The novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is about the struggle of achieving the American dream, and how much a person is willing to do to reach it. The book’s focus is on the obsession of Gatsby, the protagonist, and his feelings for Daisy, a married woman who he was previously involved with. The novel also focuses on Gatsby’s determination to make her fall in love with him by the glitz of money and power. Fitzgerald uses the symbols of wealth, superficiality and irresponsibility to convey the idea that the American dream is unattainable.
Wealth is a factor that propels the actions of the characters in the novel. In the Great Gatsby, most of the characters are wealthy and are able to do a lot because of their prosperity. Wealth is the key factor of the struggle of Jay Gatsby to win the heart of Daisy Buchanan. Jay devotes himself to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means to win Daisy. Although he has money, it isn’t the kind that allows him into her world. Even her voice is off limits to him, “Her voice is full of money. ” The barriers of wealth constantly prevent their love from being something more than just of the past.
Gatsby tries to use wealth to attain Daisy, his “dream girl”. He is unsuccessful, and therefore proves that wealth cannot achieve the American dream. Later in the novel, it is evident that the only reason Daisy wants to be with Gatsby is because of his wealth. In a pivotal scene in the novel, Daisy is filled with emotion over Gatsby’s expensive European shirts so much that she cries, “They’re such beautiful shirts. ” As Daisy sees the rest of Jay’s house, she is overcome by his prosperity and only wants to be with him because of this money. Gatsby becomes Daisy’s dream of a better life.
However, once Daisy realizes that his wealth is looked down upon because he is a bootlegger, she doesn’t want to be with him anymore and her dream with him is worthless. Therefore, Gatsby’s dream fails because of his material wealth he has to accomplish it. Fitzgerald shows that the American dream can never be achieved through wealth. Most of the characters in the Great Gatsby are superficial. Daisy is one of the most superficial characters in the novel. She shows her shallow ways by treating her child as is she isn’t even real, crooning “you absolute dream. ” After saying this, she shoos her daughter away to the nurse and doesn’t show ny interest in seeing her again. Her superficial attitude reached all the way to her vision of Gatsby. Daisy has the illusion of Gatsby as “the advertisement of the man. ” She lives in a world where nothing is true and there are no consequences. She is unable to be happy because she doesn’t know what real happiness is. She is unable to achieve her dreams because she doesn’t know what to dream. Fitzgerald shows that people of the upper class are superficial and cannot achieve their dreams. This is shown through Gatsby’s acceptance of an insincere invitation to Mr. Sloane’s wife’s house party.
Tom Buchanan criticizes Gatsby’s misjudgment and says, “My God, I believe the man’s coming… doesn’t he know she doesn’t want him? ” All the characters in the novel have had dreams during some point in their lives. Their dreams were unsuccessful because of their inability to be true and honest to people. To have a life of happiness, people need to be good to others to get something good back. By being superficial in ones attitude and actions, Fitzgerald shows that the American dream cannot be achieved. The characters are people who are delusional to the consequences of the actions and do not take responsibility for their immoral decisions.
They constantly go out, attend parties and take part in illegal activities such as drinking alcohol during a time when it was not allowed. Irresponsibility is represented through the symbol of the automobile. It represents the reckless ways of the people in the novel and is even the driving force in the holocaust of the book. The automobile’s destructive ways are first represented at the first Gatsby party as a car is, “violently shorn of one wheel, rested a new coupe which had left Gatsby’s drive not two minutes before,” foreshadowing how an automobile will affect the characters later in the plot.
Irresponsibility causes the death of the American dream for the characters. Myrtle Wilson’s American dream is the be with Tom, and is eventually struck and killed by a car because she ran in front of it, showing that she is both irresponsible and unintelligent. Daisy, as the driver of the car, does not suffer the consequences of her behavior. She hides behind Gatsby and does not take responsibility thus killing her dream of being with him which leads to jay’s failed dream. Through Gatsby’s failed attempt to reach his dream, F. Scott Fitzgerald incorporates the decline of American values.
The characters in The Great Gatsby are just mere examples of his message- the old American dream and all of its pure ideals have been replaces with money, superficiality, and irresponsibility. Daisy represented the superficialty and was associated with the green light, symbolizing hope, money and jealousy. As hope is the core of the American dream and money, superficiality and irresponsibility are what surrounds it. Consequently, Daisy finds herself lost in her own failure of her American dream and is left with only guilt and remorse due to Gatsby’s death.