The character of Jay Gatsby is one of the most fascinating of those in American literature. His persona is one of a self-created socialite – his money came from criminal exploits, and his motivation was the love of a single woman, "Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men." (Fitzgerald 8).
Gatsby is shown throughout the novel as, though dedicated to a seemingly noble pursuit, a man who would stop at no ends to achieve his goal. Yet, his character is seen as sympathetic by the reader. Through his illegal exploits, his dealings with organized crime, and his profiting from the sale of stolen securities, the reader sees Gatsby as a hero – partly because of the narrator, Nick Calloway. This hero worship is not uncommon in a coming of age novel.
Although Nick’s initial look at Gatsby is of a hero, since Gatsby seemingly has all the necessary attributes which Nick himself desires such as wealth and fame, Nick begins to realize as the novel unfolds that Gatsby wealth is criminal, that his intentions for riches was stemming from a desire to obtain the attention of Daisy, which in some point of view may come off as desperate but Nick, up until the end of the novel, continues to perceive Gatsby as a hero, since Nick himself is blinded with hope, and hero worship (Pearson 23).
Though Gatsby has failings as a moral human, he has dedicated himself, throughout the novel, to a noble pursuit – the love of Daisy Buchanan. Though his relationship with Daisy is based on a lie – that he was well born, rather than poor – Gatsby immediately is granted a literary reprieve as he leaves to fight in World War I. During his time at war, Daisy marries Tom Buchanan, a terribly unsympathetic character (Tanner 201).
It is through his struggle to regain the heart of Daisy Buchanan that Gatsby is found by the Nick Calloway, the narrator. Through Nick’s perception of events the reader is lead through a myriad of events from sporting to parties and the reader is fine tuned to intimate conversations and the unraveling of Gatsby because of his desire and love for Daisy. Even without love, Gatsby continue to hopes against the odds as the cliché is quoted.
His desire for Daisy leads him to compromise his moral judgment and to lead a life in which he believes Daisy would want to be a part, not a life in which he is happy, "There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams — no through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion…" (Fitzgerald 92).
Although it may also be said that Gatsby desires to be in constant pursuit of his conquest and to never actually obtain that for which he longs, but instead hopes in denial of reality because, like so many in love, he is blinded. Gatsby does not see Daisy as she is, but how he wants her to be, and in this subjective light of love, Gatsby accomplishes great feats indeed but his empire of lust and money rests upon shaky foundation.
Nick encounters Gatsby at the height of his empire, and Nick sees the crumbling of the empire as well. It is hope that allows Gatsby to believe that his accomplishments will win Daisy’s heart, and when this hope is retracted, and his actions are unredeemable, hope falls, and Gatsby’s delusions fall a little bit as well.
In Jack Kerouac’s book On the Road, the reader is introduced into a wayward example of an American Dream. Sal Paradise traverses across the country from New York to Colorado to San Francisco all in search of Dean Moriarty’s father, which is a metaphor for home, which in turn may be construed to a metaphor for the American Dream.
Kerouac wrote On the Road in order to deliver to an audience the relationship of place, or landscape to the a person’s consciousness; thus the deliverance of actions to place become a cause and effect equation in which the final affect for both protagonists was the failure of not finding Dean’s father. However, the novel does end in hope, much as Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby.
The final paragraph of On the Road leads to the discovery that despite the fact that Dean and Sal did not find Dean’s father their journey into the American heartland was an odyssey by which the discovery of self was the ultimate goal.
The American Dream then becomes the definition of self-possession, the ability to act.
The two protagonists find love, a lot of women, friendships, adventure, but the lasting impression which the reader finds between the two, even after their split at the end of the novel, the desolation of having had such a grand adventure and the realization that that time is over and it is time the two friends moved in different directions, perhaps to find each other again, it becomes poignantly clear that the American Dream is about personal hope.
The novel ends on this ideal of hope; with the final paragraph, it is the people dreaming in the immensity of the land rolling in the expanse of the country that is the resting place of the American Dream: hope.