Jay Gatsby and the Decline of the American Dream – English Essay
The American dream is viewed as the success one attains through hard work and perseverance. The traditional view of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is that any person, regardless of social rank, has the
opportunity and ability to be all that they are meant to be. In stark contrast, Jay Gatsby’s idea of attaining the American dream in the early twentieth century is through illegal money that was not acquired by hard work. This traditional idea does not support materialistic wealth as the only indicator of success; whereas Gatsby’s only key to success is through his materialistic wealth. Gatsby accepts a free ride to the top of society instead of striving to reach his full potential through hard, honest work. What he reaches may seem like the real American dream to outsiders, but in reality he is just as miserable as before he acquired his fortune.
Gatsby’s dream is “doomed” because he “tries to buy his way into a society that will never accept him.” (Taylor 1) He, like Nick, is “trying to accomplish the great American project of remaking himself” (Truby 1). The catch is that Nick understands that one cannot remake oneself using only petty items with no hard work. His house and all the outrageous things in it are prime examples of how badly he desires to fulfill his own personal dream, and how skewed his way of achieving it is. One main point in this corruption of the American dream is how Gatsby actually made his money. “Gatsby gets his fortune through the illegal sale of alcohol, or bootlegging” during the prohibition era of the 1920‘s (study world 1). When he finds out that Daisy is married to Tom Buchanan, Gatsby’s efforts to become a part of the rich society become stronger. He disregards his morals to become whatever he thinks she wants in a man. Since he couldn’t marry her when he was a poor boy, he believes that he can marry her as a rich man. He buys objects of great monetary value, hoping to give the impression of being totally content. However, “Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay (Fitzgerald 83),” and throws gaudy and elaborate parties in hopes that she will show up one night. He thinks that by fitting in with the society Daisy is in, he will win her heart back for good. The only problem is that he really doesn’t belong, and the so-called American dream of his is nothing but loads of money covering up his loneliness.
Gatsby thinks that he can make an impact on Daisy by merely “the possessions he owns” (Taylor 1), such as his vast assortment of shirts. When Daisy sees the shirts, she reacts by replying, “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such–such beautiful shirts before.” (Fitzgerald 98) Gatsby indeed impresses her with these shirts, but does not realize that he cannot merely show off his pretty things and expect her to fall right into his arms. Another pride of Gatsby’s and, ironically, what turns out to be the death of him is his new car. He buys a new, flashy yellow Rolls Royce, only of course to show off his wealth and impress Daisy. Gatsby’s car is the recipient of many ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs,’ and from a distance Gatsby appears to be happy, especially when riding with Daisy Buchanan. His car alone, however, does not save him from a most tragic death. Daisy, the object of Gatsby’s every desire, kills someone in this ornamental Rolls Royce, and Gatsby is eventually killed for it.
The lack of real value and moral in Gatsby’s dream trickles down to even the guests at his weekend parties. Of course, they know who the infamous Jay Gatsby is. But a very small percent of the hundreds of guests Gatsby has every single weekend have ever spoken to the host of the party. These drones of guests sweep in and out of the parties week after week without really being invited, much less personally wanted there. Gatsby has house guests but still no real friends until Nick comes along, whom he uses only to get closer to Daisy.
When Daisy finally reveals her affair to Tom, Gatsby urges her to tell Tom that she never loved him. He insists that she say it, but Daisy cannot bring herself to say that she didn’t ever love him, because “I loved him once– but I loved you too.” (Fitzgerald 132) When she says this, it makes Gatsby realize that he will never have his picture-perfect version of the American dream, where Daisy’s thoughts have always been about him. Gatsby is demanding that Daisy declare her love for only him instead of doing things the proper way and waiting for her to willingly come to him. He would not wait for her, and work for her love; instead, he sacrificed values for selfishness.
After Gatsby dies protecting the woman who will never really be his, his dream is still being decimated. The only people at Gatsby’s funeral were Nick and his Father. The hundreds of people who took the time to utilize his house during weekend parties didn’t show up to the man’s funeral. Daisy, Gatsby’s only reason for doing anything, didn’t show up to his funeral. His other almost-friends, Meyer Wolfsheim and Jordan Baker, didn’t show up to his funeral. This last step in his life makes his failure in life truly shine through. Though from the outside he had everything anyone could ever want, strangers couldn’t see that everything in his life was superficial, down to his friends.