In The Great Gatsby, what argument is F. Scott Fitzgerald making about the American Dream, based on the desires and fates of the characters?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fitzgerald examines the vain pursuit of the American Dream throughout the novel The Great Gatsby. The idea of the American Dream revolves around the assumption that individuals can attain social status and wealth by working hard. Jay Gatsby embodies the idea of the American Dream throughout the novel. His quick ascension to the upper class and extraordinary wealth is the result of his hard work and dedication. However, his dream of marrying Daisy is unfulfilled because he lacks the ability to provide a secure relationship due to his illegal occupation as a bootlegger. As a result, Gatsby's amassed wealth means nothing. His emphasis on superficial items was not enough to win Daisy's heart. Even though he attained what many consider to be the American Dream, he died lonely and unappreciated. Other characters who also attained the American Dream through financial freedom and social status live fruitless, superficial lives. Both Tom and Daisy have attained the American Dream, but they are not happily married and continually cheat on one another. Myrtle Wilson is another character who attempts to climb the social ladder in hopes of attaining the American Dream. Unfortunately, she dies in a fatal accident and never achieves her goal of living a wealthy, secure life with Tom. Once again, Fitzgerald illustrates how the vain pursuit of money and social status, the preeminent characteristics of the American Dream, is unfulfilling and empty.

gkopf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The idea of the American Dream is a huge theme in The Great Gatsby. Each character is searching for his/ her version of the American Dream. Typically, the American Dream refers to the belief that one can start with nothing and ultimately succeed through hard work. For Jay Gatsby, this belief is extremely important. He started with nothing, and through hard work was able to amass a great deal of wealth. Gatsby is considered "new money," while other main characters (Tom and Daisy) are "old money." Gatsby wants to be on Daisy's level, and he tries to show off his wealth to her every chance he gets with lavish parties and his collection of custom shirts. His American Dream is to prove his worth to and win over Daisy, by proving he can provide for her.

Fitzgerald seems to be warning his audience about the pitfalls of pursuing the American Dream. Gatsby is never truly accepted by Tom and Daisy, and in the end, Daisy chooses not to be with Gatsby despite his wealth. Gatsby ultimately dies in pursuit of his American Dream—shot and left for dead in his swimming pool. His attempt to achieve the American Dream was unsuccessful.

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The Great Gatsby

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