Great Gatsby and the American Dream

Americans have throughout centuries sought the prospect of a full, opportunistic life by which they may attain prosperity and happiness. In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald exposes the inevitable failure of the American Dream, which ultimately cannot deliver the fruits of its promise and asks the reader a vital question through narrator Nick Carraway’s reflections upon society: to what extent do the Gatsbian characters entrap themselves within an ideal world that lacks realism and masks the unattainability of the American Dream?

Similar to other Americans who are consumed with a life of prosperity, one of the central characters, hopeless romantic Jay Gatsby, throws himself entirely at the prospect of his own American Dream—a requited love that too is bred from societal acceptance—which is represented by a burning green light visible from his past lover Daisy’s home. The green light, and thus the American Dream, keeps Gatsby on a ceaseless run with hope that one day he may lather in the fruits of his profits. But he fails to account for the recession of the dream that he could never reach from the beginning. Every time Gatsby gazes into the horizon towards Daisy’s home, he visualizes the chance of attaining all that he can, and despite his failure to attain these aspects, he still endures with faith until the end. Like Gatsby’s unfulfilled desire and the forever unattainable green light, the American Dream depicts an everlasting ambition for which one always searches and the resulting, unavoidable lack of complacency. Whether the green light represents the American land, dream, or ambition, the fiery blaze with which it burns eventually dwindles into nothing.

True understanding of the unrealistic nature of the American Dream is substantiated in the final scene of the novel, when Nick infers that “[the future] eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . .And one fine morning——.”  The narrator universalizes his point of a dead American Dream by using personal pronouns, such as “us.” He depicts the ceaselessness of the dream, expressing that “we” will keep trying day after day to achieve some sort of satisfaction. However, by initiating a break after “one fine morning” Nick reveals the tragedy of the unreachable dream. Despite the pervasive notion of idealism throughout the text, as exemplified by Gatsby’s attempts to transcend social classes and earn the love he desires, Nick’s final revelation, pessimistic as it may seem, serves as a realistic outlook of the world. He acknowledges that the final result of one’s labor may entail disappointment rather than triumph, and with this realization, Nick comes to a greater understanding of the 1920’s society.

Whether our own American Dreams consist of attaining all riches or societal embracement, it remains so that perfectionism, however unattainable, perpetually consumes the depths of our minds and infinitely causes us to search for the chance to escape our bitter compliance with realism. We, all Gatsbians at heart, survive by the brittle threads of our sweet fantasies and grim actualities.


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