May 5, 2005
The Death of the American Dream
Webster's Dictionary defines the American dream as an American social ideal that stresses egalitarianism and especially material prosperity. This dream started as our country started. Our founding fathers had a dream of an America with equal opportunities. This dream was interpreted by those in Europe as an easy way to make money and a good way of life. Immigrants came to the United States of America in search of fulfilling the American dream they had heard of in their homeland. As America progressed the dream began to decay and lose it's possibly of becoming true for those who wanted it. The novel The Great Gatsby portrays the eventual death of the American dream. The Great Gatsby consistently presented the symbolic death of the American dream.
Jay Gatsby symbolized the American dream. His entire life revolved around self improvement. At Jay Gatsby's funeral his father revealed an old book of Gatsby's he had come across by accident. It read "Schedule." The book contained plans for the day and how he would eventually get ahead. Many of the plans were similar to those of the sayings in Poor Richard's Almanac. One of America's greatest, Benjamin Franklin, wrote Poor Richard's Almanac as a "how-to" on success. Jay Gatsby believed that his plan would eventually work therefore fulfilling all of his dreams. Gatsby's father let the reader see Gatsby's competitive drive and that his continuous work ethics existed all of Gatsby's life. His father described Gatsby, "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 182). At age seventeen Gatsby changed his name. To Gatsby his given name, James Gatz, symbolized his past as a poor boy. By changing his name to Jay Gatsby as he entered Dan Cody's yacht in Lake Superior, he felt he could change his entire persona. Once his name changed a fresh start began for Gatsby, quite similar to that of the immigrants coming to America. Critic David F. Trask describes Gatsby's dream of pursuit of happiness and how it eventually turned self destructive and mutilating: "Gatsby began his pursuit of goodness and beauty when he changed his name, and that pursuit ultimately ended in tragedy" (Trask)
Gatsby's main dream was Daisy. He felt that obtaining Daisy as his wife and lover would fulfill his life and longtime goal. Daisy was the ideal dream. She always wore a crisp white dress. White represents purity, and the heavens are also often associated with the color white. Daisy, represented by white, seemed angelically perfect to Gatsby. Daisy was considered the ultimate goal for Gatsby and...