“The Destruction of the American Dream” In The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the main theme is most directly related to the American Dream. The American Dream is based on the idea that any person, no matter what they are, can become successful in life by his or her hard work. The Great Gatsby is about what happened to the American Dream during the 1920’s, an era when the dream had been corrupted by the relentless pursuit of wealth. The pursuit of the American Dream is the ultimate cause of the downfall of the main character, Jay Gatsby.
Throughout the story, Jay Gatsby avoids telling the truth of his hard, ordinary childhood. He does this to keep his image and to save himself from the embarrassment of being in a state of poverty during his youth. His parents were unsuccessful people who worked on the farm, and because of this Gatsby never really accepted them as his parents. Jay Gatsby’s real name is Jay Gatz and he is from North Dakota. He changed his name to Jay Gatsby when he was seventeen years old, which was the beginning of his version of the American Dream. In all realities Gatsby arose from his Platonic view of himself, the idealistic self-view that a seventeen year old boy has of himself (Fitzgerald 104). Gatsby’s embarrassing childhood is a major source of determination in his attempt to achieve the American Dream.
It was in the army as a young adult when Gatsby first met Daisy. He initially loved Daisy because of her extraordinary house and because many other men had already been with her. Gatsby fell in love with Daisy, and in turn Daisy fell in love with Gatsby. “Daisy was the first ‘nice’ girl that he had ever known”(Fitzgerald 155). Their love was an uneasy one at first for Gatsby to comprehend because he wasn’t rich by any standards and he felt that he wasn’t worthy of Daisy’s affection, but his uneasiness was uplifted when he and Daisy fell in love. Their month of love was physically ended when Gatsby had to go to war, but their emotional love never ended. Daisy couldn’t understand why Gatsby couldn’t home. She wanted her love to be with her, she needed some assurance that she was doing the right thing. It didn’t take long for Daisy to get over Jay because in the Spring of 1918 she fell in love with a rich, former All-American college football player named Tom Buchanon. This broke Jay Gatsby’s heart. His love for Daisy was a strong one and he was determined to get her back. This first love with Dausy had a great impact on his idea of one of the aspects of achieving the American Dream.
Gatsby claims on several different occasions that he inherited his parents’ immense fortune. This is a story that Gatsby made up in order to keep his self-image up by not letting people know about his childhood. The truth is that Gatsby got rich by illegal bootlegging. He was friends with the illegal Meyer Wolfsheim, who was supposedly the racketeer that fixed the World Series of 1919. He was Gatsby’s connection to organized crime, in which Gatsby became rich. Gatsby’s true sources to richness were selling bootleg liquor in his chain of drugstores and creating a giant business to get rid of and sell stolen Liberty bonds (Mizner 188). Gatsby’s method of gaining wealth corrupt the morality of the American Dream although they help him to achieve it.
Jay Gatsby had this romantic view of Daisy and himself together and happy forever. He felt the best way to achieve this idea would be for him to become at least as rich as Daisy’s husband Tom Buchanon. He knows that the best ways for him to pry Daisy’s affection away from Tom are gaining wealth and gaining material possessions. Daisy is a shallow woman who is easily overwhelmed by material items. Gatsby’s main way to show off his wealth and material possessions were to throw extravagant parties. The parties were so huge that Nick Carraway, Gatsby’s best friend and the narrator of the book, referred to them as the World’s Fair. Not only did the parties fulfill Gatsby’s reasons for having them, but they also showed his grand sense of pride for his riches. Gatsby and Daisy are finally reunited by Nick at Gatsby’s request. This is Gatsby’s second chance for him to show off his wealth and to win Daisy back. Gatsby uses this meeting to show Daisy what he has become through his possessions (Way 103). Daisy is amazed when she experiences Gatsby’s house. When Gatsby throws his imported shirts all around the room, she begins to cry because she realizes that she has missed out on so much of Gatsby’s life. It is at this moment, when the dream that that he has strived for is right in front of him, that he realizes that Daisy isn’t as perfect as he imagined her to be. This is clearly evident to Nick who thinks that: “There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy fell short of his dream- nor through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything.”(Fitzgerald Chapter 5).
The beginning of the downfall of Gatsby’s dream occurs when Tom suspects that Daisy is cheating on him with Gatsby. His suspicion proves correct when he, Gatsby, Daisy, Nick, and Jordan Baker, are at a hotel in New York holding a conversation which breaks out into an argument. It is during this argument that Tom finds out that Jay Gatsby and Daisy have been in love for five years and that they have never stopped loving each other. As Tom and Gatsby argue it becomes evident that Daisy does not know which man she wants be with because she is in love with both of them because both of them are rich. All Gatsby wanted was for Daisy to tell Tom that she never loved him, but she could not do that. She knew that it would be a lie if she said that she so simply said to Gatsby, “I did love him once- but I loved you too.” This statement continues the downfall of Gatsby’s dream because it shows that Daisy is not Gatsby’s woman alone. Tom begins to downplay Gatsby’s concept of himself by making Gatsby realize that he isn’t what he made himself out to be. He makes Gatsby see that he does not appear to people in the way that he thinks of himself. Tom describes Gatsby as a “bootlegger, cheap swindler and a crook.” These few comments shattered Gatsby’s self identity because of it’s fragileness (Way 99).
After the argument, Gatsby can feel a minor sense of victory because Daisy refuses to speak to Tom and when they are leaving, Daisy leaves with him. On the way back to the suburbs, Gatsby allows Daisy to drive his car. While driving, Daisy hits and kills Myrtle Wilson, the lady Tom is having an affair with. Gatsby and Daisy keep on driving and they act like nothing ever happened. Later that evening, Nick learned from Gatsby that Daisy had been driving when Myrtle was killed in the hit-and-run accident. Gatsby’s love for Daisy causes him to be willing to take the blame if the death was traced back to his car. If Daisy’s love for Gatsby was based on true love, instead of wealth and material items, then she would have stepped up and confessed to her crime especially since she was riding in Gatsby’s car and it could be easily assumed that he was the killer. Daisy was not concerned with the well-being of Gatsby and this is shown when she is back at home conversing with her husband, over chicken and ale, instead of worrying about what might happen to Gatsby. Gatsby, on the other hand, worries that whole night about Daisy. He worries that Tom might beat on Daisy when he gets home. These things never happen but it is the fact that Gatsby was concerned about her well-being and Daisy was not concerned with Gatsby’s well being that is important. She is just a shallow person who does not know the meaning of the word love. She is caught up in living the moraless and careless lifestyle that she leads. She could care less for what happens to anyone but herself. This whole situation proves that she is definitely not deserving of the high pedestal that Gatsby has placed her on (Internet 1).
This is the greatest blow to his romantic dream of him and Daisy being together forever because she chooses Tom over Gatsby in a time of crisis. It shows that the man she truly wants to be with the most is the man she is living with now. Gatsby realizes this and his life begins to be pointless. This is his dream brought to reality. This eliminates any chance of this dream becoming reality.
It did not take long for George Wilson, Myrtle’s husband, to trace the yellow car which killed his wife back to Jay Gatsby. Because George Wilson wants revenge for his wife’s death, and he believes it is Gatsby who killed his wife, he goes to Gatsby’s estate and kills Gatsby and himself. This is the tragic end to Gatsby’s life. All his heroism and success all brought to an end because Daisy did not love him as much as he loved her. Prior to Gatsby’s death, his romantic dream was dead but his American dream was still alive and burning. He still had everything going for him; his youth, money, and personality. Gatsby is morally superior to his fellow East Eggers and Nick acknowledges this when he tells Gatsby, “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together. (Fitzgerald 162).” To have the American Dream taken away for something he had not even done was the greatest misfortune of the entire novel. “In the end, the most that can be said is that The Great Gatsby is a dramatic affirmation in fictional terms of the American spirit in the midst of an American world that denies the soul (Bewley 46).”Gatsby’s strong desire for wealth and Daisy, (the American Dream), prove to be the greatest reasons for his grave downfall.
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