The American Dream in The Great Gatsby

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The American dream is a national ethos anchored on American set of ideals of happiness, liberty, democracy, opportunity, rights, and equality for all. It holds that anyone regardless of race, skin color, gender, and class has a chance for success and prosperity, accomplished through sacrifice, risk-taking, and hard work. The government must protect everyone’s opportunity to pursue their idea of happiness. For many Americans, life is about attaining the highest standards of living through which wealth, power and material possessions take center stage. Gatsby is one of those Americans who spend his entire life pursuing wealth and power. The story “The Great Gatsby,” by Scott Fitzgerald provides a pessimistic view of the American dream.

Fitzgerald seeks to discredit the supposed purity of the dream and believe that anyone can attain it through hard work. He thinks that the dream’s original sets of goals were freedom, and honest life, that enhances socio-economic mobility upward. However, the vision was corrupted by the egotistic materialism of the 1920’s, characterized by greed, excessive hedonism, and individuals striving for power and material possession (Fitzgerald 10). Specifically, the 1920s was a period of significant economic growth in the US history, and everyone was blinded by the infinite growth and accumulation of wealth. However, the idea was untrue as the country’s growth was marred by the 1930s economic depression which left many people frustrated, suffering and deluded. According to Fitzgerald, the dream is a mere delusion altered from its original form; hence it is dead. Gatsby’s primary goal in life is to achieve the American Dream; by accumulating wealth, power, owning land and get married to a woman she loves. In a sense, George is also focused on achieving financial success and his dream love, Myrtle Wilson. However, Myrtle concentrates on getting a wealthy man who would transform her life and take away her slag heaps. Indeed, the characters in the novel might have achieved some level of success but at the cost of their happiness.

The unfortunate ordeal is summed up at the closing of the novel where Fitzgerald states, ”Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that recedes before us year by year, it eluded us then … tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther and one fine Morning ...”  (Fitzgerald 145)

Individuals following the American dream believe that a more significant and brighter future lies ahead of them. No matter the wealth, money or honors they achieve, the future is always ahead, thus always striving for better thing. By “running faster and stretching arms farther,” that “fine morning will eventually come.” Fitzgerald failure to provide a concrete description of the idea of the “fine morning” is a clear indication of the vague desire and delusion that overwhelm those chasing the American Dream. According to Fitzgerald, those following the dream are beating against the current. They are fighting a losing battle that is not only regressive but stagnating (Fitzgerald 25).  Fitzgerald is merely saying that the dream is unachievable as it always involves people striving for more than they have. Even if Daisy granted Gatsby his wish, he would be still somehow unsatisfied. Gatsby’s current wealthy state makes him appear like someone in pursuit of the dream; however, to him the personification of that dream is Daisy.

The lost promise of the dream is evident in the last chapters of the novel that is futures mournful and apprehensive attitudes. Daisy refuses to leave Tom for Gatsby, Myrtle is murdered, and George kills Gatsby and commits suicide (Tredell 15). Similarly, there are individual immoral acts in the play that signify the decaying American dream. For instance, Tom cheating on his wife Daisy and Gatsby earning some of his money through crime, it turns out that Daisy’s wealth is not out of hard work as the American Dream stipulates.


In summary, Gatsby is an excellent novel as it portrays the reality of America. The rising cases of unemployment, terrorism, environmental degradation, racism and discrimination in the country shows the difficulties the people are going through.

Works Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. F. Scott Fitzgerald: Trimalchio: An Early Version of'The Great Gatsby'. Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Tredell, Nicolas. F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

December 12, 2023


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