The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a novel about the American Dream, an idealistic goal that everyone should have the opportunity to achieve wealth, status and success. Fitzgerald uses characters Jay Gatsby and Myrtle Wilson to show a pessimistic view of the American Dream. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald uses Jay Gatsby and Myrtle Wilson to that the American Dream cannot be achieved, yet suggests that striving for it is an essential part of the American experience. Jay Gatsby is a character whose sole purpose is to win the love of Daisy, the woman of his dreams.
Daisy is a somewhat shallow character, but she represents wealth, “Her voice is full of money,” (120). Daisy specifically represents acceptance into the old money of East Egg, and as Gatsby’s dream, she is the American Dream. Gatsby is consumed by Daisy and spends most of the novel trying to win Daisy back, spending little time on anything else. Gatsby’s efforts to win the love of Daisy represents the journey for the American Dream. He sacrifices his integrity in order to get rich by involving himself in illegal business. Gatsby believes that he can recreate the past, which is the relationship between himself and Daisy, with money. However, the the fate of Gatsby shows Fitzgerald’s thoughts on the American Dream. At the end of his life, Daisy goes back to Tom, her husband, and Gatsby is murdered.
Nick’s early comments that “Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short?winded elations of men,” further reflect Fitzgerald’s thoughts. Gatsby’s dream of Daisy’s love ends up preying on him and in turn, is what killed him in the end. It is obvious that Fitzgerald has a pessimistic view of such a consuming dream. Myrtle Wilson, like Gatsby, also has an American dream, one that involves having an affair with Tom in order to gain wealth and status. Similar to Daisy, Tom, Daisy’s husband, also represents old money. Although Tom is not representative of the American Dream like Daisy is, Myrtle believes that he is the means of reaching her dream: advancing her position from lower class to wealthy.
Myrtle lives in the valley of ashes, the poor part of New York and is married to an auto-mechanic. Myrtle, however, is further away from her dream than she realizes. Although Tom showers Myrtle with gifts, he has no intention of marrying her like Myrtle believes he does.
Catherine McKee tells Nick that “it’s really his wife that’s keeping them apart. She’s a Catholic, and they don’t believe in divorce” (33), a lie that Tom is probably feeding Myrtle. Myrtle is very materialistic, and uses her husband borrowing a suit as an example as to why her marriage was a mistake. Like Gatsby, Myrtle is killed instead of realizing her dream. The two characters dying before reaching their dream or realizing that their dreams are unreachable, shows that Fitzgerald believes that the American dream is a dangerous illusion. Both Gatsby’s and Myrtle’s deaths are direct and indirect outcomes of striving for the American Dream.
Gatsby is protecting Daisy when he takes blame for the car crash that killed Myrtle. After the crash, “he speaks as if Daisy’s reaction was the only thing that mattered,” (143), suggesting that nothing matters to Gatsby other than finding ways for Daisy to accept and love him thus achieving his dream. Gatsby takes the blame in order to reach his dream. It is because of this that he is murdered by Myrtle’s husband. In this way, Gatsby’s dream is directly causes his death.
For Myrtle, there is no direct action that leads to her death, however, it is the combination of Daisy and Myrtle’s searching for Tom, two things that she did in pursuit of her dream, that causes her to be run over. In the final passage of the novel, Fitzgerald further proclaims the uselessness of the American dream, saying that Gatsby “did not know that his dream was already behind him,” (180). However, he also expresses that striving for it is a part of human nature and is something that will always be done, “it eluded us then, that no matter tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…” (180.) Fitzgerald’s tone here uplifts this impossible dream into a place of honor, where the journey is more important than the dream itself. In these final lines, Fitzgerald states that, regardless as to whether it is possible or not, the journey to acquire the American dream is a fundamental part of the American experience.Through Jay Gatsby and Myrtle Wilson’s failure to achieve their dream, Fitzgerald portrays the American Dream in a pessimistic way, as one that cannot be achieved. He emphasizes this by presenting the characters of Tom and Daisy, who represent the buffer that stops Gatsby and Myrtle from achieving their dreams.
However, the final passage of the novel shows that Fitzgerald thinks of the American Dream as more than just a futile dream, whose realization is not possible. According to Fitzgerald, striving for the American Dream defines human nature; not as the impossible dream, but one that will always be strived for.