The American Dream is dead.
This is the main theme in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby. In the novel Fitzgerald gives us a glimpse into the life of the high class during the roaring twenties through the eyes of a moralistic young man named Nick Carraway. It is through the narrator's dealings with high society that readers are shown how modern values have transformed the American Dream's pure ideals into a scheme for materialistic power and further, how the world of high society lacks any sense of morals or consequence. In order to support this message, Fitzgerald presents the original aspects of the American Dream along with its modern face to show that the once impervious dream is now lost forever to the American people.
The main qualities of the American Dream presented in The Great Gatsby are perseverance and hope. Another famous characteristic of the American dream is the idea of success against all odds. This is shown through the life of James Gatz, who focused all his attention to living the dream and becoming an American hero. Ever since he was young, Gatz worked hard on becoming a great man. This is documented in Gatz's copy of the adventures of Hopalong Cassidy, who was another romantic American figure. While showing this journal to Nick, Mr. Gatz professed, "Jimmy was bound to get ahead.
He always had some resolves like this or something. Do you notice what he's got about improving his mind? He was always great for that." (Pg. 175) James Gatz connection to the American dream is further illustrated by the fact that his program for self-improvement is right out of Ben Franklin's Autobiography, right down to the smallest details. The content of the schedule and what it was written on sho! was two more of the qualities that are part of being an American hero: hard-working ambition and a thirst for adventure. The product of all of James Gatz's hard work is the longing Jay Gatsby, who epitomizes one of the main characteristics of the American dream: everlasting hope. Gatsby desire to win Daisy's love is his version of the old American dream: an incredible goal and a constant search for the opportunity to reach this goal.
This is shown when Gatsby is first introduced into the novel. It is late at night and we find him "with his hands in his pockets… out to determine what share was his of our local heavens." While Nick continues to watch Gatsby's movements he says: "-he Gatsby stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward-and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock" (Pg. 21-22) The green light that Gatsby reaches out for symbolizes his longing; his longing for Daisy, for money, for acceptance and no matter how much he has he never feels complete. This green light is part of the American Dream.
It symbolizes our constant searching for a way to reach that goal just of in the distance, as Nick described it, "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter-tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms farther…. And one fine morning-" (Pg. 182) Gatsby's goal gave him a purpose in life, which sets him apart from the rest of the upper class.
He is constantly chasing his dream of being with Daisy, from the moment he stretches toward her house to his finial days of life when he patiently waits for hours outside her house even though she has already abandoned her affair with him. Gatsby is a man who has all of the purest traits of the old American hero, hope, perseverance, hard working ambition, and a thirst for adventure, but he loses them by wearing the dream's modern face. F. Scott Fitzgerald credits the destruction of the American Dream to wealth, privilege, and the lack of humanity that those aspects create. Money is clearly identified as the main culprit in the dream's death. It becomes easily entangled with hope and success and replacing their positions in the American Dream with materialism. This is shown through Gatsby's use of illegal practices and underground connections to make money.
His lavish parties, huge mansion, and giant collection of clothing all represent his corruption. His use of status and privilege is demonstrated when his traffic violation is ignored by the police officer. But the worst qualities of the dream's modern face are evident in Tom and Daisy Buchanan, who live without any hopes or regrets because the foundation of their character is money and wealth. Nick describes the Buchanan's as such: "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- They smashed up things and creatures.