The main theme of “The great Gatsby” is that the great dream of American is dead. The American dream is defined by people as “The belief that everyone in the United States has the chance to be successful, rich, and happy if they work hard enough”. Three features of the American Dream are shown as that people can make their dream come true, everyone has the same opportunity to achieve their goals and life should become better and richer by their own effort. However, readers are shown the death of the old beautiful dream through stories of different characters in this novel. Such as Gatsby’s dream, the longing of Daisy, does not become true; the inequality of different races and social status and the lower class people, who work very hard but still live in a poor condition.
One of the qualities of the American dream is that people’s goals would come true. However, Gatsby’ dream never becomes real in this case. He loves Daisy and wants her back, for whatever it takes—this is Gatsby’s goal. He buys a huge mansion in the other side of her house and holds luxurious parties all the night just try to catch her attention. He goes to his dock every night, waving his hand, tries to reach the green light from Daisy’s house, just like reaching his dream. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” (P190) Gatsby lives for his dream and believe in it. The goal is so close and so real, just in the other side of river. Nevertheless, his dream is the same as the green light— near-at-hand but can’t reach it. The green light also shows that it is difficult to achieve a goal in America, even for rich people. This reflects the death of the American Dream. Gatsby was born in the Middle East, from a very poor family. However, he didn’t want anyone to know that because in America, social status decided who you were.
He successfully enriched himself and tried to become a high class man so he could win Daisy back. Yet, what he didn’t know was that wealth couldn’t change who you really were. He already lost this game at the moment he was born. “He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.”(P189) Gatsby’s dream is Daisy and he almost does everything to win her back. For him, after all the hardship he has been through that a little strip of water seems like nothing. Although, what he does not know is that the dream has already become unreachable. He would never be her social equal and she would never be able to stay with him and keep the lifestyle to which she’d grown accustomed. The social status of America in 1930s could be classified into Old money— the people who were born with wealth; new money— rich people who hold their money only for one generation or two; then middle class and working class— they were the low class people. Each of these classes was untouchable for different class. As a result, social status in America hinders dream from coming true..
In other hand, it shows the America dream is dead. Nonetheless, Gatsby didn’t want to give up. He believed that daisy would leave Tom and come back to him. He waited for daisy to call him back. ” No telephone message arrived, but the butler went without his sleep and waited for it until four o’clock – until long after there was any one to give it to if it came. I have an idea that Gatsby himself didn’t believe it would come, and perhaps he no longer cared. If that was true he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. (8.111)”.Just before Gatsby’s death, he was still waiting for Daisy to call him and he believed that she would be back for him. However, she never called back. Gatsby worked his whole life long to achieve his “American Dream”, which Daisy was a major part of, and now that she has made her choice of Tom over Gatsby, the last piece of his puzzle is gone. In the end, Gatsby did pay a high price for living too long with a single dream: death. His tragic death was a symbolism of the death of American dream.
The secondary feature of American dream is that everyone has the same opportunity to succeed. Nonetheless, the inequality of America was a serious problem in 1930s. The inequalities included racism, classism and many others. Tom Buchanan was a member of old money. He believed that his race and class were the dominator of this country. “’Civilization’s going to pieces,’ broke out Tom violently. ‘I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read The Rise of the Colored Empires by this man Goddard?’” “The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be — will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved.””[us whites] who are the dominant race”(18). Tom thought he (white people) was the best race on the world and all others races were pathetic and low-power. Any achievements and successes made by colored people were unacceptable. In another hand, Tom’s words show the inequality among different race. In fact, racism was very common in America in 1930s. Most of rich class of white people believed that others races should work for them. Tom’s thoughts reflect a common truth in America— the dignity of colored people was really low.
As a result, racism hinders people to have the equal opportunity to succeed. Therefore, it shows the death of America Dream. The social classes in this novel also increase the inequality among different people. There are roughly six classes in this novel—old money (Tom), new money (Gatsby), middle class (Nick) and working class (people in the ash valley). People feel disdain for the people in the class lower than them and revere the people in the higher class. “We were born different from you, it’s in our blood…Nothing that you do or dream up can ever change that.”(134). Tom recasts Gatsby’s class difference—he was born the son of poor farmers—as a racial one. “I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that’s the idea you can count me out. . . .”(130) Gatsby was saying, that he was the same as Tom because they had same amount of wealth. Tom determined that Gatsby was nothing compare to him just because he was in lower class. His words showed no respect to the people in lower class. We are shown that, you cannot change your social status and gain dignity even you have huge amount wealth. The background you have decides your life and social class. Lower class people are despised by high class people with prejudice, which reflects the inequality among people and shows the fading of American Dream.
Lastly, people say America is a place of dream because they can reach their goal by hard work. People believe that, in America, dream comes true as long as you try hard. However, the novel kills that hope. The Valley of Ashes is an area in the edge of the city. People who live and work are in low-class. “This is a valley of ashes – a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of ash-grey men, who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.”(26). this valley was filled with coal and low-class workers. They worked so hard that their clothes become grey. Nonetheless, they were still the lowest and poorest class, trapped in this dirty valley, although they pay lots of effort. The valley of ashes represents absolute poverty and hopelessness. All the dreams of America seem so far because you cannot see the end of the hard work. “pull yourself up by your bootstrap”. Wilson George is an example of the struggle of lower class. He owes an auto shop in the Valley and pay a lots effort into his business. “’Go to bed’ but Wilson refused, saying that he’d miss a lot of business”(26) “The interior was unprosperous and bare; the only car visible was the dust-covered wreck of a Ford which crouched in a dim corner.
It had occurred to me that this shadow of a garage must be a blind, and that sumptuous and romantic apartments were concealed overhead, when the proprietor himself appeared in the door of an office, wiping his hands on a piece of waste.”(26) From these two quotes, we are shown that Wilson was a working freak and spend a lot of time on his work. However, the shop itself showed that Wilson was very poor. As a low-class man, Wilson tried to make more money by doing more work. Yet, his situation wasn’t seemed getting any better. This fact showed that your life wouldn’t become better and richer no matter how hard you try. The poor get poorer, the rich get richer. It also reflects the death of American Dream.
In conclusion, the Great Gatsby shows a theme of American dream is dead. First, people couldn’t make their dream come true; Gatsby spent his whole life time to won Daisy back but he failed, ended with death. Second, the novel shows that, not everyone has same opportunity to reach their goal; There is inequality exist among different race and social class. Last, people couldn’t make their life better by working hard; people who live in the Valley of Ashes couldn’t enrich themselves, the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. The same fact hold still in America today— where people working full time to get minimum wage or even having two jobs but still remain below the poverty line. The Dream is dead! What a world!
Courtney from Study Moose
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