The minute and far away, that might have been

The
Unreachable American Dream

            The American Dream is the idea that anyone can become
successful in America. In The Great
Gatsby, Fitzgerald creates characters who are interested in the living the American
Dream. Jay Gatsby has a goal to win back the beautiful, yet married, Daisy
Buchanan. The characters want money to feel successful, so Gatsby believes that
wealth will make him desirable to Daisy. Although, the American Dream might not
be so desirable after all.  In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
suggests that the American Dream is an unreachable goal, the people who pursue
it are foolish, and this pursuit is ultimately corrupting.

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            Fitzgerald uses a green light at the end of Daisy
Buchanan’s dock to symbolize the American Dream as an unreachable pursuit. When
Gatsby stares at the light, he is longing for it, but it is just out of reach.
Much like Daisy, Gatsby can see the light but cannot have it. “he stretched out
his arms towards the dark water in a curious way, far as I was from him, I
could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward–and
distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that
might have been the end of a dock” (20-21). The fact that the light is green,
might also lead the reader to believe the light also symbolizes money. Gatsby
thinks that wealth is what he needs to win back Daisy. He suggests, through
lies, that his wealth was inherited, though we later discover most of his
wealth has been achieved through criminal acts. Gatsby tries to live the
American Dream, but he gets there through lying. This means that Gatsby isn’t
actually living the American Dream, rather he is living a life that is caught
up in lies. This shows that the American Dream is truly unreachable.

            Secondly, Fitzgerald portrays the characters who pursue
the American dream to be foolish. This is especially evident in Daisy’s
character. In fact, Daisy wishes her own daughter to be a fool, whilst in the
hospital after giving birth. “And I hope she’ll be a fool–that’s the best thing
a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool” (17). Daisy wishes this because
no one expects anything from a fool, they can act childish as they expect
others to deal with their consequences. Nick Carraway, the narrator, realizes
that Daisy is a fool herself. Daisy decides to marry Tom Buchanan not because
she loved him, rather because he is rich. Though she is truly interested in
Gatsby, she chooses Tom because he seemed more stable than Gatsby. “he has
deliberately given Daisy a sense of security… that he was fully able to take
care of her” (149). Daisy’s pursuit of the American Dream makes her foolish due
to the fact that she marries Tom only because he has stable money and success. Fitzgerald
wants readers to believe pursuing the American Dream would mean they are
foolish because the dream is unreachable. 

            Lastly, the pursuit of the American Dreams shows itself
as corrupting through Gatsby’s fate. In the beginning of the story Gatsby
suggests that he was born into a wealthy family. He says that they had all died
in a tragic accident resulting in an inheritance of a great deal of money for
Gatsby. Near the end of The Great Gatsby,
more and more information about his past comes out. We learn that Gatsby
was not born into a wealthy family, his father is indeed alive, and Gatsby
received his money not through an inheritance, rather through illegal ways. Jay
Gatsby’s real name is James Gatz, but “James Gatz” could never live the
American Dream as himself, so he created Jay Gatsby. Getting himself wrapped up
in all these lies just to live the American Dream and win back Daisy, results
in Gatsby’s death. Gatsby is murdered by George Wilson, an auto shop owner. George
murdered him because he believed Gatsby killed George’s wife, Myrtle. Although,
it was Daisy who killed Myrtle with Gatsby’s car. Gatsby took the blame to
protect Daisy, despite the fact that Gatsby did not kill Myrtle. This shows
that the American dream resulted in corruption for Gatsby because of his lies. The
valley of ashes is another example of corruption resulting from the American
Dream. It is a dark, ghostly place that symbolizes the ugliness what has
resulted from the American Dream. “This is the valley of ashes–a fantastic
farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens;
where ashes take the form of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally,
with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through
the powdery air” (23). The valley of ashes is a result of what people did to pursue
the American dream. People became blinded by wealth and did not see what they
were creating because of it.

            In conclusion, F. Scott Fitzgerald suggests that the American
Dream isn’t as desirable as people might think at first. In The Great Gatsby he shows the American
Dream to be unreachable through symbolism. Fitzgerald also seems to believe
people who pursue the American Dream are foolish and that it will just lead to
corruption. He shows why the American Dream isn’t all it is said to be through
the characters in the novel that pursue it.