The American Dream represents the idea that people can escape their background and hope for more. How does your reading of The Great Gatsby illuminate this?

Asked on by beth0001

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

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The original question had to be edited down.  I would suggest that The Great Gatsby represents a part of this conception of the American Dream.  Certainly, Jay Gatsby represents this notion of the American Dream.  He sought out to be a success.  He desired to move past his parents.  He wanted to use his independence to conceive of a better life.  He was able to escape the limitations of his own background and hope for more.  This has to be part of his narrative.  Yet, I think that Fitzgerald wanted to invoke another side to this dream.  If this pursuit, as Gatsby's was, is predicated upon shallow ends, ends where selfishness and individual satisfaction are the only discernible qualities, it can quickly turn into a nightmare.  Gatsby must also accept this quotient of the American Dream.  Fitzgerald broadens this out to many others in the novel.  The Buchanans and Jordan Baker are examples of pursuit of dreams that are rooted in selfishness, visions and endeavors that come at the cost of others.  For Fitzgerald, the American Dream can easily move into the domain of a nightmare when individual narcissism and selfishness becomes the end result of its pursuit.


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