Blog Post #1: Gatsby’s Dream

At the very end of the novel, Nick gives us one last romanticized interpretation of Gatsby’s life, and he does so by linking Gatsby explicitly with the idea of America itself: “And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes–a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.”

Do you think Fitzgerald means us to take this interpretation at face value? Are we meant to accept Nick’s conclusions about Gatsby and this country, or does this ending point once again to Nick’s unreliability as a narrator? Put another way, how is The Great Gatsby a commentary on the American dream?

 

This particular quote by Nick is a demonstration, in this writer’s opinion, of his reliability as a narrator. For a moment, he is seeing past the obviousness of the world around him and is now seeing it for what it once was. He is seeing past the ostentations of the lofty houses, the garishness of the expensive cars, and the vacuity of the participants in the loud lavish parties. He is seeing what once gave this place so much wondrous potential. Nick is seeing a dream of what America should be. The entirety of The Great Gatsby points to the hopes (and downfalls) of the American Dream. The same dream that the initial Dutch settlers had when they saw the land for the very first time. When the Dutch settlers came, they saw a lively land with lush life-giving possibilities. Their capacity for imagining was not hindered by any past experiences, but was opened to new possibilities and wonders never before seen by western man’s eyes. Whatever they imagined could actually be possible now, by the work of their own hands, in claiming this new land as their own. The same was true for Gatsby. He came from nothing. His past knew little prosperity, and yet, in that nothingness he had found some manner of happiness through meeting and falling in love with Daisy. Daisy, who represents life to Gatsby, becomes his dream as he is shipped off to war. He overcomes war and comes to this fresh new land with hopes of prosperity in tow. His seeking after this dream of his, this American dream, leads him to walk the path whereby he can attain the success which will lead him to his dream in the swiftest way. Gatsby does whatever it takes so that he can have the affluence and prosperity that his dream requires. The problem that Gatsby comes to is that, unlike the Dutch settlers, he can not see the wonder of life around him as it relates to the future. All Gatsby’s hopes and dreams are connected to the past. He forgets to, or relinquishes the ability to, put hope in the pleasures of the present while his hopes rely on the material to bring his past dream to pass. The material success that Gatsby acquired becomes his hindrance in truly living life to its fullest; it becomes his downfall. In actuality, the focus on the material becomes all of the main characters’ downfalls, for the most part. This world in which Gatsby now lives is a world devoid of real tangible meaning. It is a vapid and hollow world that teems with unhappy people, as they attempt to find comfort in what they have, living their lives of meaninglessness. The American Dream that Fitzgerald seems to be portraying is really an aberration of the American Dream that the early settlers envisioned. Their hopes and dreams were placed in bettering the lives of their loved ones through hard work and new ideas that benefitted all. The hopes and dreams of Gatsby’s world, however, was built upon bettering his own life through a cavalcade of selfish decisions that only benefitted himself in the short term, but was detrimental to all of those around him, in the end. The Great Gatsby demonstrates the reality of the American Dream, in its all follies and wisdoms. It shows that success and wealth while great, do not necessarily equate to lasting happiness.

6 thoughts on “Blog Post #1: Gatsby’s Dream

  1. I completely agree with everything you have said in your post. I could not come up with an appropriate sounding way in which I viewed the relationship of Gatsby’s dream and the American Dream. Your post made me think that for Gatsby, his American Dream was the pursuit of the past and Daisy. This goes against what the ideal for the American Dream even was. It was a goal in which someone looked forward to for future life plans and the generations that followed. However, since Gatsby is so rooted in the past, his American Dream became centered in the egocentric way of only satisfying his obsession with Daisy. I think this creates a different way in which to view the paragraph on the last page. For all purposes, Nick is describing the past that held so much potential, only to see how shifted and ugly it became. Gatsby’s pursuit of his dream had such drastic ends that Nick can no longer see a view of the world like the Dutch did. Because of Gatsby’s pursuit of the past, the people around him have had their futures manipulated to the point where the future goal of the American Dream have become unsatisfying and nothing noteworthy to strive for. It has shattered more than just himself, but also the people around him, shifting not just Nick’s, but everyone else’s ideas of the American Dream and just how flawed it really was.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed your connection to the Dutch. It’s interesting to view Gatsby’s journey through that lens. You mentioned that he cannot see his prosperity in the way the Dutch did because he’s so connected to his past; I really like that point. It’s like his past is intertwined with his future and both are wrapped around Daisy. Without-a-doubt his present is filled with materialism that acts as his downfall. You mentioned that all the characters have a downfall that relates back to materialism, and for a second George Wilson popped into my head. George, in my eyes, had downfall that acted separately from the materialistic world that those in both East and West Egg live. After reading your post it occurred to me that his death was still connected and caused by the materialism of his wife and Tom Buchanan. The selfishness that all the characters have seem to play a large part in their materialism. It got me thinking about selfishness, its connection to materialistic value, and the American dream. Nick as a narrator was never something I thought about much. His reliability, as you put it, definitely seems to be mixed with a now and then perspective. Great post!

    • I had the same initial thought about George Wilson when I was first thinking of taking this stance. Not even just his wife’s materialistic focus, but we also have to think that his own materialistic focus led to the decision he made in the end. What I mean is, we have to believe that in his station, always seeing the Tom Buchanan’s of the world driving by in their fancy cars and living in their lavish homes, some amount of resentment must have been building during that time (regardless of how kind a man he may have been). Just as a simple result of human nature, he had to have felt some sense of inadequacy in his inability to offer his wife such things (unless he thought she did not care, which I imagine he knew she did). So upon finding that the love of his life is fraternizing with those people, one can only imagine how that resentment came to a boiling point; leading him to take drastic and misguided action. It really makes you think just how much every little decision we make can impact other people in an immensely large way. Thanks for the reply!

  3. This is a theme that I’m pretty sure everyone agrees with, including myself. The American Dream is faulty and flawed, and those individuals that seek to attain it by sacrificing their lives to the Money God typically find themselves in a bit of a fix–like our dear friend Gatsby. He earned all of the money he could get his hands on, but it meant nothing; money alone is an empty thing. That’s why Gatsby’s life was full for so long, I think–because he was still full of a human dream while he became bloated with cash. Tom Buchanan, on the other hand, started with cash and ended up empty. Interesting.

    • Agreed. For me it is not so much that the American Dream, in and of itself, is flawed, but rather, the human inclination to root oneself in selfishness while seeking after that dream is the problem because humans themselves are flawed.

  4. Virtually everything I wanted to say lax being blinded by my increasing rage as I wrote my own blog-post about Gatsby. What is truly appreciated is that your post takes my argument from a different perspective; it first examines what the American Dream should’ve been (or was) back during the Colonial Era. Then it shows the American Dream (at least how I interpret it) for what it really is.
    The most important and most interesting detail of this blog post (as I see it) comes from how you describe Gatsby’s hopes; they’re all centered on the past, recreating it and fixing it so that he’ll come out on top this time. However, each one of Gatsby’s motivations is purely selfish, and therefore each of his actions are inherently only self-beneficial. It was very clever to mention how Gatsby’s actions would’ve only lead to his life being bettered on the short term, while inevitably ending for disaster for him, because he never saw the big picture. And most importantly because his schemes had arguably MORE detriment to those around him.
    Part of the narrative wants us to “root for Gatsby” but I feel Fitzgerald intended to write Gatsby as a Tragic Character; a young fool whose ambition and desire for a single woman led him to make one bad choice after the next, and it eventually spiraled out of his control. It also seems to be a rather optimistic appraisal of the American Dream that not necessarily good or bad; that the Dream has – as you put it – “Follies and Wisdom”.
    It can without a doubt be seen through the characters who have all had the wealth and privilege that they’ve known all their lives, they’ve never come to respect the true power that their money has. And they have never come to appreciate the value of true happiness outside of what their money could buy.
    To use a quote from the book, “Daisy and Tom broke things and retreated to the safety of their money.”

Feel free to let me know what you think! :)

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