American Dream states that any person has the potential to achieve success
through hard work and motivation. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, some of the characters
try to live up to this ideal when pursuing their dreams. However, instead of
finding success at the end of the journey, the majority of the roster encounter
devastating failures. The residents of East and West Egg fail not because of a
lack of dedication but rather because of the illusion that the American Dream
creates. Although the American Dream sounds idealistic, in reality it is too
simplistic and does not account for other factors that may lead to success. Rather
than provide a source of inspiration, the ideal creates an oversimplified
delusion of the journey to success. In the novel, some characters seem to
pursue the American Dream, but they all fall short in different ways by
deceiving themselves, showing that a fine line exists between making dreams
reality and making reality a dream.

Baker represents the opposite of the American Dream; instead of achieving
success through hard work and motivation, her philosophy is based upon
achieving her desires without consideration of the means to accomplish her
goals. She becomes golf champion not because she tries the hardest or is the
most motivated but because she blatantly cheats in the semi-finals and denies
committing the crime. Furthermore, Jordan is never held responsible for
cheating. Nick Carraway, the narrator, describes Jordan “as incurably
dishonest. She wasn’t able to endure being at a disadvantage…” (58). J.T.

Barbarese, a professor at Rutgers University, mentions in his article “‘The
Great Gatsby’ and the American Dream” that “Jordan Baker’s name, I have learned, conjoins the names
of two cars popular at the time. This point is valuable because the American
automobile is a major element in Gatsby.” Ironically, despite portraying Jordan
as dishonest, Fitzgerald chooses to tie her name so closely with the American
Dream, hinting at the ideal’s flaws. By the end of the novel, Nick discovers
that Jordan has already moved on from her only personal struggle in the novel­­–her
relationship with Nick–and becomes engaged. Despite her cynical
viewpoint, out of the entire cast Fitzgerald portrays Jordan the most
successful and least affected by the end of the novel.

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Nick is the narrator of the book, he plays an important role in Fitzgerald’s
representation of the American Dream. Nick
moves East in pursuit of the bond business but also to escape his life in the
West. He introduces the novel with advice that he learned from his father:
“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, …just remember that all the people
in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had” (1). Nick claims that
he is the embodiment of his father’s adage, yet early in the novel he calls
people who are attracted to his nonjudgmental attitude people with an “abnormal
mind” (1). This inconsistency between Nick’s reality and illusion only
continues to grow throughout the novel, to the point that his dream never
becomes reality. Barbarese describes Nick’s relationship with those around him,
especially with Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan as a “tragic-comic distance from
both.” By the time Nick realizes that he has started judging people more and
more, he opens his eyes to the selfish personalities of those around him,
causing him to leave the East. At the end of the book, he draws a comparison
between the East and one of El Greco’s paintings: “…Four solemn men in dress
suits are walking along the sidewalk with which lies a drunken woman… But no
one knows the woman’s name, and no one cares” (176). Although Nick never
complains about his work, his dream fails not because of his lack of ability
but rather because of the self-centered people around him, demonstrating the
reality of the American Dream.

Gatsby is dedicated to find success in
his life by recreating the past, as Gatsby lives in an illusion. Fitzgerald
portray him as hard working, as his father displays Gatsby’s tightly-packed
schedule, while also ambitious. Through Gatsby’s hard work, he achieves
monetary success, but in the end he fails to realize his dream because he
attempts to relive the past. Gatsby spends the majority of the novel obsessed
over Daisy, who Gatsby had a relationship with before the war. Gatsby forces
Daisy to tell Tom, “I never loved you,” despite that Daisy does actually love
him (132). Gatsby is unaware of Daisy’s feelings and only tries to fulfill his
own selfish desires. When Daisy tries putting her arm through Gatsby’s, instead
of feeling rejoiced Nick notes that Gatsby instead realizes that “the colossal
significance of that light had now vanished forever” (93). Gatsby contradicts
his own desires, because he pursues the past to make it a reality, but at the
same time when he realizes his dream, the dream loses its meaning. Because
Gatsby is willing to pursue his dreams using any methods, he loses any
sustainable human relationships and instead Barbarese notes that he only has
“gonnegshuns,” or false relations with others that exist for selfish purposes
from both parties (qtd. in Barbarese). But despite all Gatsby’s vices, Gatsby
is the embodiment of the American Dream; Gatsby is a hardworking man who
becomes rich despite his poor background. However, his dream of happiness
becomes distorted through his obsessive dedication, showing that the American
Dream’s ideal that all hardworking people will succeed is just an illusion.

Everyone in the novel has a dream.

However, each character strives toward the end goal in a different approach,
yet most of the characters never realize their own faults until after their ideals
end crashing down. Although the American Dream states that anyone has a chance
at success through hard work and motivation, characters who represent this
ideal in the novel fail because of their inability to face reality. Furthermore,
the novel portrays the American Dream as an ideal that does not advance the
community as a whole but rather only the individual, as most of the characters
are willing to try to achieve their dreams without consideration of the people
around them. The Great Gatsby
provides characters who pursue the American Dream and yet fail because of their
hallucinations of reality and their self-centered desires, demonstrating that
the American Dream itself is an ideal that will stay an illusion.







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