The intricate novel based on the American dream, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, explains many facets of how the American dream is not as wonderful as it seems. Throughout the novel, characteristics of societal corruption, adultery, and competition are all intertwined in the definition of the American dream, diminishing its value. There is great resonance in the novel of the hollowness of the upper class and of the diminishing American dream, both of which play hand-in-hand with the other. One would like to believe that the American dream can be defined as it is stemmed from the Declaration of Independence, stating “…all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” (Burrell).
However, it is the aforementioned undesirable traits of the American dream during the 1920’s that make this definition dwindle in the Great Gatsby. The American dream cannot be reached with the corruption, adultery, and judgments that are knotted in society.
In The Great Gatsby, a crucially important man would have to be Nick Carraway, for the novel is told completely through Nick’s eyes; his beliefs and perceptions shape and color the story itself. Nick ends the last page of the novel with his idea that the American dream is impure with the corruption from the upper class and, specifically applicable to Gatsby, Nick believes that lingering in the past will get one further from their dream. Gatsby’s motivation for success is the green light on Daisy’s dock, and the longer that he uses it as his motivation based on his illusions and fantasies, the further away it takes him from reaching his goal in reality. As if the problem with Gatsby lingering in the past did not make it hard enough for him to achieve the American dream he sought, the corruption in the definition of the American dream in the 1920’s, which would incorporate disloyalty, competition, and division between the upper class, the East Eggers, and the people they looked down upon, the West Eggers, plays a huge part in Nick’s view of the American dream in the novel.
... of creating himself is what gives Gatsby his quality of "greatness". Nick admires Gatsby's optimism, capacity to dream, and ability to live as ... The novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald tells the story of Jay Gatsby, as Nick Carraway perceives him. Nick has a special place in ...
She was appalled by West Egg, this unprecedented “place.” that Broadway had begotten upon a Long Island fishing village – appalled by its raw vigor that chafed under the old euphemisms and by the too obtrusive fate that herded its inhabitants along a short-cut from nothing to nothing. She saw something awful in the very simplicity she failed to understand.” (Fitzgerald 107)
The American dream in the 1920’s is not too far fetched from the American dream in the 21st century where corruption and judgments of those a league below take place.
The adultery and split between the upper and lower class that deteriorates the American dream in The Great Gatsby can be explained through the cheating that took place between Tom Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson. “So Tom Buchanan and his girl and I went up together to New York—or not quite together, for Mrs. Wilson sat discreetly in another car. Tom deferred that much to the sensibilities of those East Eggers who might be on the train.” (Fitzgerald 26) Even though Tom Buchanan had Myrtle Wilson as his mistress and was willing to do intimate things with her, he still judges her, as he does everyone else from the West Egg and the Valley of Ashes, for where she comes from. Also, when one typically pictures the American dream, they do not picture what it was truly like in the 1920’s when Dan Cody, a precious mentor of Jay Gatsby, is described as, “a gray, florid man with a hard, empty face – the pioneer debauchee, who during one phase of American life brought back to the Eastern seaboard the savage violence of the frontier brothel and saloon.” (Fitzgerald 100) How the Americans do business and seek their dreams to be wealthy is different than it is done in the east. The Americans deem it necessary to incorporate alcohol and inappropriate conduct into their paths achieving their dreams; good merit cannot stand on its own.
... American Dream In the classic novel The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tom Buchanan, George Wilson and Jay Gatsby fail to achieve the American Dream. The American Dream ... in the end. Tom did not live the American Dream due to many factors. First of all Tom and Daisy weren t happy ... did not fully achieve the American dream. Gatsby was never fully happy because he didn t have Daisy in his life. He ...
Gatsby using Daisy Buchanan as his motivation for success can be seen as almost a lost cause, because in the 1920’s, no matter how strong one’s fruition is to be successful and reach their American dream, the borderline between the societal classes keep Daisy and Gatsby apart. Even when Gatsby outright tells Tom that Daisy never loved him and that Daisy was going to leave Tom for Gatsby, Daisy denied him so she could stay within her own comfort, where yet again Tom brings up the societal imbalance between him and Gatsby, looking down upon Gatsby. (Fitzgerald 130)
The corruption, societal imbalances, adultery, and judgments that took place in the 1920’s that deteriorated the idea of the American dream still have the same effect in the current century. For example, the East Eggers can be seen as the elite Whites in America, and the West Eggers and residents of the Valley of Ashes can be seen as the African-Americans and the Hispanics. No matter how hard one tries, the society in America today finds ways through corruption to prevent people from other races that they look down upon from rising to the top. The American dream to be more successful than one’s parents or to seek success in America coming from a different country cannot always come to fruition based on self-motivation and determination because oftentimes society steps in the way.
“A recent Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll found that African-Americans and Hispanics were more likely than whites to believe that children of all races had adequate chances to succeed in America.” (Brownstein) This perfectly describes the challenges that Gatsby faced in the novel. He believed that with his own education and self-motivation that he could achieve his goal and reach his dream, but the corruption of society tampered him down.
In conclusion, Nick’s final thoughts on the American dream are that with the insincerity of the elite or upper class society and with one lingering in the past, one cannot reach one’s goal. One can have the hope to keep going, “to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…”, but when the hope one has is based off of an object of desire that society will never allow to come true, one goes around in circles again and again never reaching their dream, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” (Fitzgerald 180)
... success, allowing society to lose sight of what the American Dream really was. Men like Gatsby overlooked all aspects of the American Dream other than money ... social status in 1920s America. While The Great Gatsby may appear to be a love story between Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, the novel ...
Brownstein, Ronald. “Is The American Dream A Myth?” National Journal (2009). Academic OneFile. Web. 1 May 2010.
Burrell, Brian. Words We Live By, The: The Creeds, Mottoes, and Pledges that Have Shaped America. New York: The Free Press, 1997.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York, NY: Scribner, 2004.