Dicuss how the theme of "The American Dream" in The Great Gatsby makes it a great piece of American fiction. Please answer in detail and with quotesThis is an essay question and all help insights...

Dicuss how the theme of "The American Dream" in The Great Gatsby makes it a great piece of American fiction.

Please answer in detail and with quotes

This is an essay question and all help insights and opinions for writing it are appreciated. Thank you very much.

Asked on by krispysoz

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The pursuit of the illusionary "American Dream" is what makes Jay Gatsby one of the tragic heroes of American literature as, in his idealism, he pursues this flawed dream with tenacious loyalty:

...Gatsby was overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imrisons and preserves. of the freshness of many clothes and of Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor. (Chapter 8)


While he is to be admired for this tenacious pursuit, and his acts of chivalry toward his lady love, the means by which he seeks the fulfillment of his dream are certainly flawed--"He took what he could get ravenously and unscrupulously"--as is his goal of the "golden girl" whose voice is only "like money." 

Certainly, this theme of the American Dream is relevant today as it has been throughout American history in a country in which the false value of materialism is set as the ultimate goal of many.  But, unlike so many others, Jay Gatsby does not pursuit his dream without heart.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I would probably start by using Nick as a guide for my answer.  Seeing the pursuit of the American Dream through Nick's eyes might be where I think that the process of analyzing the American Dream starts.  In my mind, he has the ability to analyze quite clearly how the pursuit of the American Dream through strictly material ends has its limitations.  Nick is able to witness how Gatsby's materialism ends up becoming a force of constriction, not expansion.  I think being able to use Nick as a resource for quotations based on his own impressions would be of vital importance in exploring how the American Dream's penchant for materialism and economic possession contains its own inherent limitations.

missy575's profile pic

missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Thank you for conceding that this is an essay question of yours. We do not write answer for you but give you insight and you seem to understand that. Having said that, I will give you a few ideas to consider.

The American Dream is seen in home ownership, success, and freedom. Another perception is that it means having it all. I think if you were to check out chapter 6, when we see a flashback of Daisy and Gatsby's previous relationship, we understand that for Gatsby, having it all means that now that he has the cash he can get the girl. Check the last few pages for this flashback, and you can use a quote to support this.

Another aspect worth considering is that Gatsby essentially failed. He worked really hard and did so likely illegally. This is the way that many people pursue their American Dreams. It's good to see that Gatsby reaped what he had sown because it teaches us to go about living our lives honestly and by making decisions with a moral conscience. As I watched Gatsby in chapter 7 have no compassion for the passing of Myrtle, I concluded that this is not okay. What he had done to recapture a lost love was not worth it. A quote from the end of chapter 7 when Gatsby is spying on Daisy and Tom would illustrate this problem.

Hope these ideas help you get started!

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