The American dream is an age old ideal the individuals achieve wealth, prosperity and happiness through hard work and good moral standing. This is why rich and highly reputable people are then considered great individuals under this ideal. However, Scott Fitzgerald calls into question the validity of the american dream in the 1920’s with his novel, The Great Gatsby. A major character in the novel, Jay Gatsby, is the embodiment of all the traits that the american dream serves to reward; drive, determination, perseverance, wealthy, high social standing and a respectable conduct. However, scrutinizing the process at which he achieves these impressions challenges the greatness of Gatsby that the novel implies he is and the individuals living the American dream in his era.
First and foremost, Gatsby had noble intentions of acquiring his wealth and social standing, however the means to which he acquired it runs in contention with the greatness of his character. In his childhood, James Gatz, Gatsby’s real name, and his family were in poverty and he had to work multiple odd jobs to make ends meet. But this left him unsatisfied as he always envisioned himself to be greater and better than what his current situation allows him to be. This feeling was amplified by two events in his life; his time with Dan Cody, a now deceased friend of Gatz that made a fortune through the silver fields, as Dan exposed Gatz to the life of the rich on his yacht, and the meeting of Daisy Fay, a woman he fell in love with but couldn’t marry due to to his financial and social background. Thus he strived to become successful by tossing away the identity of James Gatz, the poverty-stricken nobody, and took up the mantle ofJay Gatsby, the man that had fame, fortune and the love of the woman he pursued, Daisy Fay, and was determined to become the person he imagined himself to be. However, as the reader finds out later, the path that Gatsby took to achieve his goals were through illegal activity. He was recruited by Meyer Wolfsheim, a notorious underground criminal, into the business of bootlegging and other immoral activities that eventually yielded Gatsby the riches he needed. The respectable dream of working out of poverty and amassing wealth through hard work in order to win the love of his life makes Gatsby’s character great, but his involvement with criminal activity comprises this quality and for some negates it. Fitzgerald scrutinizes the morality of the american dream in his era by suggesting that the ideal is purely materialistic and does not take into the account of the moral aspects of pursuing such an ideal. People like Gatsby have admirable qualities such as drive and determination and are willing to work towards a better future must sacrifice the greatness of their moral character to get it. Along with his aspiration for wealth, his ultimate goal of winning Daisy back becomes tainted by his previous immoral actions leading him to be denied his goal.
Daisy was Gatsby end goal, his version of the American dream, and pursued her unwaveringly with genuine intentions. However, Gatsby’s manipulation of others again challenges the moral greatness of Gatsby. Nick considers Gatsby as a great friend despite mentioning that he scorned Gatsby’s criminal activity. However, when observing the interactions between Nick and Gatsby it appears that Gatsby sees Nick as a means to an end. Gatsby recognized that his parties aren’t attracting Daisy to him so he decided to contact her through Nick. Gatsby befriends Nick and builds trust by revealing his past to dissuade any rumours about him. However he does this so that Nick feels obligated to help him with Daisy. Furthermore, when Gatsby does eventually rekindle his love with Daisy, he loses contact with Nick soon after. This again reinforces that Gatsby only needed Nick to achieve his goal. Gatsby employs this technique to other acquaintances. He means well when he treats the guests of his parties such as replacing a woman’s dress when it was damaged and housing klipspringer however he had his intentions in mind when doing these kind gestures. Whether Gatsby recognizes it or not, the strong will and kind heart he displays in the novels are overshadowed by his manipulation of the people around him for his purposes.
Gatsby may have noble beginnings and intentions but his actions overshadows the good qualities he has. With his involvement of criminal activity to achieve his wealth and the manipulation of Nick and other acquaintances to achieve his dream of marrying Daisybreaks the veil of greatness that Gatsby displays on the surfaces level. This is the critique of American Dream that Fitzgerald puts forth in his novel. The American dream in his era was tainted by the lack of morals and social responsibility of his society such that it is no longer achievable through honest means.