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The Great Gatsby: Gatsby and the Decline of the American Dream


Millions of people all over the world consider books to be a form of entertainment and use them as a gateway from their busy daily routine. Nevertheless, most of the writers aim at raising essential topics in their novels and stories and encourage individuals to think and gain more knowledge about them. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is often referred to as one of the greatest books of all time. Different literal critics consider this novel to be a masterpiece of American fiction because of its structure, content, the use of symbols and colors, and essential messages. As mentioned by McParland (2015), while the book focuses on the themes of love, wealth and money, gender differences, and class inequality, the most critical topic of the novel is the American dream. This concept reveals “the hopes and concerns that people held and the changes that were in the process in America they knew” (McParland, 2015, p. 10). Therefore, the following essay will research the decline of Gatsby’s American dream by summarizing the novel, defining the discussed notion, and providing several supporting examples from the story.

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Before discussing one of the book’s essential topics profoundly, it is first necessary to understand its historical context and plot. The Great Gatsby tells its readers about the events of the 1920s, the times when people were pressured by social norms, and focused on self-gratification (McParland, 2015). By writing this novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald tried to communicate his opinions and feelings about the American society of those times and reflect on personal life experiences (McParland, 2015). The story is set in the state of New York and tells the tragic story of Jay Gatsby – a rich man whose only wish is to renew his romantic relationship with Daisy Buchanan. In his quest for love, the protagonist moves from poverty to wealth, experiences the long-awaited intimacy with Daisy, and gets heartbroken when he hears that Daisy will not leave her husband. The most tragic part of the story starts when Gatsby takes the blame for killing another human being and, eventually, gets murdered for the crime he did not commit.

As it can be seen, by writing this novel and focusing on the single story of Jay Gatsby, Fitzgerald attempted to portray the American society of the 1920s, define individuals’ values, and discuss their life decisions. The author represents a “prosperous and extravagant society where people regarded the pursuit of wealth and joyous life as their only goal in life” (Xiao, 2017, p. 63). If before society focused on spiritual satisfaction, during the Jazz Age, individuals dreamed of getting famous, enjoying their wealth, and developing successful careers (Xiao, 2017). Generally, they believed that money is the most crucial thing in life which can present them with everything needed. Therefore, the concept of the American dream helped people to attain all the mentioned goals and become happy. This belief ensured that every single person living in America, regardless of origins or social status, can pursue and attain the desired social, political, and monetary goals (Xiao, 2017). In other words, in the 1920s America was perceived as the land of countless opportunities that every person could benefit from.

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book, the main character Jay Gatsby is the true embodiment of the American dream. The protagonist was born in a poor family and did not have any opportunities for a wealthy life. The narrator mentioned that “his parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people – his imagination has never really accepted them as his parents at all” (Fitzgerald, 2007, p. 98). In addition, it is described that, from early childhood, Gatsby had to engage in hard work, such as clam-digging and salmon-fishing, to earn money for food and clothing (Fitzgerald, 2007). However, despite the limited possibilities of his family, Jay was able to achieve material success. The characters’ “stable pursue for Daisy confirmed that he has an amazing aptitude to alter his dreams into reality”; thus, this desire allowed him to attain his professional and personal goals (Keshmiri, 2016, p. 1296). Consequently, it can be concluded that in the sense of obtaining a high social status and financial success, Jay accomplished the American dream.

Even though Gatsby’s success creates the impression that he has achieved the desired American dream, different elements of the story reveal that he was not happy enough. One of the indications of Jay’s dissatisfaction with life is that he continually needed to feel assured that he is impressive and wealthy. For instance, the mansion of Gatsby “was made just for the sake of its outward appearance and for public entertainment” (Hodo, 2017, p. 302). The house had extensive gardens and lawns and a swimming pool that the character has never even used (Hodo, 2017). Jay Gatsby wanted to make his wealth evident to the general public and continually asked Nick, who is the narrator of the story, if the house is impressive enough (Hodo, 2017). Hence, it can be stated that Gatsby was focused on other people’s opinions rather than his happiness. He felt insecure and continuously wanted to prove that he is rich; therefore, he did not accomplish the American dream even though it may seem so from the side.

In addition, the American dream’s failure is proved when Gatsby does not get what he has been working this hard for – the love of Daisy. The main character has high hopes for winning his lover and starting a romantic relationship with her since he is wealthy. For five years he imagined their happy life together and described Daisy as the most beautiful and intelligent woman in the world (Jasim, 2016). However, Gatsby’s biggest dream never comes true, and “he starts to see himself as a loser when Daisy chooses Tom instead of him” (Jasim, 2016, p. 20). The failure to receive the love of Daisy represents the fall of the American dream. It can be stated that Gatsby became too involved with money and materialistic possessions, thinking that they are key to his satisfaction. Instead, he should have focused on establishing relationships, developing his spiritual self, and accepting life as it is because the constant desire for something more will never bring happiness to any person.


Overall, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of the most fantastic novels ever written. Its use of language, symbols, colors, and metaphors helps the readers to understand the main idea of the writer and create a full picture of the American society of the 1920s. While Jay Gatsby, who is the protagonist of the story, embodies the concept of the American dream, his failure to receive the love of daisy represents its decline. Hence, the presented paper discussed the fall of the American dream in the book by providing a summary of the story, the definition of the concept, and several examples supporting the failure of Gatsby.

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Fitzgerald, F. S. (2007). The Great Gatsby. Broadview Press.

Hodo, Z. (2017). The failure of the American dream in “The Great Gatsby”- Fitzgerald. European Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies, 2(7), 299-305.

Jasim, A. (2016). The failure of the American dream in Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby”. ANGLISTICUM. Journal of the Association-Institute for English Language and American Studies, 2(5), 19-24.

Keshmiri, F. (2016). The disillusionment of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s dreams and ideals in The Great Gatsby. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 6(6), 1295-1299.

McParland, R. (2015). Beyond Gatsby: How Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and writers of the 1920s shaped American culture. Rowman & Littlefield.

Xiao, L. I. U. (2017). An analysis of the disillusionment of the American dream in The Great Gatsby – based on the perspective of consumerism. Journal of Literature and Art Studies, 7(1), 63-68.

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