What is the American Dream? In the Webster's New World Dictionary, dream is defined as: "a fanciful vision of the conscious mind; a fond hope or aspiration; anything lovely, etc." In F. Scott Fitzerald's novel The Great Gatsby, the lead character Jay Gatsby defines the American Dream as: everyone can rise to success no matter what his or her beginnings. In the First chapter of the novel, Nick Carraway, the narrator of the story gives us a glimpse into Gatsby's idealistic dream. "No-Gatsby turned out all right in the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreamÃ¢ÂÂ¦."(6) Gatsby lives in a fantasy world that he has created base on his dream, and his dream has elicited several qualities in Gatsby. Such dream and qualities make Gatsby appear to be the "knight in the shining armor." However, such dreams and qualities also lead Gatsby to his tragic end.
For one thing, Gatsby is amoral in many ways. First, he is a crook, a bootlegger who has involved himself with swindlers like Meyer Wolfshime, "the man who fixed the World Series back in 1919."(78) Secondly, he is dishonest, because he tells lies about himself. "I am the son of some wealthy people in the middle-west-all dead now. I was brought up in America but educated at Oxford because all my ancestors have been educated there for many years. It is a family tradition."(69) Lastly, he spends his money like pouring water. He held expensive parties, owns a huge mansion, a Rolls Royce, two motor boats, aquaplanes, a swimming pool (ironically that he has never used it except the day he has died), and a flashy wardrobe including a pink suit. Gatsby's materialism is not something to praise about. However, all of his amoral actions are caused by one purpose, which is to fulfill his dream. Gatsby has committed crime in order to gain the life style and buy the mansion to impress Daisy. "Ã¢ÂÂ¦he revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from [Daisy's] well-loved eyes."(96) Also, Gatsby lies about himself because he wants those lies to be true, and in a way, he even believes those lies are true. Furthermore, his materialism is also one of Gatsby's ways to approach his dream. He only held many expensive parties in the hope that Daisy might show up at one of them. Jordan has said, "I think he half expected her to wander into one of his parties some night, Ã¢ÂÂ¦but she never did."(84) After all, Gatsby's amoral ways are all due to his devotion to his innocent and romantic dream.
The second quality that Gatsby possesses is his sole devotion to his dream. He is faithful to his dream till the very end, and the dream is embodied in Daisy. Gatsby loves what Daisy represents rather than Daisy. He admits to Nick after near the end of the story that Daisy might have loved Tom, but "in any case," "it was just personal."(160) To Gatsby, "personal" love is not important. His love for Daisy is not "personal," because Daisy is only the tangible form of his romantic dream; Gatsby's love is for the dream rather than Daisy. Therefore, in order to obtain his dream, he must have Daisy, and he is devoted in the task. Gatsby has stayed faithful to Daisy during the years when they were apart, and he "read a Chicago paper for years just on the chance of catching a glimpse of Daisy's name."(84) Gatsby has moved to New York and bought his mansion because of Daisy. "Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay."(83) However, from Gatsby's father, we learn that Gatsby's devotion in his dream does not start in his adult years, but in his teenage days or even earlier. Before Gatsby's funeral, his father shows Nick a self-improvement schedule of young Gatsby. Including items such as, "practice elocution, poise and how to attain it," "study needed inventions," and "study electricity, etc."(181) The schedule is dated back in September 6, 1906, which is sixteen years before Gatsby died, and he was only fifteen or sixteen then. The schedule tells us how early Gatsby's dream has started; even as a young boy, he is already devoted to it. After all, Gatsby is so devoted in pursuing his dream that his daily life is controlled by it. He lives only to fulfill his dream, and he is prepared to dedicate his whole life. Eventually, Gatsby dies pursuing his dream, and it is kind of sad because he does not have his own life.
Finally, the most imprtant quality that leads Gatsby to his tragic end is his idealism and willful blindness. To Gatsby's ideal, Daisy is the perfect princess in white, but in reality, she is not what she appears to be. Her apparent whiteness is tingled with the color of gold, the color of money. Gatsby intuitively recognizes this. He remarks to Nick that "her voice is full of money."(127) However, even Gatsby realizes the true nature of Daisy, he is unwilling to fully accept it. He will not admit the essential fact because it will damage his ideal image of Daisy; therefore, according to his idealism, he chooses not to see it. Also, Gatsby believes that only he can have Daisy, then he will be able to live happily ever after as if in fairy-tale. At his reunion with Daisy, Gatsby attempts to restore the past, and when things did not go perfect, Gatsby feels depressed. Nick says to him. "You can't repeat the past."(116) Gatsby cries out desperately. "Why of course you can."(116) Gatsby want to ignore the fact that life is a process of changes. He wants time to stand still, to return to the time in Louisville when there is no Tom and no daughter. Then, he will marry Daisy, and everything will meet his ideal. Gatsby's distorted faith in his idealistic dream is so intense that he blindly unaware of the realism that his dream lacks. Another evidence of Gatsby's idealism is that he is not really Jay Gatsby, but James Gatz. Jay Gatsby is just something that he has created out of his ideal.
The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was son of God- a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that-and he must be about his father's business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would like to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.
As a young boy, Gatsby is already a dreamer. In a strange way, he has never believed that he is just James Gatz, and he has had an ideal image of who he should be, which is Jay Gatsby. At the day he saved Dan Cody-the self-made millionaire's yacht, he has told Cody his name is Jay Gatsby and left his home. Gatsby strongly believes that as Jay Gatsby, all his dreams will be fulfilled, but he does not see the fact you cannot live on idealism in a realistic world, and idealistic dream is not everything in life. Therefore, in a sense, when Wilson shoots Gatsby, he is already dead. This might be that best ending for Gatsby, because since his dream had dead, he has nothing to live on.
After all, no matter how we the readers might look at Gatsby or think of him, we are all drawn to him by the sad knowledge that dreams themselves are perhaps often more beautiful than dream fulfilled. Most importantly, we cannot help but sympathizing Gatsby's tragic fate because to a degree, we all have a touch of Gatsby's idealism inside ourselves.