American Dream: what meaning should I give to it? It implies to the objective the great men of America had sought for the people of America. These were the high attributes of prosperity and success which they will get as a result of their labor and hard work. It was a sacred philosophy but turned into a materialistic policy today. Today, “American Dream” has changed into something different and it has taken the meaning of wealth, beauty and material possession.
In Fitzgerald’s Novel, Great Gatsby, he had represented the character of Gatsby as the one holding American Dream up to ridicule. He based his life on the ever thoughts of money; how much he earned and how much possessions he made. He thought that money brings with it many other advantages. The only purpose behind his lust for wealth was to win back his lost old love. Why he pursued money was because his love had left him for money. Daisy, his love considered him unworthy in the past because he was a lower class person. He was sure that if he remained poor, she was never to allow him to make a reunion. He was poor and thought all the days and nights about Daisy that she was waiting for him to come and take her. He thought that Daisy “was tired of waiting around for me” (Fitzgerald, p131). Gatsby believed he could win her provided he reaches for what most of the people considered as “American Dream”. Money was his ideal. He had complete faith in wealth. His worthless life existed on the foundations of falsehood.
Gatsby ridiculed the “American Dream”. He was able to get to his desire and aspiration when he became a wealth man. He employed in a number of jobs the whole of his life and this was but to show to Daisy what he could give her. He wants to win back his love by making yet another entry to Daisy’s life. When he meets her, he reminds her the past and assures her that he did not forget her. Her sweet memories always accompanied him. He reveals before the already married Daisy that he still loved her: “Look at this”, said Gatsby quickly. “Here’s a lot of clippings about you” (Fitzgerald, p93).
Gatsby was the perfect personification of “American Dream” held up to ridicule. Wealth determined all his actions and he always thought with the mindset of a businessman, more suitable, a shopkeeper. He believed in wealth to the extent that he was sure he could bring his past back. He had a firm trust in his money to the extents that he thought Daisy would happily leave her husband in the pursuit of money he had. He was not influenced by the general perception that people change with respect to the passage of time. He once stressed his view when said rhetorically: “Can’t repeat the past. Why of course you can!” (Fitzgerald, p111).
When he loses his love to a wealthy man, he decided at once to get to the status of the richest man of the world. Poor by birth, he gathers around him vast amounts of wealth and high social status. He ridicules the “American Dream” by desiring to become the wealthiest man of the world and ultimately the ruler of the whole world. He wants to be God. Nick speaks of him as an extravagant and flamboyant person. Gatsby is no doubt the real symbol of ridiculous excess and waste of Rich American Socialites. He believes that his royal mansion can be the key of his success. His “American Dream” turning into ridicule has been described by Nick when he refers to his mansion: “The one on my right was a colossal affair by any standard-it was a factual imitation of some hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool, and more than a forty acres of lawn and garden” (Fitzgerald, p5).
When Mayor Wolfsheim had seen the opportunity to achieve the “American Dream” by making enormous money at once after having fixed the World Series, Gatsby ensures his “American Dream” by appreciating Wolfsheim’s powers and authority. Nick speaks of the story in the words: “Mayor Wolfsheim? No, he’s a gambler”. Gatsby hesitated, then added coolly: “He’s the man who fixed the World Series back in 1919.” “Fixed the Series?” I repeated…… “How did he happen to do that?” I asked after a minute. “He just saw the opportunity.” “Why isn’t he in jail?” “They can’t get him, old sport. He’s a smart man” (Fitzgerald, pp112-118). It means the ability to make money is according to him worthy to be appreciated no matter how it comes from.
Gatsby holds the “American Dream” up to ridicule when he decides to invite Daisy to his life i.e. to leave Tom and marry him. He while resuming the ties broken five years ago does not even think for a while over the legitimacy of his action. He is following the “American Dream”. Daisy even goes to his house which Gatsby enjoys. Gatsby wants to reunite which she argues against and refuses which Gatsby receives shock from symbolizing his no esteem for values but lust. The tragic incident where the mistress and finally Gatsby were killed symbolizes that the lust of wealth and beauty brings destruction and all have to go pass through the valley of ashes. Daisy hit the mistress because she suffered from anxiety as well which symbolizes that though one gets money and other possessions, they do not necessarily get happy and satisfied. Had she been calm and cool, the mistress would not have been killed. Nick is annoyed and finds the only salvation in going back. Nick’s act symbolizes that satisfaction lies in the simplicity and sincerity of the past. Gatsby’s character turns out to be holding the American Dream up to ridicule during the whole story.
The novel is a symbolism of the whole American society. The Americans believe in money that if they have money they can reverse the time. The parties arranged by a rich man symbolize the love of American society for the celebrations. Each party ends with a dirt or issue at the end. For example the guests leave behind them the waste and Myrtle’s nose was broken and the accidental death. It means though there were always rejoicings, they found sorrows at the end. The “valley of ashes” symbolizes the American society’s corruption, moral downfall and selfishness. “American Dream” changed from prosperity and success to wealth and beauty has been symbolized as very fragile in the course of events which take place when Daisy refuses to Gatsby.
“Wealth corrupts” is the basic theme of Fitzgerald with reference to his novel Great Gatsby. Wealth brings festivities and at the end of each festivity, the waste left adds to the heaps of the valley of ashes. Wealth brings rest but no satisfaction and hence causes the race of materialism. American Dream has been held up to ridicule in the characters of Gatsby, Tom, Daisy, Jordan Baker, and Meyer Wolfsheim. They represent the ugly, cruel, materialistic faction of the society. Gatsby’s character is off a well-built person but a selfish man trying to win his love at any cost and by any means never caring for the legal status of his acts. He is extravagant consuming his resources with no beneficial output. He does not acknowledge the due rights of others by arguing continuously in the favor of his actions. He shares Daisy’s love which is a vulgar and obscene act. His character is no doubt the one ridiculing the American Dream.
- Fitzgerald, F S, and Matthew J. Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 1996. Print.