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Tom, is a former football player and a former Yale graduate, belongs to an extremely wealthy family, striving to achieve the last aspect of the American Dream. Tom Buchanan is a young man raised by a wealthy family. He has learned from his past and it brought him to be a rigorist and forceful man. Tom spends his time pleasing himself and making him feel better about himself. He has a habit of being constantly rude to his surroundings. He seems to think that he is better than everyone because of his wealth and as the spouse of Daisy; he is having an affair with a married woman named Myrtle. So, even though he has great amounts of wealth and power he still does not seem to be happy about his life. Daisy is a possession to Tom because she is the last aspect of the American Dream, even though he is not happy with her. Tom seems to be quite racist and very vulgar as stated in chapter 1. For example, "Have you ever read the rise of the coloured empires by this man Goddard?" (Fitzgerald, Page no. 18). This book that Tom is talking about contains high amounts of racial contents and Tom seems to be pleased with this.
Gatsby is a fabulously wealthy young man living in an enormous mansion in West Egg trying to gain the last aspect of The American Dream. He is famous for the extravagant parties he throws every Saturday night, but he seems to be a mystery to many because no one knows where he comes from, who he is and what the source of his wealth is. For example they either describe him as a German spy, a bootlegger and a murderer ("One time he killed a man who found out that he was a nephew to Von Hindenburg and the second cousin to the devil"). (Fitzgerald, Page no. 60). "He's a bootlegger," said the young ladies moving somewhere between his flowers and cocktails and his flowers." (Fitzgerald, Page no. 60). Gatsby throws the large extravagant parties to gain status in society, showing individuals his hunger for power. Gatsby's lust for wealth stems from his desire to win back the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan, whom he met and fell in love with while in military training in Louisville, Kentucky before WW I. Gatsby is a self-made man, his real name was James Gatz (Fitzgerald, Page no. 94), who has achieved the American Dream of rising up from the lower classes to the upper society. Daisy is the reason to why Gatsby is trying to achieve the American Dream because if he has the wealth and the power, he thinks that he will attain Daisy automatically.
Tom was born into his American Dream. He never had to work in his life, and got all his money from his parents. Since everything is perfect for his narrow-minded eyes, he does not want any changes. Losing Daisy would be a major change in his dream because he sees her as one of his possessions. Jay Gatsby is the epitome of every man trying to find the American Dream. He is looking for a life better than the one he grew up with, filled with fortune and materialistic wealth. When Gatsby meets Daisy, he finds what he is looking for. For Gatsby, Daisy is his American Dream. From then on he does everything he can to achieve her. Gatsby refuses to see Daisy's faults and she can do no wrong. Gatsby comes from a poor family and he rose to the top of wealth, something every American in the 1910-1920's was trying to do. Making his fortune off illegal alcohol and stolen securities, Jay Gatsby demonstrates his place at the top with his illustrious Saturday evening parties. However, like many struggling to get to the top, for Gatsby, the American Dream is still out of reach and his goal will not be complete without Daisy. Therefore, in order to gain the love of his life, Gatsby knew that he had to be wealthy in order to get her back. Unlike Tom who already was living the American Dream, Gatsby worked extremely hard to become wealthy and achieve the life standard that he was living. Overall both of them seemed to be unhappy about their lives because Gatsby was missing the last part of the American Dream which was Daisy and Tom who already was living the American Dream was not happy with his life because Daisy was a possession to him, it was Myrtle from the lower class that made him feel superior. Now that Gatsby has achieved part of his dream by achieving wealth, he starts his plan to win back Daisy's love. Both Tom and Gatsby have achieved the wealth aspect of the American Dream but lack the family, but it is Gatsby who has really achieved the wealth aspect of the American Dream since Tom's wealth comes from his parents; he really did not work to gain his wealth. Jay Gatsby represents the American dream because he is born of humble beginnings and rises to a position of wealth and power. We are aware of his humble beginnings when we learn about his early meeting of Daisy while still a young soldier on a military base. Daisy initially loves him, but their romance is stymied by her parents and his departure for "The Great War." After the war, Gatsby knows that the only way he could ever be an acceptable husband for Daisy is if he were to accumulate tremendous wealth. To that end, Gatsby begs, borrows and steals his way into the bootlegging industry. The wealth he accumulates from bootlegging buys him the tremendous house and parties Gatsby needs to once again catch Daisy's attention. Ultimately, it doesn't matter how Gatsby made his money, just that he had a dream and achieved it (almost) through hard work and determination. Tom is already powerful and rich. Tom is not satisfied with that. The American Dream to him means he deserves more. One woman is not enough for Tom; he wants two. He also feels that he gets more power because of his mistress Myrtle. Because Myrtle is of a lower class, he has complete power over her. Myrtle depends on Tom to get her into a better society, closer to The American Dream. Despite Tom belonging to a rich family, he was not even successful at starting a happy family. So, an individual would say that Tom did not gain anything of his own unlike Gatsby who worked his way through the system. Everything has been given to Tom; he did not achieve anything of his own.
In conclusion Fitzgerald is trying to tell the individuals reading the novel that attaining the American Dream is impossible, because there is no such thing as a perfect life. One would say that both the characters failed to reach the American Dream, but one may argue that Gatsby has been the closest one from it, since he has earned everything on his own and nothing has been given to him, unlike Tom who was born with everything. Gatsby a great committed and a courageous character that died achieving his goal is a symbol of the American Dream in this novel.