The Great Gatsby and the American Dream

What is the relationship between The Great Gatsby and the American Dream?

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jyuki eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The American Dream is a main theme in The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald's message is that those who pursue the American Dream can never be satisfied, because the American Dream entails always striving for something more than what we already have. Gatsby embodies this in the decadent wealth that he is always accumulating and also in his pursuit of Daisy. Even when Gatsby succeeds in seducing Daisy and even when she wants to run away with him, he does not feel satisfied. He wants her to say she never loved Tom and to live in his house with him as if she had been married to him all along; this is impossible for her to do. Because of this, Gatsby will always be unsatisfied, and this destroys him. This can be seen as representative of the frustration all those who try to pursue the American dream feel.

These ideas are summed up well in the closing of the novel:

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Those who follow the American Dream always believe a bigger, brighter future is ahead of them, and no matter what they do or what they gain, the future is (of course) always ahead of them; that is, they believe they can always strive for something better. If they “run faster, stretch out [their] arms farther,” then there will eventually be that “one fine morning”—yet Fitzgerald pauses there with no concrete description of what will happen then because, in reality, it is a vague desire that those caught up in the American Dream can’t even fully imagine for themselves. For example, it’s likely that even if Daisy did what Gatsby wanted, he would still not be satisfied somehow. Then Fitzgerald goes on to say that those who follow this dream are really beating against the current, always being pulled into the past; that is, they’re fighting a losing battle that will not just leave them stagnant, but will actually make them regress.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The American Dream is the belief that anyone, regardless of race, wealth, or status can ascend the social ladder through hard work and dedication and reach financial success. Throughout the novel The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald portrays the corruption of the American Dream by illustrating Gatsby's tragic downfall. Qualitatively speaking, Jay Gatsby is the epitome of the American Dream. He comes from humble beginnings and attains wealth and prestige throughout the suburbs of New York. However, Jay Gatsby becomes corrupted in his pursuit of the American Dream. Gatsby risks his freedom, well-being, and future by engaging in illegal business ventures to amass his wealth. Along the way, Gatsby fails to gain genuine friends, with the exception of Nick Carraway, and becomes beguiled by material wealth. Despite becoming corrupted by the American Dream, Gatsby remains undaunted in his love for Daisy. Gatsby felt that his material wealth would be enough to gain Daisy's affection. Unfortunately, Daisy is a shallow, superficial person, who does not feel secure being in a relationship with Gatsby because of his shady business ventures. While Gatsby attains the American Dream, he does not find true happiness, which is the powerful message Fitzgerald is presenting to the readers. Faith in material objects and wealth will not fill the void of meaningful relationships and moral integrity. Overall, Gatsby has a tragic relationship with the American Dream because his pursuit of material wealth does not lead to his happiness.

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The Great Gatsby

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