The American dream is based pm the idea of success and happiness and that anyone could pursue and obtain it. Just as Ulysses was enticed by the songs of the sirens which impelled mariners to casting themselves into the sea and their impending demise, so are the people pursuing this nightmare of a dream. People were enticed by the countless pleasures that such a dream offers and this left them blind to the harsh realities that accompany such a dream. In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald conveys the flaws of such an enticing idea and his criticism towards it. He is able to do this through his characters and their unavoidable struggles which they embark on while pursuing this dream.
Myrtle Wilson is a wife of a lower-class mechanic, Myrtle is "faintly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensuously as some women can" (Fitzgerald 29). Myrtle pursues the American dream through Tom Buchanan, Daisy Buchanan's unfaithful husband. Tom describes Myrtle as "his girl" to Nick Carraway, the narrator of the story and second cousin to Daisy. Tom is of a prominent family so by having an affair with him, Myrtle is able to accustom herself into the luxuries that accompany the affair. Nick is invited by Tom to an apartment where he and Myrtle lead their double lives. Myrtle is one victim out of many to this American dream; it changes her into a different person. She is consumed by the way of the higher-class; she appears to disdain the lower-class that she is a part of. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald describes her as someone who changes her personality along with her milieu. When she changed into the dress that Tom bought her, it was a sign of materialistic wealth and gave her confidence to act as if she is a part of the upper class and this made her feel better towards herself:
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Mrs. Wilson had changed her costume some time before and was now attired in an elaborate afternoon dress of cream colored chiffon which gave out a continual rustle as she swept about the room. With the influence of the dress her personality had also undergone a change. The intense vitality that had been so remarkable in the garage was converted into impressive hauteur. Her laughter, her gestures, her assertions became more violently affected moment by moment and as she expanded the room grew smaller around her until she seemed to be revolving on a noisy, creaking pivot through the smoky air" (Fitzgerald 35).
Although she may have really felt different, she was still only in a dream world. The harsh reality is that she is a poor, subservient and a naive woman, who is just a product of Tom's desires. Myrtle also becomes so self absorbed that she feels everything is far less significant. She does not care about how her actions will affect her relationship with her husband or how she is affecting Tom and his wife Daisy. Fitzgerald uses Myrtle as a reflection of a woman's eagerness to be associated with privileged things such as wealth, money and status or the American dream. Sometimes people are aware of what the American dream is capable of doing to a person but cannot refrain themselves from being a part of it.
Nick Carraway is an average and single man who moves to West Egg to learn about the bonds business. He lives next door to the multi-millionaire Jay Gatsby. Nick is introduced by Tom and Daisy to Jordan Baker, a young and successful Golf player. Jordan is not only famous for playing golf but also for cheating at it. Jordan was "incurably dishonest" (Fitzgerald 58). Nick only describes her by saying thatÂ "her chin raised a little, as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall" (Fitzgerald 13).Â His description of Jordan Baker is quite subtle, but when he describes Daisy, he does it passionately and describes a multitude of things including her voice as "the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again," (Fitzgerald 13). Nick doesn't describe Jordan like he does with Daisy because he sees the many flaws which outline her nature. Even though Nick criticizes her, he is still attracted to the kind of environment that accompanies her and pursues her with the same reason he attends Gatsby's parties. Nick says "Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known." (Fitzgerald 60). Although Nick claims to be honest, one would not get the impression that he is. Throughout the novel Nick seems to fit in yet stand out, he criticizes the rich and superficial people but at the same time he is attracted to the same environment that the rich are a part of. Nick notices Jordan because he is attracted to this environment and why he discretely falls for Jordan, "Her wan, scornful mouth smiled, and so I drew her up again closer, this time to my face." (Fitzgerald 80). Nick is not an exception to this pursuit of the American dream but is only one out of the many characters. Although the American dream does not affect Nick like it does so greatly to others.
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Jay Gatsby is the invented identity of James Gatz, born to a poor mid-western farm family, he "sprang from his Platonic conception of himself" (Fitzgerald 104). Gatsby started out when he warned millionaire Dan Cody that a coming wind might wreck his yacht, Cody employs Jay Gatsby in a "vague personal capacity" (106). After indulging himself in Dan's lifestyle, Gatsby became concerned with one thing, living the American dream by any means necessary. In the novel Gatsby says that he worked in the drugstore and oil businesses, omitting the fact that he was in actuality, an alcohol bootlegger, something that he was quite successful with due to alcohol prohibition at the time. Gatsby keeps his occupation a mystery throughout the novel and he prefers to be just a gracious host. Gatsby buys his West Egg mansion with one sole intention, which is to be across the bay from Daisy's green light at the end of her dock. Throughout the novel Gatsby works to reunite with Daisy. He first has spectacular parties in hopes that one day she too will attend his parties. After meeting Nick, Gatsby employs him in his scheme by convincing him to inviting Daisy over for tea, so that he and she could reunite. Gatsby finds out that Daisy is married and even has a child yet this still does not refrain him from pursuing her, he worked so long and so hard for her that he was not going to let anything get in his way of getting Daisy. The truth is Gatsby was never really attracted to Daisy but what accompanied Daisy, not just the world of the rich, but also the acceptance into the old money order. Gatsby was not born rich; he had to obtain his wealth making him a person of new money. Unlike the new the money order, old money are persons who have always been privileged throughout their lives, having their status past down generations. Gatsby desires so much to obtain this status that he ignores all the controversy that accompanies such an unrealistic idea that results in a state of calamity and in eventuality leads to his demise. Gatsby was himself an oxymoron, he was everything yet he was nothing. In his mind he had nothing because he does not have Daisy, a fantasy which becomes his personal version of the American Dream.
The Great Gatsby is filled with this nightmare of a dream and F. Scott Fitzgerald conveys this idea throughout his novel with outstanding success. He informs readers about the dangers which are associated with the American dream and how it can lead to one's demise. The American dream does not distinguish between rich or poor, but is pursued by all classes. In The Great Gatsby we see this through the different characters and their classes. The biggest problem with the American dream is that it is still only a dream and therefore it can never actually be obtained only pursued. The American dream proves to be an unfulfilling vocation for anyone who pursues it.