How does Fitgerald depict the American dream influencing an individual's life in The Great Gastby?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Great Gatsby, the American Dream does not positively influence individuals' lives. Take George Wilson: he lives in the valley of ashes with his unfaithful and unkind wife, Myrtle. No matter how hard he tries to earn more money so they can get out, it is ultimately impossible. Tom Buchanan dangles his car, and Wilson's dreamed-of opportunity to make some extra money from it, in front of Wilson like a carrot the poor mechanic can never reach. Consider Jay Gatsby: when he tried to make his fortune legally, he likewise found it impossible. He turned to the criminal activity of bootlegging so he could earn enough money to get Daisy Buchanan's attention; once he does get her attention, it turns out money isn't enough to win her. He will always lack the status she enjoys while married to Tom, and his over-the-top mansion in West Egg really cannot hold a candle to her elegant home in East Egg. Both George Wilson and Jay Gatsby, the characters who try the hardest to reach the American Dream, die tragically, revealing the dream's impossibility and the damage it can do to those who strive for it.

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The Great Gatsby

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