What does Gatsby symbolize?

Gatsby symbolizes the impossibility of the American Dream. Gatsby believes that all he needs to be happy in life is to rise above his lowly origins and achieve the trappings of wealth and success. In due course, however, he is destroyed by his pursuit of the American Dream.

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Jay Gatsby is a living embodiment of the American Dream. A man from a humble Midwestern background, he's become phenomenally rich and successful, enjoying all the trappings of his enormous wealth. However, Gatsby also represents the dark side of this headlong pursuit of riches. In order to acquire his fortune,...

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Jay Gatsby is a living embodiment of the American Dream. A man from a humble Midwestern background, he's become phenomenally rich and successful, enjoying all the trappings of his enormous wealth. However, Gatsby also represents the dark side of this headlong pursuit of riches. In order to acquire his fortune, he involved himself in all manner of shady, criminal activities. This highlights the corrosive effect that the American Dream can have upon an individual's soul; it makes people do things they really ought not to do.

In any case, for all Gatsby's wealth, he cannot have the one thing he wants more than anything else in the world: Daisy Buchanan. Daisy may be impressed by Gatsby's opulent mansion and his impressive collection of designer shirts, but when push comes to shove, she's not going to leave her husband for him. In part, this is because Gatsby is still nouveau riche, a parvenu still looked down upon by authentic blue-bloods like Daisy's husband, Tom. No matter how much wealth Gatsby accrues, he will never be accepted by the old money elite and his dream of being with Daisy can thus never be fulfilled.

In the end, Gatsby's futile pursuit of the American Dream leads him to his death. Like so many American people, he has been crushed by an understandable, if somewhat misguided, desire for wealth. Too late, he discovers that riches alone cannot bring him the happiness and satisfaction he desires.

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