Gatsby's Pursuit of the American Dream
The Great Gatsby, a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is about the American Dream, and the downfall
of those who attempt to reach its illusionary goal. The attempt to capture the American Dream is central to
many novels. This dream is different for different people, but in The Great Gatsby, for Jay, the dream is
that through wealth and power, one can acquire happiness. This happiness is something for which he must
reach into the past to have and for which he must revive and old dream.
Jay Gatsby, the central figure of the the story, is one character who longs for the past. Suprisingly
he devotes most of his adult life trying to recapture it and, finally, dies in its pursuit. In the past, Jay had a
love affair with the affluent Daisy. Knowing he could not marry her because of the difference in their
social status, he leaves her to amass wealth to reach her economic standards. Once he acquires this wealth,
he moves near to Daisy,"Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay (83)," and
throws extravagant parties, hoping by chance she might show up at one of them. He, himself, does not
attend his parties but watches them from a distance. When this dream doesn't happen, he asks around
casually if anyone knows her. Soon he meets Nick Carraway, a cousin of Daisy, who agrees to set up a
meeting, "He wants to know...if you'll invite Daisy to your house some afternoon and then let him come
over (83)."Gatsby's personal dream symboli!
zes the larger American Dream where all have the oppurtunity to get what they want.
Later, as we see in the Plaza Hotel, Jay still believes that Daisy loves him. He is convinced of this
as is shown when he takes the blame for Myrtle's death. "Was Daisy driving?" "Yes...but of course I'll say
I was." (151) He also watches and protects Daisy as she returns home. "How long are you going to wait?"
"All night if necessary." (152) Jay cannot accept that the past is gone and done with. Jay is sure that he
can capture his dream with wealth and influence. He believes that he acted for a good beyond his personal
interest and that should guarantee success.
Nick attempts to show Jay the folly of his dream, but Jay innocently replies to Nick's assertion that
the past cannot be relived by saying, "Yes you can, old sport." This shows the confindence that Jay has in
fulfilling his American Dream. For Jay, his American Dream is not material possessions, although it may
seem that way. He only comes into riches so that he can fulfill his true American Dream, Daisy.
Gatsby doesn't rest until his American Dream is finally fulfilled. However, it never comes about
and he ends up paying the ultimate price for it. The idea of the American Dream still holds true in today's
time, be it wealth, love, or fame. But one thing never changes about the American Dream; everyone
desires something in life, and everyone, somehow, strives to get it. Gatsby is a prime example of pursuing
the American Dream.