The American Dream: the widely held ideal by which equality, opportunity and upward social mobility are achievable, and available to every American through hard work; a hope deeply embedded in the routes of an emerging American society. Both authors display to the reader the continuous quest these characters pursue in order to attempt to achieve the dream promised to them. However, despite the promise of the American Dream the reader begins to understand that it is fatally flawed, and is ultimately unachievable. Moreover, it is often the pursuit of the dream that causes the destruction of each character’s own morality and leads to their eventual social demise.
Fitzgerald portrays Jay Gatsby as being extremely idealistic, and this is why his dream is completely unachievable. Despite the fact that he lives on one of the most exclusive islands in New York, it is the American Dream’s draw on Gatsby, his unquenchable thirst for perfection that is his downfall. Gatsby allows the reader to understand that his hope flaws his “American Dream” and therefore can empathise with his eventual demise. Nick, who states that Gatsby “had an extraordinary gift for hope” supports this view. Fitzgerald uses the green light to show Gatsby’s quest for the dream. “…he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way.. Involuntarily I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away…” Describing the light as being “minute and far away” acts to emphasize how unachievable the dream is. Nick concludes the novel. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us…tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.” The use of “tomorrow we will run faster” displays to the reader Gatsby’s, and in “we” American society’s never-ending pursuit of perfection that leads to continuous dissatisfaction. We cannot blame Gatsby though, post war America was seen as a land of unparalleled opportunity “in which life should be better, richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement" American middle classes embraced the ideology, seeing the dream as a way to upward social mobility. However, as Fitzgerald shows through Gatsby many of these dreams were overly materialistic, ultimately unachievable and destructive. In American Pastoral Roth also displays the failings of the American dream through Seymour “Swede” Levov. Levov appears to be born into the American Dream and epitomises it in his early life. A talented sportsman, he turns down contracts in order to work for his father’s glove making company. The company flourishes under Levov’s direction; he becomes a millionaire and moves with his wife and daughter to his dream home in Old Rim Rock. For Levov and the reader his life appears fulfilled. However, his unsustainable idealism is displayed through “He invoked in me, when I was a boy – as he did in hundreds of other boys – the strongest fantasy I had of being someone else.” This acts to show to the reader the seeming perfection of Levov and how he is idealized by society. However, Roth in a 1973 interview about his satirical book The Great American Novel, describes the 1960s as a 'demythologizing decade' in which 'the very nature of American things yielded and collapsed overnight' this “demythologizing decade” is brought about by the turmoil both politically and socially of the 1960s “indigenous American Bezerk.” With his daughters bombing of the post office that lead to the death of an innocent bystander, his demise displays to the reader that the American dream is no longer sustainable much like in Gatsby’s case.
Moreover, Fitzgerald shows how the American dream is unachievable and destructive through Gatsby’s murder by George Wilson. Gatsby is flawed by his quest for the dream; he puts