How Does Gatsby Represent The American Dream

In The Great Gatsby, how does Gatsby represent the American Dream, and what does the novel have to say about the condition of the American Dream in the 1920s? 

Gatsby represents the American Dream by starting over and attempting to right the past. Just as the earliest settlers in America thought they could begin anew on the continent and correct the problems besetting Europe, so Gatsby thinks he and Daisy can start over as if their five-year separation never happened. Fitzgerald shows the condition of the American Dream as tarnished by the 1920s, revealing the problem with trying to start again as if the past never occurred.

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For Fitzgerald, the American Dream began with the first sailors who set eyes on the "green breast" of a new continent and believed they could start anew there. They thought they could rewind the past and start over, correcting all the mistakes made in Europe. This time, they would build society correctly, without the corruption that had tainted European culture.

Gatsby unknowingly represents that particular iteration of the American Dream. He wants nothing more than to roll the clock back five years and start over again with Daisy, as if none of the intervening time had passed. He wants her to give up Tom and marry him. Gatsby feels as if he can take scissors and cut out the time between him last seeing her and now as if it never happened. When Nick tries to tell him it can't be done, Gatsby is incredulous and insists it can.

The dream of righting the wrongs of the past is flawed, because it is impossible to ever truly start over. The baggage of the past comes with us. The novel shows that...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 613 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on June 17, 2020
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