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Concept of American Dream in The Great Gatsby

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    Gatsby And American DreamThen wear the gold hatbounce for her too, Till she cry Lover, gold-hatted,high-bouncing lover, I must have you(1). This epitaph by ThomasDInvilliers, found at the beginning of The Great Gatsby, depicts the dreamthat Jay Gatsby tries to make a reality. While it embodies characteristics ofthe American Dream of rags to riches, it is also a moving dream of love andhappiness. While Gatsby was a fraud, his life and death show the greatness ofthe American Dream, not its bankruptcy. The story unfolds in New York during theearly 1920s, a tumultuous time for Americans. American culture was justbeginning to take on its own identity with the popularization of jazz. The1920s was also a time of social upheaval where opportunity was the name ofthe game. Prohibition was the law, thus creating opportunities forbusiness-minded individuals, such as Gatsby, to become bootleggers. During theseaffluent years in American history, there were many parties and affairs with theextravagance and splendor of kings. Rich individuals, like Gatsby, threw hugeparties with buffet tablesbars with real brass railsand orchestras(44). The Roaring Twenties were years where a person who had the dreamcould flourish. The American Dream, as it arose in the Colonial period, anddeveloped in the nineteenth century, was the belief that a person, no mattertheir origins, could succeed in life. However, this success depended on apersons own skill and effort. During Gatsbys early working years, hestarted from the bottom as a clam digger, dreaming the popularized rags toriches dream. His next stop was the yacht of Dan Cody, where he worked andlived for five years as a steward. Despite the monotony around him, his mind andimagination were never at rest. Each night he added to the pattern of hisfanciesthe reveries provided an outlet for his imaginationhint ofunreality of reality(105). After Cody, we know Gatsby joined the army duringWorld War I. Five years after returning from Europe, Gatsby is this incrediblywealthy man with a gargantuan house where he throws lavish parties. The readerlearns that this wealth was accumulated through bootlegging, a highly illegalbut lucrative trade during the Prohibition Era. Thus, Gatsby achieved hisrags to riches dream, although his methods were unlawful. What separatesGatsby from the other characters, who are foul dust that floated in the wakeof his dreams (6), is that Gatsbys American dream was a means for an endto him. His dream continued past just accumulating wealth and reputation. Thatwas only a phase of his master plan. Gatsbys ultimate goal ishappiness, which can only be if Daisy is by his side. He achieved riches andsuccess, but did not become overwhelmed and corrupted by it, although it isrelevant to note he used corrupt methods. His dream is a romantic idealism thatlife can be remarkable and beautiful. Gatsby is not interested in power for itsown sake or in money or prestige, but for its ability to help him achieve hisdream. For this, Gatsby is willing to do anything and everything. He uses hiswealth as a resource to steal Daisy away from Tom. This also includes lying andcreating a false impression of himself to others. He is putting on this front totry to become the man that Daisy desires. His extravagant parties are thrownonly in hopes that she will come to one and they can get rekindle their oldfeelings for each other. Ultimately, Gatsby wont enjoy his riches until hehas Daisy in his arms. Almost everything we believe Gatsby to be is a fraud.

    Everything we believe gives us a favorable impression of him though. He is afraud for one and only one reason-to win Daisy back. For starters, his name, JayGatsby, is false. It is really James Gatz, but he changed it when he wasseventeen to shed his past and start anew. For me, Jay Gatsby also soundsyouthful, invigorating, and somewhat aristocratic. James Gatz sounds too formaland harsh, which does not convey a favorable impression of him. Another keyinaccuracy of Gatsby is his educational background, with Gatsby claiming adegree from Oxford. The shocking and somewhat humorous truth is that he went tocollege for a total of five and a half months. When he was eighteen, he spenttwo weeks at St. Olaf, a Lutheran college, in Minnesota, leaving because ofits ferocious indifference to the drums of his destiny(105). He went toOxford for five months because it was an opportunity they gave to some of theofficers after the Armistice(136). This lie further contributes to our viewof Gatsby as the perfect man. He is wealthy, educated, successful, and hasovercome extreme pain and suffering. Gatsby creates all these lies in order towin Daisy back and to try to recreate the love they shared in the past. WhileJay Gatsby is indeed a fraud, he is not pathetic at all. Pathetic is defined ascausing or evoking pity in Websters College Dictionary. I never feltpity for Gatsby at any point in the book. I actually admired his drive andpersistence in reaching his dream. He threw weekly parties where he spentridiculous amounts of money. He purchased enough food and drink to feed anation, and his entertainment was top notch. All of that just for the specialwoman in his heart. Especially noteworthy is when he stood outside Daisyshouse until four in the morning, just because she wanted him to in case Tom gotviolent. This shows is unflinching dedication, abundant love, and steadfastdedication to her. He is a wonderful example of an individual who has lived theAmerican Dream, which includes wealth, but is ultimately about happiness. Hewent from being a broke, independent seventeen year old, to a rich andsuccessful adult. Jay Gatsby may not be the perfect example of a person wholived the American Dream. However, neither does he show the bankruptcy of theDream. Rather, he is one of the many tragedies of the Dream. He was an ambitiousman who was driven to achieve success, no matter what he had to do. It was hisdrive that shows that the American Dream was alive and well. He refused tobecome an arrogant and selfish person, as many people did when they reached thelevel of success that Gatsby achieved. He pursued Daisy, who to him representedhappiness, and died trying. In dying though, Gatsby inspires readers of the bookto dream always and to dream big.

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