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The Great Gatsby: The Demise Of Two Dreams

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While there are numerous themes throughout the text of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, the most prominent is that of the American Dream. The American Dream is the idea that any person, no matter what he or she is, or from where he or she has come, can become successful in life by his or her hard work; it is the idea that a self-sufficient person, an entrepreneur, can be a success. In this novel, however, it is the quest for this 'dream' (along with the pursuit of a romantic dream) that causes the ultimate downfall of Jay Gatsby.

Throughout the book, Gatsby avoids the reality of his simple, difficult childhood in efforts to avoid the embarrassment of having lived in poverty during his youth. At the age of seventeen, Jay Gatsby changed his name from James Gatz, marking the beginning of his version of the American Dream. "His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people [and] 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 [when he] invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would" (104). And although masked for most of the story, Gatsby's childhood provides a key source of determination in his endeavor of achieving the American Dream.

During Gatsby's early adulthood, he joined the army (where he first met Daisy). He initially loved her because of her extraordinary house and because many other men had already loved her. One evening in October, Gatsby fell in love with Daisy Fay, and in turn she fell in love with Gatsby. "[Daisy] was the first 'nice' girl that he had ever known" (155). Their love was uneasy at first but this uneasiness was lifted when he and Daisy fell in love, and he found that "she thought [he] knew a lot because [he] knew different things from her" (157). While their month of love was physically ended when Gatsby went abroad, their emotional love was not and Daisy, in her artificial world, could not understand why Gatsby could not come home; she wanted her love to be with her, she needed some assurance that she was doing the right thing. It was not long however, before Daisy fell in love with a wealthy, former All-American college football player named Tom Buchanan. Gatsby's heart was broken, yet his love for Daisy was strong and he was determined, in order to achieve one element of his American Dream, to get her back.

Once he returned from abroad, it did not take long for Gatsby to attempt this. He knew that Daisy was a shallow woman, easily overwhelmed by material items, and thus the best way for him to gain her affection was to flaunt his wealth (which he did by throwing lavish parties). With Nick's help, Gatsby and Daisy were reunited and Gatsby, given another chance to show off his wealth and win her back. He used this meeting to show Daisy what he had become. She was amazed by the extravagance of his house and when he threw his imported shirts around the room, she began to cry because she realized that she had missed out on much of his life. It was at this moment, when the dream that he had strived for was right in front of him, that he realized that Daisy was not as perfect as he remembered her. This was clearly evident to Nick who thought "there must have been moments [...] when Daisy fell short of his dreams - not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything" (101). At this point, it becomes apparent that Gatsby's dream can no longer be fully achieved; yet it is being achieved because he is finally back with Daisy, even though she is still with Tom.

From this point on, Gatsby's American Dream begins to unravel. Tom, suspecting Daisy of cheating on him with Gatsby, makes some investigation of his affairs and begins to undermine Gatsby's idealistic concept of himself by making him realize that he is not what he has made himself out to be. He makes Gatsby see that he does not appear to people in the way that he thinks of himself. He exploits "what [Gatsby's]

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