The American Dream has been and will always be pursued by countless individuals in search for happiness. For some, happiness comes from having a loving family, a stable job, and food on the table. For others, it is through becoming increasingly wealthy and having a high social status. F. Scott Fitzgerald explores, in his novel, The Great Gatsby, a male protagonist’s futile attempts at achieving the American Dream to become happy. Jay Gatsby, a newly rich man, is depicted as someone that will go to any lengths to achieve his dream of winning back the love of Daisy Buchanan. Essentially, she is Gatsby’s American Dream. Fitzgerald develops the idea that an aspiring individual, when striving to achieve his/her dream, may choose to lose his/her moral values in an attempt to gain power so he/she can recreate the past.
Jay Gatsby, a central figure in this novel, turns to illegal activities as a way to gain wealth and win back the love of Daisy Buchanan. This is supported by the following quote by Tom Buchanan: “…He and this Wolfshiem bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That’s one of his little stunts. I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him, and I wasn’t far wrong” (Fitzgerald, pp.127). Gatsby decided that Daisy would leave her husband and return to him if he became a wealthy man. The only solution for Gatsby to become rich fast was to sell alcohol even though it was illegal to sell it. Gatsby also lied and deceived people as a way to maintain an air of respect around himself. This is supported by the quote: “I am the son of some wealthy people in the Mid West- all dead now.” (Fitzgerald, pp.64). This small sentence alone is a blatant lie as Gatsby’s father appears at the end of the novel and is clearly not dead.
In addition, Nick discovers later in the novel that “his parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people…” (Fitzgerald, pp.95). As well, when prompted as to where in the mid west he replies San Francisco. This is not a city of the Mid West United States. He tells these lies so people assume his family has always been rich. Newly rich people do not have a good reputation because people assume they got their wealth from illegal activities. He doesn’t want to rick losing Daisy because of his reputation, so he says all these lies for her to be impressed from him. At this point, all Gatsby is interested in is Daisy and the happiness he will have when she returns to him. Gatsby was so driven to achieve his happiness that this dream caused him to overpower the exercise of morality. This lead the dreamer (Gatsby) and the dream to become corrupt. Gatsby lost all his moral values for the sake of love. He also wants to create an air of influence and power around himself as another means of achieving happiness in his lonely life.
Having power was another way Gatsby pursued happiness in his life. In The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby were on their way to meet Jay’s business partner, Wolfshiem, when they were stopped by a police officer. “All right, old sport,” called Gatsby. We slowed down. Taking a white card from his wallet, he waved it before the man’s eyes. “Right you are,” agreed the policeman, tipping his cap. “Know you next time, Mr. Gatsby. Excuse me (Fitzgerald, pp.66-67)!” This shows that Gatsby was above the law and had power over people. Before he was rich, he would have gotten a ticket for speeding. However, now he is in his own league. Gatsby gained power just so he could impress Daisy. Gatsby changed his entire life around just so he could win back the love of Daisy. Having power means that you are rich and other people are under you. It also means that you have a high social status. This would surely impress Daisy and help Gatsby regain happiness in his life. However, he had to find a way to turn back time so things could go back to the way they were before.
Jay Gatsby is one character who longs for the past. He has spent five years of his life trying to recapture it and, finally, dies in its pursuit. In the past, Gatsby had a love affair with the affluent Daisy. However, due to the difference in their social status, she left him for someone wealthier. At this point, he loses his love and his happiness. As a result, he devotes the rest of his life to having his happiness return to him. He gains wealth and buys a house right across from Daisy’s house. This is evident in the quote: “Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay,”(Fitzgerald, pp.76).
Gatsby fails to realize that the past cannot be repeated. When Nick tells Gatsby, “You can’t repeat the past,” Gatsby replies, “Why of course you can.” (Fitzgerald, pp.106). This shows how confident Gatsby is that his show of wealth will cause Daisy to return to him. He tries to throw extravagant parties and own expensive materials as a way to recapture the love of Daisy. Gatsby has done everything just so things can go back to what they used to be. He is essentially trying to recreate the past as a means to gain happiness in his world.
In the 1920’s, a man without money wasn’t a man at all. Devastated by the loss of Daisy, Gatsby does everything to please and impress her as a way to win her love back. In the pursuit of his happiness, he turns to bootlegging to earn fast money and gain power in his world. He hosts impressive parties to gain status among his peers. Gatsby feels optimistic that he can relive a past when Daisy loved him. He wants to gain happiness by achieving the American Dream. He has an “extraordinary gift of hope“(Fitzgerald, pp.8), and he sacrifices himself to fulfill his dream. The desire for something can lead an individual to be someone they are not. Fitzgerald develops a character with a dream and his disastrous search to find happiness in his life.