BIRTH, LIFE AND DISILLUSIONMENT OF THE AMERICAN
DREAM IN THE GREAT GATSBY
Abstract: Gatsby’s dream might be described as the American dream of success. It is the dream of rising, of amassing a great fortune that will assure a life of luxuriant ease, power, and beauty in an ideal world untroubled by care and devoted to the enjoyment of everlasting pleasure with nothing to intervene between wish and fulfillment. It is a naïve dream based on the fallacious assumptions that material possessions are synonymous with happiness, harmony, and beauty.
The dreamer overlooks or is unaware of the fact that the fullest kinds of please come from the cultivation of sensibilities, the development of understanding, and the refinement of taste – accomplishments that have little to do with the acquisitive powers by which a fortune is amassed. Gatsby is a man who equates quantity with quality, cost with value.
Key words: American Dream, Birth, Fitzgerald, Gatsby
American culture, though often ‘involuntarily’, is defined and determined by its characteristic, not seldom even dogmatic and charismatic symbols that have always placed it in a rather distant and unapproachable notch of one’s world of perception. American Dream is no exception, and if it is to be something at all, since I suspect few elusive entities to grow along the nation’s progress and thus being hardly separable from its ‘womb’, American
Dream being one of them, then only the very logo of the significance of the American nation.
It has always existed, in its very special substance, simultaneously with the existence of
America as the undefined country – the land of promises, hopes, and desires, the substance
Martausova calls “a social construct of a mythic character, highly dependable upon changes in society.” (Martausova 47)
The Dream is born
The land of the first settlers, land open as a ‘virgin’ to be fertilized and cultivated, nevertheless, not only that; the land of the endlessness achievement and human fulfillment, or, as J. Steinbrink has put it, “The New Jerusalem envisioned by our Puritan Fathers” (315-342).
It was not only the first settlers’ confession which forced them to abandon their motherlands, but also the Dutch sailors’ profit motive which sent them out across the Atlantic Ocean to the distant and unknown shores. It was the land, as Nick nostalgically notes down in his mind,
“that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes – a fresh green breast of the new world.” (p. 143)†
However, unlike the self-preserved and rigidly scrupulous Puritans, influx of ‘hungry’ people from Europe generated a group of the ‘fate-seekers’ and ‘boarder-pushers’, and The
Frontier (line) was inevitably to be pushed west-wards. The Frontier – a major theme of
American history; the myth of the seemingly limitless opportunities offered by the vast, unknown American continent waiting to be conquered and developed – a myth which operated as a powerful stimulus to the American imagination. Ever since the first settlers voyaged to the Eastern seaboard to begin a new life, the New World presented a place of hope, and an unknown interior of vast proportions – a dream “of a land in which life should
All citations of the text are from The Great Gatsby, ed. Ruth Prigozy (OUP, 1998). Page numbers following citations from the text are keyed to this edition.
English Matters III
be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability and achievement” (Parkinson 124).
The very document of the democratic system – The Declaration of Independence is primarily based on the notion of the American Dream’s ideology, claiming “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”(Declaration of Independence: A
Transcription) Such a claim, though, would have proved simply invalid and impugnable, had it not