The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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How does F. Scott Fitzgerald portray the American Dream in The Great Gatsby through his use of symbolism and other literary devices? 

Fitzgerald uses a variety of literary devices and symbols to portray the illusory nature of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby. One prominent symbol in the book is the the green light that represents Gatsby’s hopes and dreams for a life with Daisy. Another symbol is the Valley of the Ashes, which represents the ugly consequences of America’s obsession with wealth.

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Fitzgerald uses many different mediums to express his views on the "American Dream." In fact, the entire novel can be seen as a commentary on the subject. One symbolic way in which he shows his disenchantment with the "American Dream" is his stark contrast between the haves and the have-nots. East and West Egg are separated to show the difference between new and old money. Fitzgerald comments on the idea that the American Dream is a hoax and one must be born into money in order to reap the benefits. Gatsby, although rich on his own, will never be like Daisy or Tom. The vast lake symbolizes the vast separation between the classes, even if they intermingle at times. Also, the valley of ashes is described very differently from the other places in the novel. Literally "on the other side of the tracks," this place is described using dark colors and depressing imagery . This symbolizes the divide between the physically and metaphorically far-apart classes. The poor will never have what the wealthy...

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ashley-beeman | Student

Fitzgerald portrays the American Dream in The Great Gatsby in a variety of ways, but the most apparent is in the characters of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, who are together a symbol for the American Dream.

The American Dream historically has been viewed as the promise that those who come to America will "make it" in life and rise to success if they are hard workers. Gatsby's work is suspect, but there is no doubt that he is determined to both rise in life and win Daisy back. If Gatsby represents hard work and dedication, then Daisy represents the money, success, and ultimate happiness that Gatsby hopes to arrive at.

If Daisy is the happiness and success of the American Dream, and Gatsby is the work and determination, then it follows that Tom Buchanan represents America's immorality: the murderer of the American Dream. In the end, Tom sends Wilson to shoot Gatsby, and then takes Daisy for himself, symbolizing a corruption of the American Dream in which immorality leads to happiness and work is not necessarily rewarded.

mackclutter14 | Student

The Great Gatsby and the Pursuit of the American Dream

  • The book showed what happened to the American dream in the 1920s when dreams became corrupted.
  • Corruption comes with the desire for the perfect life.

o   Myrtle

  • Has an affair with Tom because of her desire to live a luxurious life
  • Has an unpleasant marriage which ultimately leads to her death
  • "The only crazy I was was when I married him. I knew right away I made a mistake. He borrowed somebody’s best suit to get married in and never told me about it, and the man came after it one day when he was out…" (Pg. 37)
  • Money, a good job, a big house, nice clothes, and a happy family symbolize the American dream.

o   Daisy

  • Marries Tom instead of waiting for Gatsby because of Tom’s wealth and Gatsby’s lack thereof.
  • Believes that her “American dream” is all that Tom has: wealth, love, happiness, and her daughter when she was born.
  • She wants her daughter to be a beautiful fool because “that’s the best a girl can be in this world, a beautiful fool.” (Pg. 22) She wants her daughter to grow up without all the corruption that is in the world.
  • Reunites with Gatsby and realizes that she had true love.
  • The only thing she could muster up was “They’re such beautiful shirts. It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such…beautiful shirts before.” (Pg 89).
  • Realizes that she could’ve married Gatsby and had money if only she’d waited for him like he asked.
  • This realization ruins her happiness she has with Tom.

o    Gatsby

  • Moves across the bay to West Egg to be able to be near to Daisy
  • Green light symbolizes Gatsby’s dream of having Daisy; symbolizes wealth, money, and jealousy
  • Concerned with how people view him
  • Wants everything “perfect” for Daisy, and wants her to see him as a “perfect man”
  • Theme of reliving the past evident here
  • Blinded by his desire to have “the American dream,” which ultimately leads to his death.