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Downfall of the American Dream Essay

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As a child, one is told that life is just a dream. If one believes in his or her dreams and pursues the path to this goal than one shall achieve it and shall live a joyful, ‘happy’ life. However as one grows older and wiser, one learns that the reality is far more complicated and corrupted. One discovers that despite their perseverance and audacious efforts to attain his or her objectives, the American dream is just an illusion that cannot come true and cannot be attained.

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is set in New York City and Long Island in the early 1920’s when America was viewed as the land of opportunity. Nevertheless, this novel explores the downfall of the American Dream and how it has an effect on people and the society. This is demonstrated by characters such as Myrtle Wilson who corrupts herself, her relationship and her life over an obsession with something that cannot be attained. Daisy Buchman who sacrifices herself and her happiness to maintain her social status. Finally, Jay Gatsby, the protagonist of the novel exemplifies how the American dream can lead one to make immoral decisions. Through the use of these characters, F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby explores that no matter one\’s gender, race or class the American dream does not discriminate; it is simply elusive and unachievable to all who seek to pursue it.

Myrtle Wilson, often described in the novel as Tom’s mistress, remains a very flat character throughout the whole novel meaning that she doesn’t develop as a character and her morals do not change throughout the novel; however, she plays a huge role in Fitzgerald’s novel to outline the flaws in the American dream. Myrtle’s objective throughout her whole life as it was for many women of this era is to wed a rich successful man who can “take care of her”. Evidently, her husband, George Wilson, is not suitable for her. She even says “he isn’t fit to lick my shoe” (page number???) This is why Myrtle finds herself another man who “qualifies” to her standards/ checklist. Throughout the novel Myrtle literally buries her relationship with George by getting involved with Tom Buchman as well she betrays herself and gives away little pieces of herself by pursuing her dream. Tom Buchman breaks her nose in chapter two yet she pursues the relationship because she is so desperate to rise in social class. A cream is like an off-color of white; it is tainted with yellow. Fitzgerald often uses this color to portray one\’s falseness and inability to fit in with the upper class. In chapter two, Myrtle wears a cream-colored dress and when someone gives her a compliment about the dress she says “ “ It’s just a crazy old thing, […] I just slip it on sometimes when I don’t care what I look like.” (page 35). Nick remarks that Myrtle repeatedly changes her outfits so when she brushes off this compliment and acts snobbish; it becomes very evident to Nick and the readers that she is desperately trying to make herself appear superior, sophisticated and a part of the upper class. People of the upper class often wear white because it is easily corrupted so it can be replaced. White can become creamed colored but cream color clothing cannot become white. This shows how despite one’s endless effort, the American Dream is unattainable. As proven with Myrtle and Tom’s relationship, Myrtle dream is very materialistic. According to Michelle Hurley in her “The End of the American dream” she expresses “Fitzgerald documenting the corruption through materialism of what was once an era of genuine optimism and individualism –the original American dream.” This is shown through many characters but especially Myrtle. Her immoral, wrongful and materialistic perception by the American dream literally led her to her own demise. Fitzgerald kills her off in chapter seven when she gets hit by the car she was chasing after. Myrtle represents the people from lower class that attempt to defy the social boundaries at any possible cost. However, her fate unfolds that anyone who endeavors to disobey the American dream will suffer severe and deadly consequences.

Furthermore, Jay Gatsby also known as James Gatz executes multiple unethical actions driven by his desire to achieve wealth and love. Motivated by Dan Cody and his loathing of the poverty-stricken life, Gatsby seeks a simple way to become apart of the wealthy class. Therefore, Gatsby becomes involved in some illegal business; this becomes especially obvious when Nick first meets Meyer Wolfsheim and Gatsby says, “ “Oh, no, […] this isn’t the man!” page number!!!!. Gatsby panics because Meyer Wolfsheim almost discloses confidential information about the business to the wrong person. Although it does not directly state in the novel that Gatsby is involved in the bootlegging business, many clues such as Gatsby’s relationships with questionable people like Mayor Wolfsheim as well as Gatsby’s story’s about his past that never seems to add up suggest that Gatsby is not completely innocent. This also causes the readers to question how exactly he earned his fortune. In addition, this shows how Gatsby’s morals openly oppose the idea of the American dream which states that only those who “work hard can achieve it”. Daisy Buchman means the world to Gatsby; his genuine American dream was to attain Daisy’s love. Everything he does in the novel he does for the sole purpose of getting her back into his life. Daisy and Gatsby had a great love before he went off to represent his country in the war; In her article “The end of the American dream”, Michelle Hurley explains that “Daisy promised to wait for him but — being fickle, materialistic and in demand– she married Tom Buchanan instead.”. Not only does this show the carelessness and selfishness of the upper class but it also shows the cruelness of the American dream. Gatsby does everything to “woo” Daisy over; he throws parties in hope that one day she would attend one and he even gets involved in immoral business all with the sole purpose of getting Daisy to fall in love with him once again.Yet despite all of his efforts, Daisy screws him over and his American dream stabs him right in the back. Finally, for years Gatsby paints an unrealistic picture for himself of Daisy. Nick even tells Gatsby to stop expecting so much from Daisy because she will crack from the pressure and he will lose her. Nick also repeatedly reminds Gatsby that the past cannot be recreated yet Gatsby continually opposes this idea. As a result of Daisy’s inability to reach this unreal illusion that Gatsby idealized constantly disappoints Gatsby and causes him to ask for more from her. In the end, he dies waiting for her which represents the reality of the unreachable American dream. Gatsby’s unrealistic and unachievable comprehension/ perception of the American dream, as well as his kindness and innocence, eventually leads him to disappointment and his own demise.

Finally, Daisy Buchman was born and raised on the opposite social spectrum as Gatsby. As Gatsby remarks Daisy’s “ voice is full of money” Page NUMber; her main value in life is wealth and social. She has adapted to her wealthy lifestyle ever since she was little which clouds her understanding and view of the American dream. As said by Jordan Sarah Head, “ Daisy and Tom’s common denominator is wealth and an upper-class position”. Even after falling in love with Gatsby, Daisy marries Tom not as much because she loves him but because she loves what he represents. She believed that because of his appreciable wealth he could “care for her” and make her happy but as once said by Denzel Washington “Money doesn’t buy happiness. This is why even though she is truly in love with Jay Gatsby she gives up her happiness for her materialistic values.

Furthermore, Daisy Buchman and Gatsby come from the complete opposite sides of the wealth spectrum. Daisy Buchman has the lifestyle that most people believe


Daisy Buchanan

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