned it in one way or another (5). This separation depicts that Gatsby and Daisy cannot conform to the other’s life. Despite the established social norms, like faithful marriage and wealth, Gatsby, nevertheless, persists. His constant efforts may appear negative because Daisy is married, but the passion that Gatsby presents is powerful. Nick tells Gatsby that he “…can’t repeat the past…”, but Gatsby is determined to prove him wrong (87). Also, Jordan explains to Nick, “He’s afraid, he’s waited so long…”, and this shows how vulnerable he is, however, nothing is able to dismantle his determination to be with Daisy. The beauty in all of this is that Gatsby loves Daisy enough to keep fighting for her. Gatsby disregards all the social norms that Daisy has conformed to, and pursues his goal of having the American Dream with her.
Gatsby’s infatuation with achieving the American Dream with Daisy by his side ultimately results in devastation. The spread of the American Dream results in much corruption and desolation. Many people yearn to fulfill the American Dream of reaching their highest potential. Gatsby was willing to go to great lengths to establish his dream that he had since he was fairly young. In acquiring his goal, he becomes corrupt as he is fighting for a fantasy that can never be reality. However, there is light in the dark because he is determined to fight for someone he loves, overlooking social norms. Gatsby’s hope and determination demonstrates his beauty, however, his corruption is the result of the extent that he goes to for Daisy and, in the end, Gatsby, himself, and his fantasy cease to exist.