The Emptiness Of The American Dream In The Great Gatsby

1467 words - 6 pages

Jay Gatsby’s sole purpose in life is to achieve the American Dream: to become a land owner, married to the love of his life, who live in comfort and abundance. However, he never gets everything he wants as his love for Daisy is not as fully reciprocated as he wishes it to be. His dream, and the one Nick pursues as well, are only dreams in the end. The culture of the time only gives empty fulfillment with no real substance. The people, like their dreams, are only illusions of what they want to be.
Gatsby’s life after the war is his search for his American Dream, which, in his eyes, culminates in Daisy. Nick observes that Gatsby “found that he had committed himself to the following of a grail” (149). Fitzgerald chooses to compare Gatsby’s quest for Daisy to that of a quest for the Holy Grail as they are equally futile. The Holy Grail and the American Dream both do not exist and so Gatsby is chasing an imagined idea. Thus, his quest is for something not grounded in reality. Gatsby’s relationship with Daisy is based on false pretenses as he “had deliberately given daisy a sense of security; he let her believe that he was a person from much the same stratum as herself—that he was fully able to take care of her” (149). At the foundation their “love” is based on falsehoods, and so their love is, perhaps, doomed from the beginning since it has begun in a dream state as well. Gatsby’s father, Mr. Gatz, believed in the American Dream and is as naïve as his son. He says, “Jimmy was bound to get ahead” (173), as if it was Gatsby’s right do so as a pragmatic person. His pragmatism does get him his job with Wolfsheim, an example of an incredibly pragmatic man, and thus gets him his wealth. However, the time he lost in attaining his riches was worth more than all the money he earned. By being pragmatic and waiting to become rich before finding Daisy again, he loses Daisy to Tom. They both think the ideal is something that Gatsby can grasp even though it is a dream and nothing more. Gatsby’s death is the realization that nothing can ever be the ideal. He was so close to getting what he wanted, but he never gets the full package.
The world that Nick recounts is full of idealizations. When Nick first encounters Jordan and Daisy, “They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house” (8). The women here sound like something out of a fairy tale. They come off as fantastical but are not as good of people as they may seem. Their false presentation brings up the lies behind everyone’s presentation. Gatsby, as well, is not what he presents himself as. He is said to be an “Oxford man” but only visited Oxford with Dan Cody. The façades are a part of society’s attempt to be something it is not and to present itself as something better than it is. The truth is that they are all, in their own ways, like Tom and Daisy

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up...

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