According to author James Truslow Adams, the American dream is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement”. I agree with Adams that the American Dream is not a dream of material possession merely, but a belief of “social order” in which everyone is able to achieve according to his or her innate capability. However, I do not agree to the point Adams made, that everyone is able to recognized by others for what they are, “regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position”. In Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby, both Jay Gatsby and Nick Caraway illustrated their American Dreams are not simply about motorcars and high wages. For Jay Gatsby, the American Dream is a belief that he can fulfill his true desire, Daisy, through wealth and power. Nick Carraway, who initially envies about the carefree lifestyle of wealthy people, was able to look inward, and realize that moral is weighted more than wealth deep in his heart. Gatsby was not awarded the same social statues as Daisy and Tom have, and he was never accepted by the society.
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I agree to Adams’ point that American Dream is not material, but emotional. Gatsby had a love affair with Daisy when they are both young, however it didn’t last long. Because of the difference in their social statues, Gatsby left. However, his dream has never changed. Much wealthier than he was before, Gatsby returned from the time spent in the army, with the hope that his spanking wealth will let him to gain back Daisy’s heart. When Gatsby left, Daisy’s devotion to him was broken by Tom Buchanan’s wealthy appeal, because Daisy values the material possession more than pure love. Superficially, Gatsby’s American Dream is material. “In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars”(43). After he has returned, he began to through parties every night not knowing who were his guests, hoping to impress Daisy. However only Daisy was his true and only desire. Gatsby sees that the only way he can reclaim her is by impressing her with his wealth and prove that he has the financial power to secure her a carefree lifestyle as well. Gatsby’s intentions on accomplishing his goal made him to believe that the ends justify the means. Nick Caraway, the narrator, suffered from the same compulsion to a dream. In the beginning, Nick admires and envies Gatsby, by calling him “the Great Gatsby”. “He has an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again” (6). Nick was in awe of the wealth Gatsby has and the carefree life style it allows. As the story goes on, the dishonest means by which Gatsby has gained his riches was uncovered to Nick bit by bit. Following Gatsby’s death, Nick showed the reader the lesson he learnt from Gatsby’s folly, that his dream could not be achieved when moral is tossed away. “It couldn’t forgive him or like him but I saw what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy, they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made… ” (187) While being a true friend of Gatsby and helping him to achieve his dreams, Nick was also able to realize that Tom and Daisy are a class of careless and heartless people because the vast wealth blocked their emotion expression and their statues and power reflect their apathy. Fitzgerald strives to depict a striking consciousness that in Nick’s American dream, moral value weights more than wealth. Both Gatsby and Nick have strengthened author Adams’ argument that the idea of the American Dream is not only about wealth merely, but a dream of the true happiness everyone shall be able to attain.
I disagree with Adams that everyone can be recognized by others for what they are capable to achieve, regardless to fortuitous circumstances. One main component that kept Gatsby from reaching his dream was the difference in social statues between Gatsby and Daisy, because the social discrimination and the divisions among the classes cannot be overcome. At the beginning, Daisy refused to marry Gatsby because Gatsby did not have the power to secure her a high materialism lifestyle. “Who is this Gatsby anyhow?” “A lot of these newly rich people are just big bootleggers, you know” (114). Even after Gatsby had gained his fortune, he was still not and would never be in the same social level as Daisy and Tom. Because his wealth was not inherited, but was gained from bootlegging and other organized crimes, Gatsby was distained by the wealth old money people. Gatsby’s American Dream collapses when Daisy refused to leave Tom and ultimately rejected by the higher social class. “I suppose he’d had the name ready for a long time, even then. His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people-his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a Son of God, and he must be about his father’s business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty”(104). Nick, as an honest outsider, proved to us that how important social statues are in the society they lived in. Gatsby had the ambition to accomplish in a higher social class when he was young, and engrossed himself in doing whatever it needs to climb the social ladder. Gatsby tries hard to fit into the world Tom and Daisy lived, but his dream was tarnished by the society that will never accept him. Gatsby’s empty funeral proved that, contradictory to Adam’s American Dream, dreamers like Gatsby were judged and mistreated according to the unequal social statues they were born with.
The idea of American dream still holds true in today’s time. One thing never changes about American dream. That is, once there is dream, there is hope. Just like Gatsby, everyone desires to be better in life, and everyone strives to achieve the dream. Dreamers should be respected and encouraged.
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