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Gatsby American Dream Essay

Daisy Buchanon
Daisy was born Daisy Fay in Louisville, Kentucky, a daughter of Louisville society and Nick Carraway’s cousin. Like the flower for which she is named, Daisy is delicate and lovely. She also shows a certain weakness that simultaneously attracts men to her and causes her to be easily swayed. Daisy’s weakness influences the major points of the story, and she is responsible, if not intentionally, for the novel’s tragic ending.

Daisy first met Jay Gatsby in 1917, when he was stationed at Camp Taylor in Louisville. The two fell in love quickly, and Daisy promised to remain loyal to Gatsby when he shipped out to join the fighting. Two years later, she married Tom Buchanon because he bought her an expensive necklace, with the promise of a life of similar extravagance. Daisy is definitely distracted by wealth and power, and despite her husband’s unfaithfulness, she insists she still loves him because of his influence.

Gatsby is another matter entirely. Although she left him because he couldn’t provide for her the way Tom could, she retained some glimmer of emotional connection to him. When Gatsby finally professes his love over tea, she responds positively. But is she renewing an old love, or manipulating Gatsby? The novel doesn’t give us any clear idea.

Daisy is described in glowing terms in the novel, although her value seems to be connected to monetary value. In chapter 7, for example, Nick and Gatsby have the following famous exchange:

“She's got an indiscreet voice,” I remarked. “It's full of —” I hesitated.

“Her voice is full of money,” he said suddenly.

That was it. I'd never understood before. It was full of money—that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it.… High in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl.… (120)

Daisy is an ideal, and Fitzgerald gives her the qualities to not only live up to that ideal but to also bring it crashing down around her. Daisy’s myth is as big as Gatsby’s, at least in Gatsby’s mind; like him, she took the necessary opportunities to make herself what she wanted to be. Tom takes good care of her financially and is even jealous when he realizes, in chapter 7, that Gatsby is in love with his wife. Later, Nick clears up at least part of the mystery Daisy presents: “She was the first ‘nice’ girl he’d ever known” (148; ch. 8). Nick’s use of quotes for the term “nice” shows that Daisy hardly fits the ideal image Gatsby invests her with.

Like money, Daisy promises far more than she is capable of providing. She is perfect but flawed, better as an image than as a flesh-and-blood person. Daisy was in large part based on Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda, who he both worshipped and distrusted. Daisy’s money is her protection, her power, and her defense against any accusation that might come her way.

When Myrtle Wilson is killed by Daisy’s careless driving, she hides behind both money (in the form of Tom and Gatsby) and Gatsby’s love. Gatsby is the only true witness, but he takes the blame for her. Rather than renew their month-long affair, Daisy disappears into her opulent house, retreating into the only security she knows. She continues her almost ghostly existence, leaving the men in her life to clean up the mess.

Daisy’s confused sense of loyalty is evident in her disappearance before Gatsby’s funeral—she and Tom move away almost immediately, leaving no forwarding address for Nick or anyone else. An even bigger insight is Daisy’s infrequent mentions of her own daughter, who is only briefly discussed in the first chapter and in chapter 7. The child is nothing more than an afterthought, as she is unable to give Daisy anything but love, which she has in abundance. Daisy is incapable of caring for her infant—one assumes a governess or nanny takes care of her—any more than she is able to truly love Tom or Gatsby. She doesn’t love them as men, it seems, but as sources of revenue.

Daisy is capable of affection. She seems to have some loyalty to Tom, and even a certain devotion to Gatsby, or at least to the memory of their earlier time together. However, like money, Daisy is elusive and hard to hold onto. This may explain why Tom and Gatsby fight over her in chapter 7 as if she were an object:

“Your wife doesn't love you,” said Gatsby. “She's never loved you. She loves me.”

“You must be crazy!” exclaimed Tom automatically.

Gatsby sprang to his feet, vivid with excitement. “She never loved you, do you hear?” he cried. “She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me. It was a terrible mistake, but in her heart she never loved any one except me!” …

“Sit down, Daisy,” Tom's voice groped unsuccessfully for the paternal note. (130-131)

The tone of the argument seems almost like that of two men fighting over the pot in a poker game. Daisy is a prize, and she seems to see herself in those terms. In this sense, Daisy is far from what one would call a “feminist” character; rather, she is a symbol of shallow beauty, and of the amoral worlds of both East and West Egg.

Jay Gatsby
In the first two chapters of the novel, its title character is a mystery—a wealthy, fun-loving local celebrity with a shady past who throws lavish weekly parties. On the surface, Gatsby is an example of the American Dream in the 1920s, the desire for wealth, love and power.

As the novel progresses, we see Gatsby more as a man than a mythical figure, and we discover that the myth of the “Great Gatsby” (as in the “Great Houdini,” an escape artist of the time) is created by Gatsby himself. He is truly a “self-made man, a fiction whose past and obsessions finally destroy him.

Jay Gatsby was born James Gatz, the son of a poor farmer in North Dakota. From an early age, Gatz was aware of his family’s poverty, and he swore he would attain the wealth and sophistication his childhood lacked (including, apparently, a fake British accent). Once out of high school, Gatz changed his name to Jay Gatsby and attended St. Olaf’s College to begin his climb to the distinction he craved. Unfortunately, Gatsby had to take a janitor’s job to pay his tuition; he left St. Olaf’s in disgust after two weeks.

Gatsby’s true education came at the hands of Dan Cody, an older man who teaches him the ways of the world in 5 years aboard Cody’s boat, the Tuolomee, on Lake Superior. Cody, a hard drinker and womanizer, was Gatsby’s role model more in teaching him what not to do. Gatsby rarely drinks, and is distant at his own lavish parties. He wants the success Cody achieved without the destructive habits that success afforded him.

After Cody died at the hands of a mistress, Gatsby joined the army and World War I. While stationed in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1917, Gatsby met a young Daisy Fay, a daughter of Louisville society. Gatsby fell in love with Daisy, lied about his background, and vowed to someday be good enough to win her heart. Gatsby believed Daisy’s promise to wait for him, but he returned to Louisville as she and Tom were on their honeymoon. Devastated, Gatsby went to Oxford in English for the education that would complete his transformation from poor farm boy to famous (or infamous) socialite.

Gatsby’s only true dream is Daisy’s love; the parties he gives at his lavish West Egg mansion are purely to lure her to him the way he stares at the green light from her dock late at night. He begs Nick to set up a rendezvous with Daisy for him, which Nick does. Their love rekindles for a short time, and Gatsby’s unrealistic view of Daisy as the picture of perfection is renewed. It is this view that eventually causes Gatsby’s death.

In a confrontation at the Plaza Hotel, Tom openly accuses Gatsby of criminal activities, including bootlegging. Tom knows about Gatsby and Wolfsheim’s “drugstores” that sell illegal grain alcohol, as well as other, more mysterious crimes. Gatsby handles the accusation with cool calm, but is devastated by Daisy’s assertion that she does indeed love her husband.

In a last-ditch effort to prove his love to Daisy, Gatsby takes the blame when she accidentally hits Myrtle Wilson in Gatsby’s car. Tom Buchanon tells Myrtle’s husband, George, that Gatsby was driving the car, hinting that the two may have been having an affair. At this point, the Gatsby myth returns full force, as an enraged, jealous Wilson shoots Gatsby dead, then kills himself.

Jay Gatsby dies that night, and James Gatz along with him, anonymous and alone. Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy causes him to lie his way to his standing in the community, lie about his life, and lie to protect Daisy from a fate that is transferred to him. Despite all that Jay Gatsby does, James Gatz lies just beneath the surface, simply wanting to be loved. The other activities are meaningless compared to the month he spends as Daisy’s lover. An authentic Jay Gatsby might be too detached, too crafty, to get caught up in Myrtle Wilson’s death, but James Gatz can’t hope to distance himself from one last charitable act—trying to protect the woman he loves. Gatsby can easily be seen as a negative character—a liar, a cheat, a criminal—but Fitzgerald makes certain we see the soul of James Gatz behind the myth of Jay Gatsby.

Gatsby/Gatz is in fact a tragic character motivated by love. He is also hopelessly flawed, a shadow that is incapable of a life without Daisy, even if she’s only living across the lake.

Fitzgerald ties Gatsby up with the American Dream, a dream of individualism and success with a purpose. Like the America of the 1920s, Gatsby loses sight of his original dream and replaces it with an unhealthy obsession—for the country, the pursuit of wealth for its own sake; for Gatsby, a sense of control over Daisy as evidence by both him and Tom in the Plaza Hotel. Gatsby is symbolic of a nation whose great wealth and power has blinded it to more human concerns.

Gatsby’s Romantic idealism, which Nick calls “some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life” (2; ch. 1), is all that drives him, and no enterprise that enables him to get what he craves is too extreme. In this sense, Gatsby could be considered more amoral than immoral—morality simply has no meaning for him so long as he makes his dream come true. Everything is simply a means to an end, and Gatsby represents those for whom the end is the only thing that is important.

Nick Carraway
Nick is the narrator of the novel; the story is told in his voice and through his perceptions. It has also been suggested that Nick may be the character F. Scott Fitzgerald based most closely on himself. In a sense, then, Nick may show Fitzgerald’s own opinions of wealthy, immoral characters like Gatsby.

Nick is a good Midwestern boy who attended Yale and moved to New York in 1922 to work in the bond market. He is well-positioned...

(The entire section is 4614 words.)

The Great Gatsby Essay, Failure of the American Dream

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The novel, The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is about the American Dream, an idealistic and illusionary goal to achieve wealth and status. The ruthless pursuit of wealth leads to the corruption of human nature and moral values. Fitzgerald uses characters in the novel to show the corruptions and the illusionary nature of the American Dream. The superficial achievement of the American Dreams give no fulfillment, no real joy and peace; but instead, creates lots of problems for the characters in the novel.

What happens to Jay Gatsby, Nick Carraway, and Daisy Buchanan represent the failure of the American Dream. Each character has a different dream. For Jay Gatsby, his dream is to attain happiness, represented by Daisy’s love, through materialism and power. For Nick Carraway, his goal is to find someone whose achievement in life could prove that the American Dream is not an illusion. For Daisy Buchanan, her dream is to reach a higher standard of living and to become very rich even though she has to pay the price of betraying her own heart and her loyalty to Gatsby’s unconditional love.

The possession of money’ and power’, no doubt, can provide material and pride satisfaction in life; but it cannot fulfill the real needs of the human heart, which is true love and genuine happiness. In order to fulfill their American Dreams, the characters in the novel have actually given up the moral values and beliefs that were once precious to them, and the result is that they reap only emptiness in their heart and soul. The main theme in the Great Gatsby focuses on the corruption of the American Dream.

The basic quality of the American Dream described in the novel is the hope for something, and the consistent determination to reach your idealistic goal. For Jay Gatsby, his dream is to win back the love of Daisy, the perfect woman of his dream. He sacrifices his integrity in order to get rich by involving in illegal business. Gatsby thinks that he can recreate the past, which is the relationship between himself and Daisy, with money. He thinks that he can impress Daisy with his wealth so that she will love him once again.

Gatsby’s strategies of winning back Daisy’s heart are to show off his wealth and social status such as connecting himself with “Oxford”; living in a luxurious “mansion”(Pg 5), throwing lavish parties, dressed in nice expensive clothing; he even has “men in England who buy him clothes and sends him a selection”(Pg 92). Gatsby believes that with his money and material success he could buy anything in life including true love and happiness. Because of his obsession to obtain Daisy’s love, he betrays his honesty and morality.

With no other purposes in life, Gatsby ends up engaging in illegal activities. Therefore, it is very ironical that sometimes in life, good idealistic goal, somehow, is achieved by immoral and illegal means. This is the reason for the failure of the American Dream, and the tragedy of Gatsby. Daisy is a vain lady. She marries Tom for money and status, and turns her back on true love and happiness, which is represented by Gatsby. Her American Dream is to enjoy a luxurious and comfortable life given to her by, hopefully a man who truly loves her, and whom she also loves.

The corruption of her human values begins when she decides not to wait anymore for Gatsby, her real love, but to take the opportunity that Tom Buchanan offers, which are money and status. Her choices reveal her vain and superficial nature hidden beneath her beautiful and innocent look. When Gatsby returns with wealth and status in order to win her love back, she has struggles within her heart about whether she should follow her true feelings or not. However, when Tom told Daisy about Gatsby’s “bootlegging,” with the intention of destroying her desire to leave him for Gatsby; her will, which is very weak, wavers.

She is a person without any strong desires or conviction or loyalty to anybody, including her true love Gatsby; Tom, her husband; and her own baby girl. Even when she knows that Tom has a mistress outside, yet she finally decides to choose him over Gatsby, who is really devoted to her and is offering her true love. She chooses to forsake Gatsby for a life of comfort and security, but full of emptiness. Her behavior in responding to the car accident in which she killed Myrtle, Tom’s mistress, again reveals her corrupted nature: ” Careless people? mashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was? and let other people clean up the mess they had made? ” (Pg 179)

When looking back at the foundation qualities of the American Dream in the Great Gatsby, which are hope, strength, and determination to reach a person’s idealistic goals in life. Daisy is a very good example of the failure and the corruption of the American Dream. The corruption and failure of the American Dream is seen through Nick Carraway, the narrator of the novel.

Nick’s dream is to find someone who can realizes the idealistic American Dream, and he finds this person in Jay Gatsby. Nick is the only character in the novel that stands aside as an observer and understands the truth about all people and all things. He admires Gatsby’s determination and strong will in achieving his goals in life, but despises all the rest of the people in the society in which he exists. In his eyes, Tom and Daisy and all the others are a bunch of heartless people who becomes successful at the cost of losing precious human values.

Gatsby is the only exception among them. In the novel, Nick comments “They’re a rotten crowd,” ” You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together. “(Pg 154) With the physical death of Gatsby, Nick’s hope for the realization of the American Dream is extinguished. He also has a feeling that Gatsby’s faith and hope in his dream is fading away and that Gatsby is beginning to doubt, feeling lost and empty: “I have an idea that Gatsby himself didn’t believe it would come, and perhaps he no longer cared.

If that was true he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass. A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air? ” (Pg 161) Gatsby’s dream dies, so is Nick’s. In conclusion, Fitzgerald uses this tragic story to express his feeling about the American Dream of the American people during the 1920’s.

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The characters in the novel are being used to reflect the gradual demoralization of the people in the society. Every person living in this world needs to have a dream and purpose to life, something to work towards. Without dreams, one’s life has no meaning, as seen in the destiny of Gatsby and the Buchanans. Their lives become empty and lost without a dream or an ideal. Gatsby is an important example of the failure of the American Dream, which is, in fact, an illusion after all.

Author: Wallace Hartsell

in The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby Essay, Failure of the American Dream

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