Freedom to Choose In America, there is no the "American Dream". Literary critics often refer to one "American Dream" or another as "The American Dream". In reading F. S. Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, one might conclude that Jay Gatsby achieved "The American Dream" of wealth and its progeny of power and property. To some Americans, that is their dream. Janie, in Zora Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, achieved a level of wealth and status rare for women in the late 1930's whether black or white. Ultimately, both books show that the only true "American Dream" comes from freedom. Our founding fathers protected our right to pursue our own happiness and that pursuit is the one universal "American Dream".
Because they lived in America, Jay, in Gatsby, and Janie, in Their Eyes, were free to define and redefine their own goals and dreams.
Jay Gatsby's dream was to achieve wealth and power. Once Jay had achieved both wealth and power, he redefined his dream to the pursuit of a woman named Daisy Buchanan. Janie Wood's dream was to find a person that would cherish her as much as she could cherish them. Even though Janie had everything a woman could ever want in the eyes of others, she was never truly satisfied until she found the love she yearned for.
At first glance, Janie and Jay's dreams may seem drastically different, but ultimately they are actually similar. On the forefront, Janie, as a young girl of sixteen, wanted to find someone who would love her and whom she could love back. Janie's maternal grandmother, Nanny, arranged for her to marry an older man who was a landowner and therefore had some status in the community. Janie reasoned that "Husbands and wives always loved each otherÃ¢ÂÂ¦"(Their Eyes 21). She did not find the love that she was after in this marriage, nor in her second marriage, but only in her third marriage.
Unlike Janie, whose original and continuing dream was to find true love, Jay Gatsby's original dream was to achieve great wealth and it's progeny: power and property. After he had achieved wealth, he sought love in Daisy Buchanan, a married woman who was really unavailable. Jay's death resulted from his pursuit of an unavailable love.
In America, we are free to determine and pursue our own goals or dreams without government intervention and, hopefully, judgements of correctness by our fellow man. And so it may seem that Jay Gatsby's death was unnecessary because his dream of Daisy was foolish. But in a broader sense, living on his own terms and dying on his own terms, is a celebration of the only true American Dream-- the freedom to pursue our own personal happiness. And so it is true with Janie, she expected love with marriage and it did not come, but her dream never died. Her pursuit continued. It is the freedom to pursue and the freedom to dream that is the true American Dream.