The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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How does Gatsby's death symbolize the American Dream?

Gatsby's death symbolizes the American Dream by demonstrating that even with hard work and sacrifice, sometimes a person cannot simply make all their dreams come true. Ultimately, hard work is only one factor in the equation determining success.

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The American Dream is the idea that anyone, with hard work and sacrifice, can achieve their dreams, no matter how monumental those dreams are. The American Dream strongly supports the notion that a person's success relies not on luck but on taking calculated risks and persevering through difficulties.

Gatsby transforms himself from a meager boy who isn't enough to hold Daisy's affections into a man who has wealth that lands him in the most elite of social circles. Yet it's not enough. Gatsby's dream isn't just to become a wealthy man. His ultimate American Dream is to attain enormous wealth so that he can be the man whom he thinks Daisy will respect and love as they build a new future together.

And this is where he falls short. Unfortunately, Gatsby's dreams are never focused on the future. Instead, he constantly returns to the younger Daisy he fell in love with, the one who isn't married and isn't a mother. In focusing on the past, Gatsby fails to see Daisy for the woman she has become—and as the dream he has lost. Because of this inability to recognize the truth, Gatsby dies alone, though he is surrounded by the wealth which he'd always imagined would be enough for Daisy.

Gatsby's death shows that his dreams were futile because they were intangible. His American Dream, believing that Daisy would love him if he was willing to work hard enough, fails to recognize that his success doesn't ultimately depend on him. Daisy is a grown woman and mother who makes her own decisions and who has other considerations besides rekindling a love she'd closed the door on years before. The traditional American Dream is much the same. Though some do transform their lives through hard work, just as many people find that they are met with missed opportunities, impossible barriers, or the personal choices of others which make their own dreams impossible. Therefore, some people find that in search of the great American Dream, they instead "beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

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