Gatsby's dream is an allegory of the American Dream and he represents Americans themselves. But how do we know it? What makes this allegory?Gatsby's dream is an allegory of the American Dream and...

Gatsby's dream is an allegory of the American Dream and he represents Americans themselves. But how do we know it? What makes this allegory?

Gatsby's dream is an allegory of the American Dream and he represents Americans themselves. But how do we know it?What makes this allegory?

Asked on by madziula

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litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I would say we are a sorry lot then.  We all want what we cannot have.  Once we get it, we still are not happy.  Actually, I think that in general there is some truth to this, sadly.

e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I don't know that I am persuaded by the premise that Gatsby, as a novel, is intended to be an allegory. In order to qualify as an actual allegory, there must be a one-to-one match between characters in the story and figures (or ideas) from the real world.

This story is closer to an old-style morality play, intended to teach a lesson through example(s), than it is an allegory.

With this being said, I certainly understand where you are coming from with the question and I agree with the posts above. Gatsby is symbolic of the yearning, "boot-straps" American, eager to be re-made. But he is also not symbolic of this figure. He is this figure. That's why this novel is not an allegory. As symbolic as the characters might be, they are not purely symbolic.

 

mshurn's profile pic

Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Gatsby's dream is an allegory of the American Dream and he represents Americans themselves. But how do we know it? What makes this allegory?

Gatsby's dream is an allegory of the American Dream and he represents Americans themselves. But how do we know it?What makes this allegory?

In an allegory, characters and what happens to them represent an idea or some kind of truth. To understand the allegory in The Great Gatsby, think of the characteristics of the American Dream, and see if they are found in the novel.

The American Dream is the idea that if people in the United States work hard enough, they can pursue and achieve what they most desire--the "pursuit of happiness," as it says in the Declaration of Independence. The American Dream is based on the freedom in which Americans live, the freedom to make individual dreams come true.

When he is young, Jimmy Gatz (later Jay Gatsby) is a perfect example of someone who is pursuing the American Dream. He is poor. He lives on a poor farm with lazy parents. He wants more out of life. He wants to be a success. He works very hard. Jimmy Gatz is honest and tries to be a good, responsible person. Read the journal he kept as a boy. It shows how how hard he worked, tried to improve himself,  and do what was right. At seventeen, he runs away. He goes to college.

So far the story is perfectly representative of the pursuit of the American Dream. However, Fitzgerald thought that by the time of the 1920s the American Dream had been corrupted, that it wasn't as pure as it had been at the time the country was founded.

So, Jimmy changes in several ways. He drops out of college because he doesn't like to work as a janitor. He holds odd jobs, but does not really work at them. He does work for Dan Cody, but the work is not especially honorable. He goes to war and comes home poor. After the war, he goes "to work" for a gangster, Meyer Wolfsheim, and begins what becomes a criminal career.

Gatsby gains wealth in a hurry, but he earns it the wrong way for the wrong reason--to regain his relationship with Daisy, who doesn't deserve his love. Gatsby ends up shot to death in his own swimming pool. From the outside, it appears that he had been a great success. In reality, he had wasted his life pursuing the wrong dream in the wrong way.

This idea is interesting. When the country was founded, Americans went west as pioneers to find their dreams. In the novel, Gatsby goes east to find his dream. He was literally going the wrong way. The novel is an allegory, but it turns into an ironic one.

lizbv's profile pic

lizbv | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

Gatsby's story is the typical "rags to riches" story that the American Dream centers itself around.  He is a self-made   millionaire and has made his money rather rapidly and  he does indeed represent Americans themselves in this way.   The allegory consists of Gatsby representing the average, hometown American boy who recognizes how wealth will assist him in acquiring everything he wants, in his specific case, a life with Daisy.  The challenge which is set before him when he loses Daisy due to her parents' disapproval of Gatsby represents the social ladder which only wealth can enable anyone to climb, as the classes are determined not by behavior or intelligence, but by financial success.  The fact that Gatsby still lives in West Egg, or as Nick puts it, the "less fashionable" of the two areas, represents how, although he has accomplished the financial status necessary to mingle with these people, there is still a separation even once this American Dream was achieved, and that difference is the former life of labor and hard work that Gatsby once endured but which is so foreign to the likes of the Buchanans and other residents of East Egg.

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