The Dream and The Great Gatsby
The story of America is an exciting one, filled with swift evolution and an amazing energy unprecedented in world history. In America’s short existence, it has progressed from a small collection of European rebels to the economically dominant nation that it is today. Mixed up in the provocative reputation of America is the celebrated ideal of the American Dream, the fantasy of complete independence and self-reliance mixed with the opportunity to attain wealth through one’s labors. On the surface, this reverie seems almost enchanted, offering people the unprecedented prospect of achieving success regardless of one’s race, religion, or family history. The American Dream is exactly what it appears to be; the opportunity of utopia, the ceaseless temptation of pleasure, the undying knowledge that eternal bliss lies just around the corner. But the very nature of this fantasy prevents the enjoyment of the success one has earned, as the temptation is always nagging, always insisting for more progress, urging one to work a little harder and gain a little more. The American Dream destroys any opportunity of complacency; its very essence, the immense libido it inspires and the eternal need for progression that it creates in the hearts of its followers makes any true realization of the mythical nirvana impossible.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is an immortal illustration of the paradox of the American Dream. The novel begins by describing an intense infatuation with the American Dream. The characters are emphatically American, striving towards the goals of independence and financial success. The story is seen through the eyes of Nick Carraway, a unique narrator in that he gradually …
…nstead of enjoying his accomplishments – always struggling “against the current,” only to be pushed “back ceaselessly into the past.” But the Dream is so enticing and powerful that it can influence even the wisest people; Nick realized the folly in Gatsby’s feverous Dream-enticed struggling, yet continues to “beat on” towards his own Dream. While the Dream itself is a vision of intense prosperity, the phenomenon of the American Dream inveigles people not to prosper, but to endure, because the insistent pressure the dream puts on one to continue to progress will never allow prosperity. The Dream is not a means to an end; rather, it is a way of life, a non-tangible, non-achievable, hyperbolic myth – a mirage in the desert of eternity, always just one step out of reach.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 1925.