How can I define and analyze the concept of "dreams" in the novel The Great Gatsby?

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When defining and analyzing the concept of dreams in The Great Gatsby, it's important to consider a character's perspective. However, whichever character you ultimately choose can lead to deep analysis. 

  • Gatsby: In essence, Gatsby's dream is to relieve his past by recapturing Daisy Buchanan's heart and starting things over - just like they were before. Whether he was actually in love with Daisy, his idea of Daisy, or the past is certainly up for debate based on how he speaks of her throughout the novel. His dream is iconically symbolized by the green light at the end of his dock. Beyond representing the American Dream filled with opportunity, it mirrors Gatsby's own struggle of obtaining his dream. While he's so close, his ultimate goal (Daisy) is just across the bay. The idea of Gatsby being so close plays out in other facets, too, such as how he attempts to fit in with the "old" money, but eventually fails. 
  • Daisy: On the other hand, Daisy's concept of dream ultimately leads to Gatsby's downward spiral. She craves social status, money, and attention - the very same reasons she married Tom instead of Gatsby in the first place. While Tom delivers on social status and money, ever so briefly, Gatsby provides her attention (even though she's clearly attracted to his money, as well). This leads to the rekindling of their love affair, but their relationship really never had a chance of working out because of Gatsby's "new" money status. She returns to Tom for his money and Gatsby suffers the consequences. 
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