One of the most significant themes embodied in the great Gatsby is that of the American dream and its destruction. The American dream can take on many meanings, but a common one can be seen through someone of low economic status working hard and later achieving a high economic status. Essentially, The American dream embodies the fact that anyone willing to work hard enough can achieve whatever their heart desires. In the Great Gatsby, however, it can be observed how this American dream is corrupted and how it can be manipulated to cause destruction in the lives of those trying to achieve it.
Myrtle, who was having an affair with Tom. She wasn’t just having an affair with Tom because of his good looks but also what he represented: money and success. Though when she married George, she thought she was in love with him later she admits that that was a mistake as she says, “The only crazy I was, was when I married him. I knew right away I made a mistake. He borrowed somebody’s best suit to get married in and never told me about it, and the man came after it one day when he was out”. To her, everything that Tom is and has is what the American dream embodies. She likes that he can afford his suits and buy his cars, while her husband struggles to sell even one. However, this pursuit of the American dream is never achieved by her as she is killed in the end.
Daisy, is someone who is in constant pursuit of happiness, which she believes to have attained when she marries Tom, however, she soon realized that she married the wrong man, throughout the novel it can be seen that the relationship Tom and Daisy have is not exactly ideal, as Tom seems abusive towards her and does not care for her. This is evidenced by the affairs he had been having and how he lacks discretion in trying to hide them as Jordan notes “She might have the decency not to telephone him a dinner time. Don’t you think?”
When Daisy meets Gatsby after five years and sees how accomplished he has become she breaks down and starts to cry. “They’re such beautiful shirts, and it makes me sad because I’ve never seen such – such beautiful shirts before” as that is when she realizes that she could have had love and money both. This pursuit for achieving both love and money was Daisy’s American dream, and it ends up destroying her happiness in the end.
For Jay Gatsby, his American dream was to be with Daisy, everything that he does and everything that he becomes was to attain Daisy, as it takes his three years to buy a house across from hers, “Gatsby bought that house so Daisy would be just across the bay”. However, Gatsby finds out later that having money is not enough as there was a very prevalent concept of “old money”, it was believed by the wealthy that money is something that you have to be born into. Gatsby’s dream collapses when despite aching everything he thought necessary he is unable to attain Daisy and accepted by the upper-class society as nothing could stop Wilson from firing a gun at him and in the end, Daisy chooses Tom over him.