The “Great” American Dream

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“Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has the more one wants” (Benjamin Franklin). This idea is explored by F. Scott Fitzgerald in his 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby. The 1920s setting portrayed by Fitzgerald displays a lifestyle dominated by new money, and technological advancements. The greatness of a concept such as the American Dream – the ability to achieve success by working hard, no matter one’s origins – is displayed.

However, the portrayal of certain characters exposes the flaws of the American Dream. Essentially, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby illustrates the flaws of the American Dream through the characters of Jay Gatsby and George Wilson. Their inability to attain their goals and constant rejection from society exemplifies the flaws in this otherwise “flawless” concept.

To begin, both Gatsby and Wilson demonstrate the flaws of the American Dream as they are unable to achieve their goals. For instance, Gatsby’s ultimate goal, endearing back Daisy proves to be unsuccessful. Subsequently after Gatsby is wrongfully murdered by George Wilson, Daisy leaves with her husband, Tom Buchanan. Thereafter, Nick, a close friend of Gatsby’s attempts to call Daisy but unfortunately discovers that, “she and Tom had gone away early that afternoon” (Fitzgerald 164).

Gatsby’s attempts of attaining Daisy’s love by conquering the American Dream fails miserably, and he is left to die loveless. This specific incident demonstrates a significant downside to the American Dream, as success and wealth do not assure for true love, or friendship. Further proof of this flaw is depicted at Gatsby’s funeral. Very few people attend the funeral of Gatsby, including his father, Nick, a minister, and some servants. Like Gatsby, Wilson too is left unsatisfied by the American Dream. To exemplify, Wilson, who owns a garage, is ironically, unable to make any money, despite the rising popularity of automobiles. For instance, Nick describes Wilson’s garage as, “unprosperous and bare; the only car visible was the dust-covered wreck of a Ford which crouched in a dim corner” (25).

This description of the garage solidifies the failure of Wilson. To explain, the rundown car emphasizes the lack of business as it is covered in dust and has clearly been parked in the corner for quite some time. Moreover, his lack of financial success has affected his motivation in life: “Generally, he was one of these worn out men; when he wasn’t working, he sat on a chair in the doorway and stared at the people and the cars that passed along the road. When anyone spoke to him, he invariably laughed in an agreeable, colorless way” (136).

The portrayal of Wilson’s character exemplifies a failed American Dream, as he lives a life of dismay, despite owning his own business. In summary, both Gatsby’s and Wilson’s characters reveal flaws of the American Dream. Albeit, both situations do vary. Gatsby attains a fortune from an illicit business but ultimately lacks true love and friendship. On the contrary, Wilson, is incapable to prosper financially. Nonetheless, both Gatsby and Wilson fail to achieve their ambitions, whether that be achieving true love, or financial success. To conclude, the characters’ inability to attain success and contentment is one significant flaw of the American Dream.

The characters of Gatsby and Wilson illustrate another flaw of the American Dream, the constant rejection and discrimination from the upper class. To exemplify, Gatsby’s character, who acquires a fortune through the illicit sale of alcohol, is viewed as an inferior by many within the upper-class society. For instance, Gatsby resides in West Egg, a residential community for people with new money. However, by the upper-class society of East Egg, these people are substandard because of their meager financial origins. Tom Buchanan implies that, “[a] lot of these newly rich people are just bootleggers” (115).

This statement demonstrates the egotistical views of aristocratic people such as Tom Buchanan. Further, Gatsby is influenced by the superiority of those above him, resulting in him wanting to acquire a better reputation. To illustrate, Gatsby says to Nick, “I am the son of some wealthy people in the Middle West … I was brought in America but educated at Oxford” (65).

Gatsby puts on a rich persona, ashamed of his true impoverish origins. Moreover, he uses specific vocabulary and phrases, such as “old sport” to further emphasize his wealth, power, and superiority. In addition to Gatsby, Wilson is also rejected and faces discrimination because of his financially depleted life. For instance, his wife, Myrtle despises him for his lack of wealth, and cheats with the rich Tom Buchanan. During a get-together without her husband, she announces, “I married him because I thought he was a gentleman … but he wasn’t fit to lick my shoe” (34).

This validates Myrtle’s shame of marrying someone of a lower class and further exemplifies how society views those who lack money as menial. To summarize, both Gatsby and Wilson face rejection and discrimination due to their origins. To differentiate, while Gatsby is mocked for his past life, and his rise to wealth, Wilson is ridiculed for his present condition. Similarly, both Gatsby and Wilson face discrimination based on their financial origins by those born into wealth. All in all, the criticism of constant rejection by Fitzgerald is another flaw of the American Dream.

In conclusion, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby, illustrates certain flaws of the American Dream through the characters of Jay Gatsby and George Wilson. Their inability to attain their goals, and the constant rejection and discrimination from society are tow of the flaws depicted by the author. For instance, Gatsby is unable to achieve love, and faces discrimination and rejection from those of superiority, such as Tom Buchanan. Furthermore, Wilson’s character is unable to acquire a wealth, and is reviled by his wife, Myrtle due to his lack of financial success. All in all, Fitzgerald demonstrates the concept that money is the deciding factor when determining the success of an individual, rather than one’s values and personality.


Cite this paper

The “Great” American Dream. (2020, Sep 05). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-great-american-dream/

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