In The Great Gatsby, what does F. Scott Fitzgerald suggest about the state of the American Dream in terms of the people who pursue it?

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

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Fitzgerald's statement about the American Dream and the people pursuing it rests in hollowness when such visions are rooted in material temporality as opposed to something more real and lasting.  One can see this in the characters.  Jordan's pursuit of her dream is one of fame and cheating, revealing how the temporal condition of being can make consciousness a shallow experience.  Tom and Daisy seem to live their dream only at the cost of other people and how they can benefit their own states in life.  Their pursuit is material in how it uses people as a means to an end as opposed to an end in its own right.  Even Gatsby's own ignorance about what is real and endless faith in his ability to "win" Daisy for himself and not accept real and valid limitations are reflective of a temporal state of being.  In these examples, Fitzgerald is suggesting that there is something hollow in the pursuit of the American Dream when it is so driven by the contingent need of satisfying "the now."  There is little in terms of the substantive and a sense of the grounded that exists in these visions, and for this, Fitzgerald's ultimate comment is how such dreams and their pursuits reflect shallowness and eventual unhappiness.  The characters fail to realize this and with this is what contributes to their tragic state of being.

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gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

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Throughout the novel The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald condemns and criticizes the vain pursuit of the American Dream. Fitzgerald critiques the pursuit of materialism and social status by illustrating the tragic deaths of Jay Gatsby and Myrtle Wilson, as well as the hollow relationship between Tom and Daisy Buchanan. He suggests that the American Dream is artificial and slowly decaying throughout the novel. Those who pursue material wealth and status are superficial and live unfulfilled lives. The Valley of Ashes represents the social and moral decay of those who pursue the empty American Dream by seeking pleasure at all times. The citizens of the East and West Egg are more concerned with their appearances than they are with their spiritual well-being. Fitzgerald suggests that the American Dream of becoming wealthy and famous is essentially futile because those in pursuit end up both unhappy, unfulfilled, and spiritually dead. 

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