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The American Dream in Fitzgerald's the Great Gatsby

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The American Dream in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

The 1920's were a time of parties, drinking and having nothing but fun. Many aspired to be rich and prosperous and longed to be a part of the upper class. Although this was the dream for many Americans of this time, it seemed almost impossible to become a part of this social class unless born into it. Even those who worked hard to become successful and support themselves and their families were not accepted into this elite group of men and women, despite the fact that they too most likely had everything. This was a running theme of this decade and only a few people knew how impossible this dream was. Although some could accomplish rising to the top, they still could not achieve true happiness. F. Scott Fitzgerald was one of these wise people and in The Great Gatsby he satirizes the American Dream by creating characters from new money, old money and the working class, who all fail miserably in achieving life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The new money of the New York area mostly settled in West Egg, Long Island. This is where Nick Carraway, the narrator of the story, and Jay Gatsby live. Gatsby is a self-made man who "sprang from his Platonic conception of himself" (95). Nick describes him as a man invented like that which a "seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end" (95). This idea of a self-made man was very popular in this era. Many people, especially from the lower social classes, wanted more than anything to become rich and part of the upper society. In Gatsby's case, his motivation is Daisy, a girl from Louisville with whom he fell in love. When Gatsby realized that he wasn't good enough for her because she came from the aristocracy while he hardly had enough money to buy himself clothes, he "committed himself to the following of a grail" (142). This grail, Daisy, almost has a holy feeling to it, something that is almost impossible to attain. Gatsby strives to achieve it and gets very close to doing so, but can never fully grasp the grail, and in turn, never fully gets Daisy. This is another example of how Fitzgerald demonstrates the immense failure that existed throughout the nation in achieving what they really wanted, happiness. In the end, Daisy "vanished into her rich house, into her rich, full life, leaving Gatsby -- nothing" (142).

Although many aspired to be a part of the aristocracy, even they were unhappy. Despite the deception that they had everything that an average American could ever ask for, the aristocracy was really trapped within the boundaries of their selective group. Fitzgerald depicts this with the dilemma that Daisy Buchanan faces. Although she claims to have been in love with Gatsby, she seems to care more about materialistic things that only Tom could have given her in the past. When she realizes that Gatsby too could have supported her, she sees that she may have made a mistake in not waiting for him. However, Daisy realizes that although Gatsby could support her, there is not an endless supply of his money, unlike Tom's. Due to this threat of not having everything she wanted, Daisy retreats back to the hulking arms of her cheating husband, Tom Buchanan. Unfortunately for Gatsby, Daisy fell back into the trend of the aristocracy and the carelessness of their class. As Fitzgerald put it, they were very careless people and "they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made" (170). This was a pattern that Daisy and Tom, and others like them, were trapped in. They constantly repeated these actions and managed to hurt everyone around them, including themselves. They were never able to be truly content and would continue to be stuck in this cycle of attempting to break away but never actually doing it because they were too shallow to change their way of life.

The working class had

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