The Disillusionment of the American Dream

The Great Gatsby, written in the 20th century is a timeless tale. On the outside it is a story of love and loss, but really looking at it there is much more depth to this book. The symbolism and deeper meanings compacted into this book make it a literary masterpiece and one of the greatest pieces of American literature.

The book, The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a story portraying the “roaring twenties” in a way that hasn’t really been explored. Set from the eyes of the young narrator Nick Carraway, we follow a tale of a bond salesman who has recently moved to New York. He becomes fascinated with his extremely wealthy neighbor, Jay Gatsby, who throws extravagant parties to try to win the favor of a cousin of Nick’s. And even though the woman Gatsby is in love with, Daisy, is already married, Gatsby enlists the help of Nick to try to win her over. And although he wins her over things don’t end well for him when she gets into a automobile accident that kills the wife of a very distraught man who takes his anger out on Gatsby. Due to these events Daisy ultimately leads Gatsby to his demise.

When Nick moves to New York his first encounter with the neighbor that will take him on a rollercoaster of events was late at night. Nick is staring out on the beach when he sees Gatsby on his land reaching out across the water trembling at what will become one of the biggest pieces of symbolism in this book, the green light. The green light represents his hopes and dreams with Daisy and the American dream he has been working towards for most of his life. The American Dream is the belief that anyone, regardless of race, class, gender, or nationality, can be successful in America if they just work hard enough. Whether its money, luxury, social status, or love it can be achieved through working hard enough.

According to William A. Fahey in ‘F, Scott Fitzgerald and the American Dream,’ Gatsby’s version of the American Dream is: rising from rags to riches, of amassing a great fortune that will assure a life of luxuriant ease, power, and beauty in an ideal world untroubled by care and devoted to the enjoyment of everlasting pleasure and nothing to intervene between wish and fulfillment. It is a naive dream based on the fallacious assumption that material possessions are synonymous with happiness, harmony, and beauty.

In the book Gatsby’s dream is less materialistic, although he believes material items and money is needed to achieve it, it is more aiming towards love. His dream was a life with Daisy and in Gatsby’s mind he needed to impress his love with his wealth or he would never have a chance. For example in the book he says, “‘Her voice is full of money,’ (Fitzgerald ) This is showing that Daisy was always rich and could not climb down the social ladder. Whereas Gatsby started off poor and worked hard to get money to finally have a chance with the girl he had been pining after, his true American Dream.

“The dream itself is ambiguous, contradictory, romantic in nature, and undeniably beautiful while at the same time grotesquely flawed.” With all of the focus on money and material items many of the rich were restless and unhappy. Many didn’t marry for love for they had to marry rich for it was a sign of the times, which caused broken marriages as what is seen with Daisy and her husband Tom. Both Tom and Daisy were unhappy in their marriage and were having affairs. And although they could have divorced they were both reluctant to leave their partner even though they would have been happier. This signifies that no matter how much money Gatsby has he still will not achieve his dream because it was never really about how much money Gatsby attains.

For Daisy and her husband came from old money and Gatsby comes from new money so he will never have the social status that her husband has. Although if he were to marry Daisy he would also be achieving the American dream in the way of becoming apart of the highest social class. But unfortunately Daisy never had the unwavering devotion for Gatsby that he had for her which may be an indicator that Daisy was never really in love with Gatsby. And that the only reason she showed interest in him was because she was unhappy in her marriage and Gatsby was new and exciting. This is further proven when she denies her love of Gatsby to Tom even though she told Gatsby that she loved him. And after everything Gatsby did for Daisy including taking a bullet for a crime he didn’t commit, she along with many of the people Gatsby surrounded himself with showed their true colors by failing to show up to his funeral.

The only people that showed up to Gatsby’s funeral were the people that were not wealthy showing that the hundreds of people who showed up to his house every week only cared for parties and money, and not for Gatsby himself. This shows that Gatsby put everything into winning over a woman who never really cared for him that he only lived for her and not himself. For even Nick, his only friend, came into his life due to his ties with Daisy and the hope that through Nick he would have the chance he had been waiting for to see the woman he was pining for. Thus making Gatsby’s story a tragic tale of a man who died too soon chasing his version of the American dream that he never achieves.

Through all of Gatsby’s hard work he never achieves his version of the American Dream. Only when it is a fingers grasp away does he ever truly get near it and even then it is ripped out of his cold dead hands.

In the last paragraph of the book it says:

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . And one fine morning – So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. (Fitzgerald 189)

For even when trying with all his might to achieve the American dream Gatsby is not promised to achieve it. And neither are the people of America. Even if they have their own green light there is no telling if the light will go out. But even with Gatsby’s example of the disillusionment of the American dream people will never stop trying to achieve it. For people are always trying to better themselves no matter if it’s a lost cause because America is the land of opportunity and without the hope that anyone can make their dreams a reality the country would not be the great nation of go getters it is today.

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The Disillusionment of the American Dream. (2021, Jun 13). Retrieved June 27, 2022 , from

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