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“The Great Gatsby”: The American Dream Is Not Feasible for All


The American Dream is the idea that any person can become rich in the United States. Through hard work, an optimistic outlook for the future, and virtuous character, a person can become successful. However, in practice, not all people can achieve this dream by showing dedication and acting ethically, and Scott Fitzerald’s The Great Gatsby, as well as its film adaptation by Baz Luhrmann, showcases this inconsistency. As is apparent in the film The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald declares that the American Dream is not feasible for all because neither virtuous character nor hard work leads to prosperity, and hope remains unrewarded.

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The American Dream is an indispensable part of the United States culture, which for years attracted immigrants and gave hope to people from disadvantaged communities. Engle (2019) argues that the traditional definition of an American Dream is having wealth and a “life better than one’s parents’” (para. 5). Moreover, it is the optimistic outlook on one’s future and prospects for life. The Learning Network (2019) reports that this idea has pushed many people from developing states to immigrate to the United States because they believe that in this country, they can achieve success through hard work. Thus, this idea has inspired many people to come to the United States and devote themselves to work to fulfill their dreams.

The plot of The Great Gatsby shows that this dream of prosperity does not guarantee happiness and is reached with great moral sacrifices. Fitzerald and Luhrmann deconstruct the noble image of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby. In this film, the viewers see that wealthy people are not always virtuous. The way the characters treat each other is often disrespectful and dishonest. For example, Tom frames Gatsby to be accused of an affair with a married woman. Gatsby himself is interested in Daisy, who is in a relationship. In the end, Gatsby is killed because he was framed (Luhrmann, 2013). This behavior is not a representation of the American Dream.

Another basis of the American Dream is hard and honest work. Such work requires a person to possess the moral qualities to treat themselves and others fairly. The premise is that fair work should be paid well, unlike dishonest deeds. However, in The Great Gatsby, the central characters’ actions force the viewer to question their moral qualities. The behaviors of Tom, Daisy, and Gatsby are often controversial and are based on deceit, which goes against the prenciples of honesty and hard work. None of the main characters are portrayed as hard working. Hence, The Great Gatsby opposes the idea of the dream life being achieved through hard work.

The American Dream is rooted in the thought that anyone can become successful and earn money in America with hard work, which is not valid in The Great Gatsby. The premise is that in this state, people are granted opportunities regardless of their backgrounds or ethnicity. For years, the image of the American Dream was hope for thousands of immigrants (The Learning Network, 2019). However, non of the characters in this movie become wealthy due to their hard work and dedication. However, in the film, Gatsby gains wealth by selling illegal alcohol, which is not an example of hard and honest work. Tom is wealthy because of his family, and he is a representative of America’s upper class as well as “America’s Wealthiest Bachelor” (Luhrmann, 2013). Daisy was also born in a wealthy family, and she is interested in material wealth. Hard work as a second element within the American Dream concept is also a theme that Fitzgerald and Luhrmann deconstruct in The Great Gatsby.

The American Dream implies that a person has to put effort into achieving their goals. The only man who works hard in The Great Gatsby is George Wilson. He is a garage owner, a married man, who works very hard to earn his money (Luhrmann, 2013). However, Wilson is not wealthy or even capable of making ends meet. This shows the contrast between the people who follow the idea of this dream and those who do not, since Gatsby chooses to be a criminal to achieve his wealth. Moreover, Wilson’s wife has an affair with Tom, which once again shows the people’s interest in material goods. George’s story shows that the notion of hard work is misrepresented as part of the American Dream as not all people who work hard earn enough money. Engle (2019) notes that “Americans would be well served to focus less intently on … the material temptations of our consumer culture” (para. 20). Therefore, in The Great Gatsby, wealth is possessed by people who did not earn it through hard work and effort but by those who engaged in illegal business or are simply born into a rich family. Moreover, people who work hard do not possess the wealth and social status that are attributed to Tom and Gatsby.

Finally, the hope for a better future is another element of the American Dream which The Great Gatsby opposes. Hope is linked to the idea that hard work can bring a wealthy life. In this movie, Gatsby is the only character that is hopeful and tries to see the best in people. However, Daisy’s line summarizes the main idea of the film when she says, “bright precious things fade so fast… and they don’t come back” (Luhrmann, 2013). In the end, Gatsby, who is the only character with hope, is dead. The only reminders of him are Nick Carraway’s memories and Gatsby’s empty house. Yet, the characters who did not have hope for a better future continue living their lives. Hence, the hope for a better future, which is integral to the American Dream, is shown through Gatsby’s character. He achieves wealth and success but does not appear to be happy, and in the end, he is killed because of Tom’s lack of virtues.

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In summary, the American Dream is the concept of wealth and success achieved through hard work and impeccable character. This idea has become central to the American culture and inspired many people. The movie The Great Gatsby deconstructs the concept of this dream by discrediting all three of its core premises. Tom, Daisy, and Gatsby have wealth not because of their hard work but due to circumstances or illegal deeds. They are not virtuous, and they engage in affairs and deceit. Tom has an affair with married women and frames Gatsby. Daisy is only concerned with material possessions. Finally, out of the three characters only Gatsby had some hope for a better future but he was killed at the end of the film.


Engle, J. (2019). Do you think the American Dream is real? The New York Times. Web.

The Learning Network. (2019). What students are saying about: The American dream, mindfulness in schools and how to define ‘family’. The New York Times. Web.

Luhrmann, B. (Director). (2013). The Great Gatsby. Village Roadshow Pictures.

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