“Death of a Dream”Any American is taught a dream that is purged of all truth. The American Dream is shown to the world as a belief that anyone can do anything; when in reality, life is filled with impossible boundaries.
In the novel, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald gives us a glimpse into the life of the upper class during the roaring twenties through the eyes of a moralistic young man named Nick Carraway. It is through the narrator's dealings with the upper class that the reader is shown how modern values have transformed the American Dream's pure ideals into a scheme for materialistic power, and how the world of the upper class lacks any sense of morals or consequence. In order to support Fitzgerald’s message that the American dream is dead, Fitzgerald presents the original aspects of the American dream as well as its corrupted form through; perseverance and hope, everlasting hope, and corruption from wealth and privilege.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 Jay Gatsby, who focused all his attention to living the dream and becoming an American hero. Ever since he was young, Gatsby worked hard on becoming a great man.
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This is documented in Gatsby's copy of the adventures of Hopalong Cassidy, who was another romantic American figure. While showing this journal to Nick, Gatsby 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." (Fitzgerald 175) Jay Gatsby’s 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 shows two more of the qualities that are part of being an American hero: hard-working ambition and a thirst for adventure. Fitzgerald places much emphasis on the longing Jay Gatsby, who symbolizes one of the main characteristics of the American dream: everlasting hope. Gatsby’s 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" (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…" (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 final 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 facade.
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 facade are evident in Tom and Daisy Buchanan, who live without any hopes or regrets because the foundation of their character.