Gatsby's American Dream Essay

1655 words - 7 pages

A commonly held tenet among people from all generations is that hard work will ultimately lead to wealth and prosperity. This concept, illustrated in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, is known as the American Dream. Although many have this dream today, it is a one in a million chance to attain it, regardless of whether or not a person is tremendously deserving of such success. James Gatz, later known as Jay Gatsby, is a character who experiences this minute probability of the American Dream coming true. Through the character of Gatsby, Fitzgerald suggests that the American Dream is so difficult to achieve that it is unattainable.
Gatsby hosts extravagant parties that imply that succeeding in the American Dream is most supported by obtaining power and respect that is gained from old money. Tom Buchanan is a perfect example of the type of person that Gatsby longs to be in terms of power and respect. Tom’s “speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed. There was a touch of paternal contempt in it, even toward people he liked — and there were men at New Haven who had hated his guts” (7). Although there are some men that hate Tom due to his asperity, they still see that Tom has power derived from his wealth and, therefore, have to respect him because of it. Furthermore, since he uses the same voice for the people he likes and dislikes, one can observe his powerful and respected presence is not limited to certain people. Gatsby, however, has not earned such power and respect. When Tom, Mr. Sloane, and the woman they are with visit Gatsby’s house, Gatsby understands that they, along with Tom, have the power and respect for which he yearns. Because of their power in society, Gatsby asks them if they would like to stay for dinner and additionally adds that he “wouldn’t be surprised if some other people dropped in from New York” (102). Gatsby adding in the last line, that some people from New York might drop in, proposes the idea that Gatsby is attempting to make himself appear more prestigious since he is “close” with people from the city. He also asks his visitors to stay for dinner so the people of East Egg can get to know him and hopefully accept him into the old wealth lifestyle. Though Gatsby tries to attain power and respect by throwing his extravagant parties, by the end of the novel, the reader is able to understand that he had gained neither before he died. The day of Gatsby’s funeral “the minister glanced several times at his watch, so [Nick] took him aside and asked him to wait for half an hour. But it wasn’t any use. Nobody came” (174). No one coming to Gatsby’s funeral shows that although Gatsby spent his whole life trying to gain respect from his peers as well as power in society, he failed to do both. If he had achieved respect by throwing his parties, some of the people who attended his parties would have paid their respects by appearing at his funeral. In the end, Gatsby throwing...

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