The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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How does F. Scott Fitzgerald illustrate and differentiate the American Dream and the personal dreams of Gatsby? What led to the failure of both his dreams being a failure?

One important way Fitzgerald differentiates the American Dream and the personal dreams of Gatsby is by underscoring that James Gatz recreated himself as Jay Gatsby. Others aspire to the American Dream, but few erase their former lives and create a totally new persona. The failure of Gatsby's dreams being realized stems from his blindness to reality. His confidence in the illusion of the American Dream allows him to believe that he can almost walk on water.

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Perhaps the most important way in which F. Scott Fitzgerald illustrates and differentiates the American Dream and the personal dreams of Gatsby is by making it clear that James Gatz completely recreated himself as Jay Gatsby. This concept underscores the character of Jay Gatsby and is crucial to understanding what motivates him and also ultimately dooms him. Many other people aspire to the American Dream, but few erase their former lives and create a totally new persona.

Fitzgerald also does not introduce the concept of James’s or Jimmy’s metamorphosis into Jay Gatsby until after the first 100 pages of the book, piquing the reader's interest into the protagonist's real background. Fitzgerald refers to gossip about Jay Gatsby and his past, noting that “just why these inventions were a source of satisfaction to James Gatz of North Dakota, isn’t easy to say.” Gatz believes that he is Gatsby, and the gossip around his Gatsby persona validates that his metamorphosis into the Gatsby character has become reality for others, as well.

The kernel of what leads to the failure of Gatsby's dreams being realized is in the following sentence:

The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God.

Gatsby is blind to reality. He believes in his ability to recreate not only his future but his past. His confidence in the illusion of the American Dream allows him to believe that he can almost walk on water. He believes he can captivate Daisy and erase any time that has lapsed since he met her many years before. His blindness to reality is part of what motivates him to take the blame for Daisy’s actions in Myrtle's death, which ultimately leads to his own death.

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