The Great Gatsby Literary Analysis

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The ideals of financial freedom, success, and happiness make up the American dream. However, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby book takes a different look at the American dream, analyzing how some people misuse it to suit their egotistical needs (Lindberg, 2015). In Fitzgerald’s novel, Jay Gatsby is a man who loses touch with reality as he pursues the American Dream to its very extreme. The author of this fascinating American tale analyzes how pursuing material success, and political dominance poses a danger to the ideals underlying the American dream.

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The American Dream

Jay Gatsby is a shining symbol of infinite wealth and prestige for the aspiring affluent. Nick Carraway, the narrator of the story, says that Gatsby has a heightened sensitivity to the promises of life and that there is something magnificent about him. Despite his lack of financial resources, Gatsby aspires to achieve the American dream of fame and wealth (Ghiotto & Wijanarka, 2016). He strives to emulate his platonic ideal and become the perfect god of riches. The American dream may be interpreted in many ways, but Gatsby is preoccupied with material success and completely abandons the idea of building his persona through sweat equity of hard work. One unfortunate result of the American dream, which might be seen as striving for social advancement, is that people like Gatsby end up chasing wealth at the expense of happiness. In other words, Gatsby believes that the world rests safely on a fairy wing and that reality is an illusion. For comfort, Gatsby retreats into his fantasies, where he finds false solace in his idealized vision of wealth and the happiness it purports to provide. Gatsby’s soul becomes as cold as the money he covets when he indulges in such hedonism. Like many Americans trying to achieve the American dream, Gatsby doesn’t realize the dream is about discovering and pursuing happiness, a luxury he can never afford with his money.

The Failure of the American Dream

If the American dream is to find happiness, Gatsby isn’t seeking it; instead, he’s focusing on how he might utilize his wealth to provide meaning to a life that otherwise lacks it. This warped version of the American dream only helps his reputation in a society that initially rejected him because of his poverty (Fälth, 2013). With the brazen, vulgar, and meretricious beauty of riches that has nothing to do with happiness, Gatsby imagines himself as a god who oversees his father’s business. He uses a technique similar to most corporate scandals by taking advantage of the opportunities and engaging in criminal conduct to amass this material fortune (Daier & Ibrahim, 2017). The true meaning of the American dream is lost on Gatsby as the omen fades. As a result of Jay Gatsby’s dishonorable ascent to power, America is portrayed in The Great Gatsby as a land of the wealthy rather than a land of the free. Gatsby’s dream must have seemed so close to him in this imagined America that he could not help but seize it. Gatsby, oblivious to the fact that his chance has passed, is nevertheless enjoying himself financially. Given his distorted perception of reality, he looks for anything that can satisfy his need. When Gatsby’s search for happiness through material means becomes fruitless, he retreats into a bygone era where wealth was more of a dream than cold reality.

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With his money, Gatsby tries to make amends for this past without realizing his goals are impossible. He tries to buy the love of Daisy Buchanan, who had rejected him earlier since he didn’t have enough wealth (Bunce, 2015). Although the prospect of winning Daisy back has reduced Gatsby’s number of exciting objects, he ultimately succumbs to Daisy’s more immense attraction to a life of ease and wealth. As ironic as it may seem, Gatsby fails to see the similarities between his obsession with wealth and Daisy’s interest in wealth. Gatsby is crushed by his unwillingness to relinquish his fortune and embrace simplicity, despite his knowledge of the youth and mystery that prosperity imprisons and protects. Gatsby, who has a phony sense of luxury but is truly destitute, pays the price for living too long with a single fantasy and therefore comes to see the futility of his existence. Apathetically, Gatsby accepts this unfairness because he is more interested in maintaining his current standard of living than in righting the wrong. Gatsby cannot regard America as a place of renewal, given his current state of mind (Hodo, 2017). After that, he becomes a boat against the current, borne back endlessly into the past. In the end, Gatsby reluctantly admits that life is simply a dream phrasing the famous nursery rhyme.

Scott Fitzgerald, through Jay Gatsby’s story, clearly shows how life can be sad and unfulfilling if certain aspects of life are ignored while pursuing the American dream. Gatsby’s efforts to achieve his American dream led to an empty and meaningless life despite acquiring wealth. The “Great” Jay Gatsby epitomizes this trope as a guy whose aspirations for wealth ultimately destroy him. The character of Gatsby is used to express that the great American dream is not all it takes to make someone happy. Gatsby’s behavior indicates that people will always have endless dreams, and the class of society does not determine success in life.

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  1. Bunce, S. (2015). Love and Money: An Analysis of the Great Gatsby. Language. http://www.languageinindia.com/june2015/selvigatsbypaper.pdf
  2. Daier, I. A. S., & Ibrahim, A. M. I. (2017). The American Dream Corruption in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. International Journal of Social Science and Humanities Research, 5(4), 344-348. https://www.academia.edu/download/56407848/The_American_Dream_Corruption_in_Fitzgeralds_The_Great_Gatsby.pdf
  3. Fälth, S. (2013). Social Class and Status in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2:667768
  4. Lindberg, L. (2015). The American dream as a means of social criticism in The Great Gatsby. https://gupea.ub.gu.se/handle/2077/38269
  5. Ghiotto, M. F., & Wijanarka, H. (2016). American Dreams Represented through the Color in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Journal of Language and Literature, 16(1), 55-62. http://download.garuda.kemdikbud.go.id/article.php?article=491508&val=10038&title=American%20Dreams%20Represented%20through%20the%20Color%20in%20Fitzgeralds%20The%20Great%20Gatsby
  6. Hodo, Z. (2017). The Failure of the American Dream in “The Great Gatsby”-Fitzgerald. European Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies, 2(7), 299-305. https://revistia.com/index.php/ejms/article/view/5963
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