Gatsby And American Dream

"Then wear the gold hat...bounce for her too, Till she cry "Lover, gold-hatted,
high-bouncing lover, I must have you"(1). This epitaph by Thomas

D’Invilliers, found at the beginning of The Great Gatsby, depicts the dream
that Jay Gatsby tries to make a reality. While it embodies characteristics of
the American Dream of rags to riches, it is also a moving dream of love and
happiness. While Gatsby was a fraud, his life and death show the greatness of
the American Dream, not its bankruptcy. The story unfolds in New York during the
early 1920’s, a tumultuous time for Americans. American culture was just
beginning to take on its own identity with the popularization of jazz. The

1920’s was also a time of social upheaval where opportunity was the name of
the game. Prohibition was the law, thus creating opportunities for
business-minded individuals, such as Gatsby, to become bootleggers. During these
affluent years in American history, there were many parties and affairs with the
extravagance and splendor of kings. Rich individuals, like Gatsby, threw huge
parties with "buffet tables...bars with real brass rails...and orchestra[s]"
(44). The Roaring Twenties were years where a person who had the "dream"
could flourish. The American Dream, as it arose in the Colonial period, and
developed in the nineteenth century, was the belief that a person, no matter
their origins, could succeed in life. However, this success depended on a
person’s own skill and effort. During Gatsby’s early working years, he
started from the bottom as a clam digger, dreaming the popularized "rags to
riches" dream. His next stop was the yacht of Dan Cody, where he worked and
lived for five years as a steward. Despite the monotony around him, his mind and
imagination were never at rest. "Each night he added to the pattern of his
fancies...the reveries provided an outlet for his imagination...hint of
unreality of reality"(105). After Cody, we know Gatsby joined the army during

World War I. Five years after returning from Europe, Gatsby is this incredibly
wealthy man with a gargantuan house where he throws lavish parties. The reader
learns that this wealth was accumulated through bootlegging, a highly illegal
but lucrative trade during the Prohibition Era. Thus, Gatsby achieved his"rags to riches" dream, although his methods were unlawful. What separates

Gatsby from the other characters, who are "foul dust that floated in the wake
of his dreams (6)," is that Gatsby’s American dream was a means for an end
to him. His dream continued past just accumulating wealth and reputation. That
was only a phase of his "master plan." Gatsby’s ultimate goal is
happiness, which can only be if Daisy is by his side. He achieved riches and
success, but did not become overwhelmed and corrupted by it, although it is
relevant to note he used corrupt methods. His dream is a romantic idealism that
life can be remarkable and beautiful. Gatsby is not interested in power for its
own sake or in money or prestige, but for its ability to help him achieve his
dream. For this, Gatsby is willing to do anything and everything. He uses his
wealth as a resource to steal Daisy away from Tom. This also includes lying and
creating a false impression of himself to others. He is putting on this front to
try to become the man that Daisy desires. His extravagant parties are thrown
only in hopes that she will come to one and they can get rekindle their old
feelings for each other. Ultimately, Gatsby won’t enjoy his riches until he
has Daisy in his arms. Almost everything we believe Gatsby to be is a fraud.

Everything we believe gives us a favorable impression of him though. He is a
fraud for one and only one reason-to win Daisy back. For starters, his name, Jay

Gatsby, is false. It is really James Gatz, but he changed it when he was
seventeen to shed his past and start anew. For me, Jay Gatsby also sounds
youthful, invigorating, and somewhat aristocratic. James Gatz sounds too formal
and harsh, which does not convey a favorable impression of him. Another key
inaccuracy of Gatsby is his educational background, with Gatsby claiming a
degree from Oxford. The shocking and somewhat humorous truth is that he went to
college for a total of five and a half months. When he was eighteen, he spent
two weeks at St. Olaf, a Lutheran college, in Minnesota, leaving because of"its ferocious indifference to the drums of his destiny"(105). He went to

Oxford for five months