"Mixed up in the provocative reputation of America is the celebrated ideal of the American Dream, the fantasy of complete independence and self-reliance mixed with the opportunity to attain wealth through one's labour" (Ramafuchs, 2007). Yet on the surface, the reverie seems to appear almost enchanted, by offering people an unprecedented prospect of achieving success regardless of the individual's race, religion or historical social status. However, the American Dream is exactly as to what it appears to be, the opportunity of utopia, that is an endless temptation of pleasure, the undying knowledge that eternal bliss lies just around the corner (Classics Network, 1). But the tragic of this fantasy is that it prevents enjoying the success one has achieved, as the temptation is always nagging, always insisting for more progress, urging the individual to work a little harder and gain a little more (Classics Network, 2). The centralized theme of this paper is to illustrate that Fitzgerald's novel, The Great Gatsby depicts the paradox of the American Dream, in that the American Dream instead of a pursuit for happiness and individualism is nothing more than the pursuit for glamorous material wealth.
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The novel begins by describing an intense infatuation with the American Dream. Jay Gatsby, the protagonist becomes the victim of the belief that he must commit to wealth in order to retain his teenage love, Daisy, once again. This was however, evident when prior to leaving for the war, Gatsby was unable to tie the bond between them because of his low societal class, but even then Daisy would infatuate him by vowing to wait until he was back from the war. Yet after realizing the true motives of Daisy's refusal, he leaves her to amass wealth to reach her economic standards but Gatsby's character would become corrupted because the reason he would yearn for Daisy now was that she came to symbolize wealth and took on the characteristics of money to him, "Her voice is full of money" (127). In essence, "the tainted dream was to become so empty that having accouterments of wealth could even incite feelings of love" ("Corruption of the American Dream", 1). This becomes evident when Gatsby remarks, "That huge place [of mine] over there? Do you like it? / I love it." (95). Nevertheless, after acquiring his wealth through illicit means, "He's a bootlegger" (61) he moves near Daisy. "Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay (83)," and even after failing to acknowledge she is already married already to Tom Buchannan, he throws extravagant parties even which he, himself meekly observes from a distance; all for the hopes that Daisy may come to visit his entrepreneurial success in West Egg one day. Yet even after the two do eventually meet, Gatsby's dream of meeting the same but perfect Daisy that he loved during the past becomes fruitless. Even then, one may note that Nick attempts to show Gatsby the folly of his dream, "You can't repeat the past [Gatsby]/Yes you can, old sport" (111). This vicious obsession with satisfying to the heed of the American Dream has also lead to heartache and betrayal in that it has led to destroying others in our path to achieve the satisfactions of our dreams. As Nick's Father remarks, "Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, he told me, just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had" (5) and "life is much more successfully looked at from a single window" (9). In contrast, Myrtle's character has also been negatively influenced by her chase to fulfilling the American Dream. Myrtle's husband, George has been loyal to her but because of the substandard quality of life in the Valley of Ashes, her husband is then characterized as "â€¦a gentleman, [though] she thought he knew somethingâ€¦.but he wasn't fit to lick her shoe"(39). Though Myrtle attempts to escape her own class and pursue happiness with wealth and riches, she is met with ill fate as she gains nothing and eventually dies. In essence, the character is a victim of the group she wanted to join, that is Myrtle tries to become like Tom by having an affair with him to leech some of his luxurious lifestyle. But in doing so Myrtle succumbs to disloyalty to her husband in order to pursue the wealthy lifestyle ("Failure of the American Dream", 1).
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"And therein lies the paradox of the American Dream. The never-ending desire to live out the fantasy created by the Dream is the very force that makes the achievement of the fantasy impossible. By basing his entire existence upon realizing the Dream, Gatsby became obsessed with what he didn't have instead of enjoying his accomplishments, always struggling against the current, only to be pushed back ceaselessly into the past. But the Dream is so enticing and powerful that it can influence even the wisest people; Nick realized the folly in Gatsby's feverous Dream-enticed struggling, yet continues to 'beat on' towards his own Dream. While the Dream itself is a vision of intense prosperity, the phenomenon of the American Dream inveigles people not to prosper, but to endure, because the insistent pressure the dream puts on one to continue to progress will never allow prosperity. The Dream is not a means to an end; rather, it is a way of life, a non-tangible, non-achievable, hyperbolic myth, a mirage in the desert of eternity, always just one step out of reach" (Classics Network, 3)