It is always a great, or rather a perfect match, when a beautiful story meets an excellent narrator. Even much better is the situation whereby the wonderful story is about a great ideal that is held dear amongst a greater portion of the public. The American Dream was a conception of the post-war society, which advocated for a great life. For an increasingly optimistic public, the American Dream was the conceptualization and visualization of a good job, a great family, and a lovely home. It encompassed having a prosperous, all-round life for the average American citizen. This is the story that was captured, though sarcastically in some sense, by Fitzgerald in the Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald once again brings his literary excellence by producing a masterclass in this story. Of interest, however, is the fact that the story not only captivates the reader all through but also informs on the very fundamental aspects of the notion of the American Dream.
The Great Gatsby is a compelling love story which commonly criticizes the American dream negatively. In the novel, Jay Gatsby gains status and money and thus overcome his troubled past which led to hate and rejection from those who had acquired riches earlier, and later they killed him. By focusing on Gatsby’s life, America is revealed in the form of a meritocracy where each one can raise their status to the top if they work hard. However, after gaining material wealth, there are no clear steps to take, and Fitzgerald illustrates how the American Dream can fail in the novel.
Definition of the American dream
The American dream is s notion that all individuals despite their gender, race, ethnicity and social class can climb up the ladder to success if they employ efforts and employ determination towards achieving their goals. The American dream, therefore, reveals a view of the American community which does not focus on challenges, for instance, misogyny, xenophobia, systemic racism and inequalities in income distribution. Buell, (2014) postulate that the American dream also presumes the myth that there is a class equality within the society, whereas the truth is that America has a well-developed class hierarchy
In the 1920s the country had an economic boom period making everyone believe that they could become productive and thus it was a tumultuous time as a result of the changing gender roles, income inequality, and immigration. However, the rise in the economic status which was due to the seasons came crashing, and the novel, therefore, presents a pessimistic view regarding the American Dream ((Lindberg, 2015).
Analyzing Gatsby through the American Dream
Gatsby is the best candidate for writing about the novel as he came from a humble background and later stems up to be vastly wealthy, but he ends up losing his riches later. Most individuals view Daisy as part of Gatsby’s dream. Traditionally the Americans people acquire wealth through sacrifice and efforts, unlike his case where he gets huge amounts of money via criminal activities (Xiao, 2017). He does not attempt hard work and crime is the only way he achieved his so much desired wealth.
So while his story resembles the traditional notion of “from rags to riches,” the fact that his financial status was achieved through crime is a transparent avatar for the American dream. Buell (2014) argue that His success does not last as he still wants Daisy and ends up losing everything in efforts to win her back. His goal, in other words, is wedded to Daisy.
Can Female Characters Achieve the American Dream?
Comparing and contrasting the female characters with those of men using the American’s dream lens is interesting. Daisy, for instance, is quite unhappy in her marriage and attempts to leave but she stays with Tom due to her unwillingness to let go for the security and status of the marriage. One might think that Daisy does not dream at first, and that’s the reason she ends up unhappy, but because she was brought up with the highest levels of the American society, it’s easy to understand her stand (Lindberg, 2015).
Being a wealthy woman, Daisy has nothing great to pursue and thus the only thing she can do is remain in her marriage as she can’t risk the loss of status and uncertainty that would come with divorce. She, therefore, seems to typify the American dream in that she was brought up with the aspect of aristocracy and thus has to maintain her position and not fight for something greater or better. On the contrary Xiao, (2017), assert that Myrtle seems more ambitious and pursues to get more than life gives her.
Myrtle parlays her relationship with Tom into parties, beautiful clothes and apartment and she reveals her new status. She is knocked down and killed for her links with the Buchanans and considering that Gatsby had the chance to flee Ney York but Myrtle was killed first, the novel presents a bleaker view regarding women and the American dream (Buell, 2014). Jordan seems to be leaving out a dream by being entirely independent and playing golf which ties her to her family’s money, and this presents her as a poor illustration of the American dream.
Therefore when the female characters rise above the society’s expectations, they are either killed or falling in line, and this undermines the idea that everyone regardless of their gender can make it in the American society. According to Lindberg (2015), the American dream as illustrated by Gatsby is more pessimistic regarding the female characters.
Fitzgerald illustrates how the American dream is characterized with materialism and how this affects the lives of the American people, making it hard for them to view reality objectively. The author manages to indeed produce excellence in this narrative. Because of being materialistic, individuals end up idealizing their feelings and way of life, and thus their existence resembles a theatre performance here actors overreact. To a large degree, the story illustrates the fact that The American Dream is just a concept, and might therefore not come true to everyone.
- Buell, L. (2014). The Dream of the Great American Novel. Harvard University Press.
- Lindberg, L. (2015). The American Dream as a Means of Social Criticism in The Great Gatsby.
- Xiao, L. I. U. (2017). An Analysis of the Disillusionment of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby—Based on the Perspective of Consumerism. Journal of Literature and Art Studies, 7(1), 63-68.