The Great Gatsby: Essay 1/4

 The notion of the American dream figures prominently in this story.  How do readers define the American dream?  Moreover, is pursuing the American dream necessarily a good thing?

     Typically, when people think of the 'American dream', they think of working hard and achieving success. They think of going from rags to riches. Many characters live the American dream, such as Gatsby, Tom, and Daisy. However, I don't believe that pursuing the American dream is a good thing because living such a lavish life has consequences, something Fitzgerald clearly shows throughout The Great Gatsby.
     Money is something that as a culture, we see as important. Everything seems to revolve around money in one way or another. This leads me to the first con; sometimes, by making money seem so important, we don't see what's really important. A perfect example of this is Daisy Buchanan. Daisy fell in love with Gatsby when Gatsby wasn't a very wealthy man, and to her, that didn't matter. What mattered was the fact she loved him for who he was and not how many zeroes he had on his checks. However, Gatsby didn't have enough to provide for her, thus leading Daisy to marry a man of wealth (Tom Buchanan) in order to have a settled life. She turned a blind eye to her love for Gatsby because she wanted a life filled with money, something a poor man like Gatsby couldn't give to her. Though she was a part of a wealthy family to begin with, she pursued the American dream by marrying a rich man and benefitting from his wealth. Subsequently, she lost sight of what mattered- her love for Gatsby- in order to obtain wealth. She didn't love Tom Buchanan, but she wanted a settled life. By pursuing a settled life, she lost Gatsby.
     Who do we think of when we think of American dream figures? American dream figures, regardless of who, have to put on a mask in front of other people. In today's case, they put a mask on for the media. Money distorts who people really are, another reason why pursuing the American dream isn't necessarily a good thing. Two examples of this are Tom and Gatsby. Tom lives in a very rich neighborhood, has a wife and a mistress, MONEY... what more could he want? He may seem fine to those that don't know him well, but throughout the story, Fitzgerald hints at the fact that Tom is very unhappy. We can assume that Tom is unhappy because one of the first things we learn about him is that he is an alcoholic, thus leading readers to conclude that he drinks to forget the fact he is unhappy. Gatsby created his image to impress Daisy, in hopes of getting her back. Gatsby is who he is in the story because of Dan Cody's influence on him and Daisy's influence on him. He throws these extravagant parties not because it's something he wants to do; Gatsby throws parties to get the attention of other people, in this case, Daisy. Tom Buchanan hides his sadness behind his wealth, while Gatsby hides his desire to be with Daisy behind his wealth.
     Overall, pursuing the American dream has its perks, but ultimately it does more harm than good. It blinds us from the things that matter, like love, and changes the world's perception of us. The characters from The Great Gatsby show the cons of pursuing the American dream by showing how it destroys relationships, who we are and how we present ourselves, and, potentially, lives.


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