What American Dream? Essay

Submitted By cmf5508
Words: 1117
Pages: 5

What American Dream?
“The idea that we are the greatest people in the world because we have the most money in the world is ridiculous. Wait until this wave of prosperity is over! Wait ten or fifteen years! Wait until the next war on the Pacific, or against some European combination! ... The next fifteen years will show how much resistance there is in the American race. There has never been an American tragedy. There have only been great failures.” Fitzgerald uttered these words to an interviewer, sent to talk with one of the great writers of the 20th century, two years after The Great Gatsby was published. Two more years passed, Wall Street crashed, another great American failure. While some in Fitzgerald’s own time thought this outlook gloomy, as well as impossible, sitting in the relative comfort of the 21st century we know better. Fitzgerald noticed the greed of the people and the common practice of living outside their means; he also noticed how this could ruin America and all that we used to be. The Great Gatsby is known by many as a poignant insight into the ruin of the American dream, but these same people may be surprised to learn that when writing The Great Gatsby, the term ‘the American dream’ did not exist. That was not to become commonplace until 1931 in James Truslow’s The Epic of America (Churchwell). One fact remains as true today as the day Fitzgerald put his finishing touches on The Great Gatsby; money is the true corrupter. Fitzgerald saw this truth before the stock market crashed and before we put a name on the American dream. Using symbolism, F. Scott Fitzgerald warned America of what was to come if we didn’t turn away from greed and the all encompassing corruption of money.
Perhaps the first character to analyze should be Daisy Buchanan, Gatsby’s one, but ultimately heartless, love. To me, Daisy represents money, the dream that the 99% strived for. She does not really care about anyone, she does whatever suits her. Like money, she is heartless, yet the object of many men’s desires. Fitzgerald physically describes her like money as well; “…full of money—that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song in it” (Fitzgerald 127). No one in Daisy’s life treats her as a person or sees her as she truly is; like money, she is just an object. To Tom, she is the wife he can always go back to, a trophy and the person society expects him to be with. To Gatsby, she is the young girl he met and fell in love with before the war. Just like money, people are blinded to Daisy and what having her truly does to you. Both men go to great lengths to keep her; in a sense, Tom kills to have her. It isn’t Daisy they really love or want, but the idea of her; as with money, it’s everything she can bring you.
While reading The Great Gatsby, the audience is well aware of the class differences in this 1920’s society, even if Gatsby is not. Gatsby symbolizes the 99%, those who don’t have money but wish they did, who want the lavish lifestyle of the upperclass. Typical of someone driven by greed, he does immoral things to get his dream. Gatsby’s business dealings show how far he is willing to go to secure Daisy, and by extension, money. That is not to say that Gatsby is an immoral man, he is human, and like most of the 99% does whatever necessary to secure his wealth.
Tom Buchanan is the character who I think represents something very interesting; both the corruption of wealth and the idea that those who strive for this ‘American dream’ will never reach true satisfaction. That idea works very well for the relationship between Tom and Daisy; “I love Daisy too. Once in a while I go off on a spree and make a fool of myself, but I always come back, in my heart I love her all the time” (Fitzgerald 138). In the end, people will always choose money, they will always go back to that corrupt seductress. Myrtle was something on the side, a distraction, but she could