The Great Gatsby, a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is about the American Dream,
and the downfall of those who attempt to reach its illusionary goals. The
attempt to capture the American Dream is central to many novels. This dream is
different for different people, but in The Great Gatsby, for Jay, the dream is
that through wealth and power, one can acquire happiness. To get this happiness
Jay must reach into the past and relive an old dream and in order to do this he
must have wealth and power. Jay Gatsby, the central figure of the the story, is
one character who longs for the past. Surprisingly he devotes most of his adult
life trying to recapture it and, finally, dies in its pursuit. In the past, Jay
had a love affair with the affluent Daisy. Knowing he could not marry her
because of the difference in their social status, he leaves her to amass wealth
to reach her economic standards. Once he acquires this wealth, he moves near to
Daisy, "Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay
(83)," and throws extravagant parties, hoping by chance she might show up
at one of them. He, himself, does not attend his parties but watches them from a
distance. When this dream doesn't happen, he asks around casually if anyone
knows her. Soon he meets Nick Carraway, a cousin of Daisy, who agrees to set up
a meeting, "He wants to know...if you'll invite Daisy to your house some
afternoon and then let him come over (83)." Gatsby's personal dream
symbolizes the larger American Dream where all have the opportunity to get what
they want. Later, as we see in the Plaza Hotel, Jay still believes that Daisy
loves him. He is convinced of this as is shown when he takes the blame for
Myrtle's death. "Was Daisy driving?" "Yes...but of course I'll
say I was." (151) He also watches and protects Daisy as she returns home.

"How long are you going to wait?" "All night if necessary."
(152) Jay cannot accept that the past is gone and done with. Jay is sure that he
can capture his dream with wealth and influence. He believes that he acted for a
good beyond his personal interest and that should guarantee success. Nick
attempts to show Jay the folly of his dream, but Jay innocently replies to
Nick's assertion that the past cannot be relived by saying, "Yes you can,
old sport." This shows the confidence that Jay has in fulfilling his
American Dream. For Jay, his American Dream is not material possessions,
although it may seem that way. He only comes into riches so that he can fulfill
his true American Dream, Daisy. Gatsby doesn't rest until his American Dream is
finally fulfilled. However, it never comes about and he ends up paying the
ultimate price for it. The idea of the American Dream still holds true in
today's time, be it wealth, love, or fame. But one thing never changes about the
American Dream everyone desires something in life and everyone somehow strives
to get it. Gatsby is a prime example of pursuing the American Dream. 2 The
acquisition of material has often been equated with happiness in this country.

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This is true today, and it was true during the 1920's, the setting of F. Scott
Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Fiztgerald shows how Jay Gatsby is a man that
believes if he has money, he can attain love and happiness. Jay Gatsby believes
that money can recreate the past, can buy him happiness, and can help him
achieve prestige in the town of East Egg. The belief by the majority of
Americans that wealth and happiness are the same is a result of an economy that
encourages consumption and social conditions that lead us to think that we need
material possessions to be happy. Money can have many effects on people and
society but money cannot buy happiness. The 1920's were an age of a consumer
boom that was needed to keep up with the new materials and goods that came from
production lines after World War I. The same beliefs and standards still exist
today. Materialistic attitudes are a result of the free-market economy in this
country. Consumers are led to believe they need to have all the things that
businesses are trying to sell and it is this desire for material possessions
that drives our economy. While this type of economy has given us great
opportunities to further our own personal wealth, it has also put many people on
the path to making ours a selfish and unhappy society that is never content with
it already has. The market society of our country feeds on economic growth, but
excess consumption does not really satisfy people in the end. It only leaves you
wanting more and once you are caught up in the obsession of materialism it seems
like you can never have enough. The 1920's were also an era of blatant
materialism and consumption and the pursuit for private wealth took priority
over what was good for society in general. The Depression that followed the
1920s was an agonizing economic time for the American people but it had the
positive effect of forcing people to reexamine their focus on material
possessions and personal wealth to what was good for the country as a whole. Jay
Gatsbys idea of the American Dream and his error of thinking that money can
buy his happiness (and Daisy) represent the deficiencies present in todays
society that many Americans believe it is material wealth and stature that
create their happiness, while not always caring about the less fortunate people
around them. Jay Gatsby had everything a wealthy man can afford: a huge mansion,
fancy clothes, and expensive cars. His lavish parties were designed to impress
Daisy. But why did Gatsby feel he needed to show off his material wealth to win
Daisy's love? It is believed that people seek material possessions and
fulfillment for what they lack in other areas of their lives, like human
relationships. Having a lot of material possessions is not what makes human
beings happy. The characters of The Great Gatsby, like many in America today,
were preoccupied with the pursuit of private wealth. Jay Gatsby flaunted his
material possessions in order to impress Daisy, but even though he was
incredibly wealthy, he was probably very unhappy. Even if he had lived and won
Daisy back, together they would have only found true fulfillment if they would
have realized the need to switch from a philosophy of selfishness to a
philosophy of caring. No amount of material possessions would have made either
of them truly happy. The definition of materialism is "a preoccupation with or
stress upon material rather than intellectual or spiritual things". While Jay
Gatsby and many Americans believe that material wealth and possessions are the
way to buy their happiness, it is our hopes and dreams and having personal goals
and standards that give life its purpose and meaning. The corruption of the
American Dream by materialism is almost inevitable because reality rarely turns
out same as our dreams perceive it to be. The Great Gatsby is a story that
captures the glitz and glamour of the 1920s, but it is also the portrayal of
a young man and his disastrous search for happiness through materialism.


Gatsbys dreams of happiness and love are corrupted by the emptiness of a
dream based on wealth and possessions. Money may be able to buy you many
material possessions but money cannot buy happiness and love.