Wealth, Love, and the American Dream
It has been said that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is about the pursuit of the American dream. It has also been said that the novel is about love, ambition, and obsession. Perhaps both are true. Combined, these themes may be understood in their most basic forms among the relationships within the novel. After all, each character’s reason for belonging to a relationship speaks very strongly of what really makes him tick; each character’s manifestation of his own desires is found within his lover. Throughout the novel, what universally unites each character beyond anything else is the love of a dream or position and involvement in relationships for the success of that dream.
Jay Gatsby has loved Daisy Buchanan since their romance of his youth. Beautiful, rich, and refined, Daisy serves as a symbol of Gatsby’s wealth- she represents what 17-year-old James Gatz invented himself to be. The product of years of unfulfilled waited and longing by Gatsby, she becomes a sort of trophy dream. "Her voice is full of money", Gatsby says (Fitzgerald 127). This delightful figure of speech shows precisely what Gatsby desires. The poor boy from the mid-west hoped to be a great man; Daisy has become the manifestation of this desire. Thus, he believes that by impressing her and being accepted by her he can fully posses that dream. After all, Gatsby believes that with his fabulous wealth he can buy anything he wants, especially Daisy. Longing for the love of his youth, he shapes his whole life around this objective of becoming worthy of her. "He had waited five years and bought a mansion where he dispensed starlight to casual moths so that he could ‘come over’ some afternoon to a stranger’s garden" (Fitzgerald 83). Daisy had become the be-all and end-all of his mad ambition, and yet, his approach is passive and wasteful. Instead of actively seeking Daisy, he throws lavish parties, hoping she will stumble in. He finally resorts to a poorly planned meeting, using Nick as an accomplice and stumbling through a reunion that he had planned for all the years she had been away.
Unfortunately for Gatsby, Daisy has married in his absence the hulking, brutish Tom Buchanan, the sort of man one would have expected her to marry all along. Tom represents old money, American aristocracy, and a level of decadence that Gatsby, despite his lavish parties, cannot simulate. Nick notes that "It was hard to realize that a man of [his] own generation" is quite as wealthy as Tom really is (Fitzgerald 10). After all, Daisy married for money instead of love. It’s made clear that she loves Gatsby far more than she loves Tom, but grew tired of waiting before she finally decided to marry Tom. By the night before her wedding, it was too late for her to change her mind. "She groped around in a waste-basket she had with her on her bed and pulled out the string...