The Dream to Kill for Millions of people come to America to pursue the goal that has been named, “The American Dream”. That dream, as defined by Jonathan Yardley in “Gatsby”: The Greatest of Them All is: “the quest for a new life, the preoccupation with class, and the hunger for riches”. Although many believe that they have achieved the true meaning of this statement, they have only ruined many other aspects of themselves while trying to reach their final goal. In the novel, The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald extraordinarily portrays the character of Jay Gatsby as one who has truly been killed in the pursuit of the American dream.
One of the most commonly found wrongs with the American dream has come to be that the goals set can only lead to positive changes in a person’s life. Gatsby believes everything that he does will lead to a perfect life with Daisy, with no consequences. Throughout Gatsby’s journey to achieve his goal he never allows himself to stop and think about how what he is doing will affect him: “there I was, way off my ambitions, getting deeper in love every minute” (Fitzgerald 157). Gatsby’s vision of spending the rest of his life with Daisy is an unattainable goal.
In his blindness, due to love, Gatsby does not see that everything that he is doing is for one reason, which is to get Daisy back. Gatsby’s American dream is achieved to some extent, but all the things he accomplishes are overshadowed by his love for Daisy, Gatsby never realizes this. Gatsby attempts to gain Daisy’s attention and appreciation which leads to rumors of illegal activity: “He’s a bootlegger” (61). Gatsby is originally raised and thought to be a respectable well-mannered man, but due to his powerful urge to achieve his American Dream he turns to a damaging style of life.
Although Gatsby never did participate in bootlegging he took part in other illegal activities just to attain the attention he seeks from Daisy. Gatsby’s excessive desire to acquire his dream forces him to become corrupt in the world: “Gatsby believed in the green light. ”(189). The green light represents what Gatsby wants from his American Dream, but he is never able to fully reach his goal. Gatsby believes that buying a mansion near Daisy and having extravagant parties will help him achieve his American Dream.
He does not realize that everything he is doing has turned toward all of the wrong ways of living and that the green light that he has been seeking is making him known as a corrupt man. When Gatsby finally achieves this he never stops to appreciate the success he has reached and always wanted, but instead feels as though he still has nothing because Daisy has not yet admired his accomplishments. Gatsby knows that he has set an almost impossible goal but he is blind to this, just like many others, due to his pursuit of his own American dream.
The common misperception that the American dream will only improve a person is exceedingly wrong, through money and social power come many negative attributes that force good people into bad lives. Along with the blindness towards true life, the American dream can lead to a disruption of who someone truly is and in a sense “kills” who they were before. The goal set by many forces them to feel as though their past means nothing and only their goal or dream matters. Gatsby feels as though he really has nothing in life, several times throughout the novel: “He was at present a penniless young man without a past” (156).
Gatsby does have all the money any person could wish for, but this is not what truly makes him feel “rich”. Gatsby would no longer be the penniless young man if Daisy had left her husband Tom and married him. This would fulfill Gatsby’s true American dream of living with the women he has loved for so long and to provide everything that she needs. Gatsby tries to erase anything that has happened to him in the past in order to seem like a more perfect person to Daisy. Gatsby forces himself to change in order to achieve his dream instead of allowing his true self to find what makes him happy in life.
Gatsby never achieves his real goal leaving him, in his own opinion as a poor man. Gatsby doesn’t believe that the way his life originally was is good enough to gain what he wants in the world so he forces himself to become someone else: “He invented…Jay Gatsby…” (99). James Gatz changes his name to Jay Gatsby in order to start a new life. The old James Gatz isn’t good enough to achieve the American Dream that Gatsby sets for himself for social and economic reasons.
Gatsby goes to the extent of changing his name in order show Daisy that he has what she has always wanted in life. The American dream makes Gatsby someone who he never was when Daisy first fell in love with him and overpowers Gatsby to constantly change. Through all of the change that Gatsby goes through he forgets who he is as a person: “Gatsby wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps. ”(111). Gatsby has forced himself into so much change just to attain the American dream. In the course of all these changes Gatsby himself can’t understand what he has become.
He has lost all of the morals that he has grown up with and is now a corrupt man with only one ambition in life. The American dream forces people to change to an extent of no longer understanding themselves or those around them, many times this change is not for the better and like Gatsby causes a downfall. Finally, the American dream can destroy someone as quickly as it is created. As soon as the American dream is reached, through considerable hard work, many factors can obliterate everything that has been gained.
Gatsby thinks that he has finally reached his dream, but right when he begins to feel comfortable with Daisy everything falls apart: “Gatsby, pale as death… was standing in a puddle of water glaring tragically into my eyes. ”(86) Gatsby thinks that soon he will have what he has changed everything in his life to gain. Suddenly through Daisy’s change of heart Gatsby sees his life crumble again. The American dream that he devoted himself to goes from being fulfilled to lost in a matter of minutes. The American Dream can be cruel and at the best moment end.
Gatsby thinks that all the people around him care for him but he finds that they are only using him: “filled with friends now gone forever. ”(70) With all the parties Gatsby throws he believes that he continues to gain more friends. All the people that attend the parties are only there for entertainment not because they care about Gatsby. Gatsby believes that his dreams of having high social and economic status have finally been reached, but once he needs all the people he thought were friends they quickly disappear and never plan on returning.
Gatsby never had many real friends, as he thought, but instead people who came along for the short lived dream Gatsby attained. Gatsby is struck with the awful pain of knowing that he has in a sense lost his dream, “So he gave up and only the dead dream fought on”(Fitzgerald 142). Gatsby has left no options for himself in the case that his one true dream does not turn out the way that he wants. As his dream begins to drift away so does the rest of his life because he has put all of what he wanted onto Daisy’s shoulder.
Nothing is left for Gatsby to turn to because he never had stability in any aspect of his life. Due to his dream, Gatsby dies emotionally, which is then followed up by his real death. The American dream is almost impossible to fully attain but the downfall of everything that is achieved happens so quickly that many people in society don’t have the opportunity to enjoy their success. The American dream has been accomplished by many who have set out for it, but all people have been changed along the way towards their dream.
Society is transformed and damaged by the American dream: “Gatsby understands just how sad and dark a place the world can be. ”(Cohen) The pursuit of a personal dream can make people be everything they thought they weren’t and make society a less friendly and progressive place. The American dream gets the better of the most powerful people and forces them to do corrupt and incorrect things to achieve their final goal. The American dream truly will kill you every time, because of its power over your life.