Comparing Gatsby's and Carraway's perspective of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby:While the American Dream and the concept of success inherently differ from individual to individual, some...

Comparing Gatsby's and Carraway's perspective of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby:

While the American Dream and the concept of success inherently differ from individual to individual, some goals remain constant.  Compare Gatsby’s and Carraway’s perspective of the American Dream and the attainment of goals leading to success.


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susan3smith eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gatsby and Nick have somewhat similar perspectives of the American Dream.  Gatsby's dream is formed by Dan Cody.  Through Dan Cody, Gatsby experienced the "good life"--the luxurious life of fine clothes and a yacht.  Until Cody, Gatsby's ideas of success were somewhat simple--work hard, be disciplined, set priorities.  After Cody, Gatsby's idea of success takes a more tangible shape.

When Gatsby meets Daisy, he finds that she epitomizes the dream that was inspired by Cody.  She has "the voice of money," a fine house, and a well established family:

Her porch was bright with the bought luxury of star-shine; the wicker of the settee squeaked fashionably . . and Gatsby was overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves, of the freshness of many clothes and of Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor.

Gatsy's dream involves Daisy because she is wealthy, the wealth that Dan Cody had, and that Gatsby (as a young military officer) has yet to attain.  Wealth is associated with youth, mystery, love, and security.

Nick's idea of success is somewhat akin to Gatsby's.  He too wants to make money, so he enters the bond business--the gold rush of the 20s.  Gatsby is to Nick as Dan Cody was to Gatsby.  Nick's ideas of true wealth are defined by his exposure to Gatsbyas well as to the Buchanans.  The difference is that Nick's family was of a higher economic class than Gatsby's, so Nick doesn't have that far to climb.

Yet, Jordan does not offer the same type of inspiration to Nick as Daisy did to Gatsby.  Nick sees through Jordan's "carelessness" and superficiality.  He drops his relationship with Jordan shortly after he realizes that he is thirty.  Nick finds out that wealth does not make one responsible, honest, or compassionate.  Nick abandons his dream and heads back home.

Gatsby never has such a realization.  His entire adult life has been to become the man that Daisy would find attractive, so that he can be the man that he only pretended to be when they first met.  Gatsby's dream is impossible to fulfill.  His enormous wealth cannot buy him time; it cannot by him Daisy.  And Daisy betrays Gatsby just as Cody's Ella Kaye betrayed him.

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To me, there is great difference between Gatsby and Carraway's definitions of success, their means to achieve success, and their motives for success. The ideas I am about to present to you are those which I infer based on my understanding of characterization.

Gatsby seems to define success as getting the girl. He banks on it... literally. If Daisy was poor and Gatsby was unacceptable because he was rich I think he would have become poor to get what he desired. The funny thing about desires though is that once we get what we want, we get bored because the challenge is over.

Nick seems to define success as learning a career to make a living and have livelihood. That's it. Maybe it's because he's narrating a story about Gatsby, but really all we hear is that he's a "bond man".

Gatsby must be participating in illegal activity because of how new his money is and because of the calls he gets. His business is also so secretive.

Nick went to great effort to move to New York from the Middle West. He left family and a home to pursue a professional career in a great new land. He seems as if he doesn't have much backing him up by way of finances, just a working class family at home.

Gatsby's only motive seems to be Daisy, while Nick's motive is to build a future, although at his young age like so many others, it doesn't seem he knows where to go next.

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The Great Gatsby

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