How is the American Dream portrayed in The Great Gatsby?

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iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The American Dream (the belief that one can win fulfillment by working hard) is central to F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, and it's portrayed in a variety of ways. On the one hand, the American Dream can be seen in Gatsby's pursuit of wealth. A self-made man, Gatsby claws his way out of poverty by earning money any way that he can, and it's suggested that he employs certain illegal means to acquire his wealth. Additionally, the American Dream can be seen in Gatsby's desire to win Daisy's love. Gatsby only acquires his vast fortune to win her affection, as a woman as wealthy Daisy would never have been able to marry a man as poor as the young Gatsby, and it's suggested that Gatsby believes acquiring Daisy will make him happy. In short, the American Dream is shown to be the pursuit of possessions, including material possessions, such as Gatsby's fortune, and less concrete possessions, such as Daisy's affection.

Ultimately, the novel portrays the American Dream as hollow and empty. Gatsby fails to win Daisy, he dies alone, and his life's work is proved to be a failure. In the end, Fitzgerald questions the material lust that drives the American Dream, and he ultimately concludes that the whole enterprise is shallow and misguided.

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The Great Gatsby

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