The Great Gatsby: The Loss of the Dream
Many critics have argued for the idea that Jay Gatsbyâ€™s death was a result of his romanticism. Dilworth, for example, notes Gatsbyâ€™s romanticism for Daisy Buchanan.
Gatsby dreams of a future in which she leaves her husband Tom and marries him. Fearing that
Tom will harm Daisy, he stands vigil outside her home all night. He even willingly takes the blame for Daisyâ€™s accidental killing of Myrtle (119).
But the novel provides evidence that he also became a martyr to the callousness of the American Dream. Gatsby believed in the â€œgreen light,â€ the idea that if he worked and hoped long and hard enough he would eventually achieve ...view middle of the document...
As Truslow puts it, â€œIt isâ€¦a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.â€ In other words, it is the pursuit of happiness and the ability to achieve goals and gain respect irrespective of oneâ€™s background.
The above definition makes the American Dream sound like a beautiful concept of financial opportunity and hope, but the dream has a dark side. For one thing, given enough money, one can escape the consequences of immoral actions. In 1924, the year before the publication of Gatsby, Fitzgerald writes a magazine article that rages against wealthy, reckless drivers who kill people with their cars and do not experience the legal consequences of their actions because they use their money to their advantage (Donaldson 194). Similar irresponsibility is seen in Gatsby. Tom expresses no remorse for leading a grief-stricken and vengeful George Wilson to Gatsbyâ€™s home. Daisy, meanwhile, fails to tell the authorities that she was the one driving the car. Nick reflects on the Buchanansâ€™ behavior, condemning them as, â€œcareless peopleâ€¦[who] smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessnessâ€¦and let other people clean up the mess they had madeâ€¦â€ (179).
Many intellectuals during Fitzgeraldâ€™s time dealt with the moral aspect of American life. Josiah Royce stated, â€œSince the war, our transformed and restless people has been seeking not only for religious, but for moral guidance.â€ (Berman 55). The Public Philosophy of Fitzgeraldâ€™s day regularly urged America to take responsibility for the status of the nationâ€™s character, the relations between the classes, and how it accumulated and used money. Josiah Royce once asked â€œWhat are the principles that can show us the course to follow in the often pathless wilderness of the new democracy?â€ (Berman 55). Royce and others like him described the American Dream in terms of the kind of character qualities the nation was building. For Fitzgerald, the dream was about unashamedly acting out unselfish qualities of character.
Irresponsibility is not the only immoral spawn of the dream. The loss of personal connections amidst hedonism grows out of it as well. When Nick attends one of Gatsbyâ€™s parties for the first time, he describes an upbeat world of vanity:
The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughterâ€¦
The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun,
and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music, and the
opera of voices pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier minute
by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful
The above scene is an expression of vanity...