From the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s America went through a major immigration boom. People came from all over Europe to create a better life for themselves as well as their family. With this immigration boom came, an idea known as the American Dream. The American Dream can be defined as the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative. This ideal is a prominent theme in the novel The Great Gatsby. The novel began in the year 1922, which was a period in which the economy thrived and people were materialistic.
In addition, this time period followed World War and to fill their sorrows many people partied, consumed alcohol and spent large amounts of money to fill the void in their life. In The Great Gatsby, power is associated with money. Those who have money have a sense of power in the novel. Tom comes from “old money” and uses structural power to control others and get out of his mishaps. Unlike Tom, Gatsby uses his individual power to accomplish his dream, which is to win back Daisy. Lastly, Myrtle uses individual power to get with Tom so that she is closer to living the rich life she had always dreamt of. Each character in the novel has a dream, Myrtle has the desire to live the perfect luxurious life and be apart of the elite social class. Most people would argue that Tom had already achieved the American Dream, he is rich, married and has a kid.
However, Tom is not satisfied with the life he is living. He resorts to having affairs with lower class women to feel free. Gatsby posses both the uncorrupted as well as the corrupted American Dream. Gatsby came from nothing and worked his way up. On the contrary, Gatsby used illegal tactics to achieve his version of the American Dream which shows us how the dream can lead to corruption. The amount of money and power one possesses does not influence their chances of achieving the American Dream, money and power ultimately crushes the dream itself. Throughout the novel Gatsby embodies the American Dream and what it truly means in society. Gatsby grew up in a poor family from North Dakota.
QUOTE. Starting at a young age Gatsby had the vision of money in his head. When he met Daisy he was poor soldier awaiting his departure for the war and vowed he would return a wealthy man. Gatsby believed he needed to be rich in order to win over Daisy because she is apart of the elite social class. Daisy too was infatuated with money and thus left Gatsby and married Tom Buchanan, a wealthy man from “east egg.” This pushed Gatsby dream farther away from his reach.
Empowered by his American Dream, Gatsby joined forces with Wolfsheim and took part in illegal activities to acquire the wealth needed to win back Daisy. Gatsby represents the true version of the American Dream as well as the corrupted dream because he was determined to reconnect with Daisy. However, he took part in illegal activities in order to become wealthy. Gatsby bought a big house and threw lavish parties in hopes of Daisy attending so that he could win her back. Fitzgerald used symbolism throughout the novel to demonstrate the American Dream, the green light in the novel represents Gatsby’s hopes and dreams for the future. He associates the light with Daisy and reaches out to it and uses it as a guiding light to direct him to his dream.
As shown in the novel, “He stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, 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.” Some people might claim that Gatsby was able to achieve his dream because he succeeded in becoming a wealthy man in West Egg. However, this is only partially true, for Gatsby’s genuine American Dream was to win over Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby’s dream was centered around the idea of wealth, therefore the power to achieve his dream and other things in life is through money. Gatsby believed that he needed to be wealthy in order to achieve his dream which is false.
His death at the end of the novel represents how one cannot achieve the American Dream by cheating it and taking part in illegal activities in order to gain wealth and later power, which is what Gatsby had done. In the end Gatsby could not fully achieve his dream, which shows how power does not influence one’s ability to achieve the American Dream. Myrtle represents the failure of the American Dream. Like most during this time period, Myrtle was infatuated with money. She was born into the lower class but believed she belonged as one of the elite. Her husband was unable to provide for her materialistic needs and turned to Tom, a member of the elite class to fill that void in which her husband could not.
Myrtle believed that Tom was the picture perfect image that represented the American Dream. The affair with Tom allowed Myrtle to inch her way closer to “old money” and the life she desired. Myrtle’s death represents how destructive the American Dream can be. Fitzgerald used irony, as he had Daisy kill her. In the novel Myrtle does not have any power, she comes from rags and hopes to become apart of the riches. It is evident throughout the novel that her lack of power did not limit her ability to work at achieving her dream. However, she fell short and her ironic death led to destruction and shows how power and ultimately leads to stress, jealousy, and corruption.
Tom Buchanan represents the false hope of the American Dream. Tom has always been apart of the elite class and uses his wealth to do whatever he wants in life. The American Dream is thought of as the journey of coming out of poverty and making a name for yourself through hard work and determination. Tom does not portray the qualities associated with the dream and therefore creates a sense of false hope for those that look up to him.
The worst qualities associated with the American Dream are portrayed by both Tom and Daisy Buchanan, both lived without a purpose in life. In the novel Nick described them as “Careless people, Tom and Daisy- They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…” (Fitzgerald, ). This represents the power they uphold, no matter their actions they retreat back to their money to get them out of the situation. Tom represents the false hope of the American Dream because he doesn’t work to get what he wants in life and the American Dream is built on the foundation of hard work. When people look at him they see the vision of the American Dream but he only represents an evil, greedy man. Which has caused the old version of the American Dream to be terminated and now focusing on materialism. Tom acquired a great deal of power but, the amount of money does not provide him with happiness and his dream. Some people believe that the American Dream is having a nice car, house or family.
According to the article, “The Psychology of the American Dream” the dream is in our imagination, everyone can have their own version of the dream they want to accomplish. It can be as simple as getting a job or having a family. In the article, it stated that to most, the dream is a factor of motivation that keeps them living their life day to day. This connects to the novel The Great Gatsby as Gatsby used his version of the American Dream as motivation to keep on working to win over Daisy. However, in a way it gave him false hope because he was never able to reach her fully. In the article it states that people are starting to lose hope in the dream because they are unable to see the results it is giving them. The fall of both Gatsby and Myrtle represent the old American Dream dying.
It represents the loss of the American values and their replacements, money, greed, and materialism. In the end, no matter how much money or power the characters in the novel possessed they were all unable to achieve the American Dream furthers the idea that power does not influence one’s ability to achieve the American Dream.