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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is based in a suburb of New York City during the 1920s, an era of great economic success. The economic boom of the 1920s was seen as a representation of the American dream, the idea that anyone could become wealthy and live a better life in America if they work hard enough for it. But F. Scott Fitzgerald presents the reader with a different perspective of the American dream, one that explores how the American dream is flawed. Fitzgerald portrays the main character, Jay Gatsby, as a man who gets caught up in the American dream and becomes unable to distinguish his falsified persona from reality. Overall, Fitzgerald explores how humanity’s unappeasable desires for wealth and power undermine the fundamental principles of the American dream through the persona of Gatsby.
Jay Gatsby is the perfect embodiment of the American dream since he had to earn all of his money on his own. At first glance, Nick Carraway, the narrator, stated that there is ‘something glorious’ in Gatsby and that he is full of a ‘certain sensitivity to the promises of life’. To the average person, it would seem that Gatsby fulfills the American dream by gaining riches and high social status. But instead of being satisfied with his wealth, Gatsby believes that he can become the ‘Platonic conception of himself… a son of God–a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that.The American dream has many different aspects, but Gatsby clings only to the idea of wealth, unable to see that he can better his character through hard work. An understanding of the American dream, improving oneself to achieve a higher social status, sadly leads people like Gatsby to believe that they can achieve social superiority through money, but this concept leads him to never find true happiness.
Gatsby believes in this ‘unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded in the wing of a fairy’. By interpreting his dreams as the truth, Gatsby is able to find comfort in his fantasy of wealth and the artificial happiness that come with it. The pleasure Gatsby seeks from material items dulls Gatsby’s perception of true happiness. For Gatsby, like many upper-class Americans, he does not realize that the American dream is not just about financial success, but also the satisfaction of living, a perk that Gatsby never achieves.