The Failure of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby


I. Introduction
Francis Scott Fitzgerald is considered to be one of the masters in the field of American literature. The Great Gatsby makes the highest point of his artistic achievement. It shows us a vivid picture of the 1920’s with its surface prosperity and underlying sadness. From the view of the narrator Nick, The Great Gatsby shows Gatsby’s tragic life, especially Gatsby’s love and the break of his dream. The novel represents far more than the fate of a boy who tried to get enough money to marry his true love. The cruelty of the rich, the coldness in a financially booming society and the break of the American dream are all reflected in this novel.


In this essay, the author will make analysis on the theme of the novel, the pursuit and the failure of the American dream, and explore the causes which contribute to the tragedy of Gatsby, the protagonist of the novel.


II. Brief introduction of the writer and the novel


Most writers have inevitably involved much of their life experience in their works, so does Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby, published in 1925, can be taken as a mirror of his early life to some extent.

A. Brief introduction of the writer
Francis Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) is one of the most representative literary figures in the 1920s. He is the literary spokesman of the “Jazz Age”*, who was also a participant of the time.


Fitzgerald was raised in St. Paul, Minnesota of America. He didn’t finish his study in the university and joined the army in 1917, as WWI neared its end. At almost the same period, he met his golden girl—Zelda Sayre. But Zelda delayed their wedding until Fitzgerald could prove a success for Zelda’s desire for wealth. In 1920, Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise, was published and it was a great success. Immediately he got his wealth, fame as well as Zelda. In 1925, his masterpiece The Great Gatsby was published and afterwards Fitzgerald fell into a wild and reckless lifestyle, while trying to earn more money by writing. But the dream tottered soon. The 1930s, with a series of misfortunes, Zelda suffered a mental breakdown and Fitzgerald was drinking heavily, which hampered his writing. Therefore Fitzgerald’s life ended after continued emotional and physical exhaustion. Just like Gatsby, he died with his broken dream.


B. Brief introduction of the novel


The Great Gatsby exposes the representative figures’ human nature of falseness, indifference and selfishness under the cult of the gold-worship’s trend. The story is about a young Midwesterner, Jay Gatsby, who had fallen in love with a beautiful, wealthy lady—Daisy when he was in the army. But at that time as Gatsby was not rich, Daisy left him and married Tom Buchanan, a wealthy but a brute man. In order to get Daisy back, Gatsby achieved a lot of money through illegal way. After reaching his goal to be wealthy, he managed to meet Daisy again several years later. With the help of Nick , his neighbor and Daisy’s cousin, also the narrator of the novel, Gatsby wanted to win his love back with his extravagant devotion. But he was disappointed when he saw Daisy again and thought she was not his ideal love anymore. In spite of this, Gatsby still treasured her as his golden lady. One day, Daisy hit Mrs. Wilson, her husband’s mistress by Gatsby’s car. Gatsby wanted to protect Daisy who had reconciled to her husband already. And Tom told Mr. Wilson it was Gatsby that hit Mrs. Wilson. At last, Mr. Wilson shot Gatsby to death in an act of revenge and The Buchanans got rid of the punishment.


III. Definition of the American Dream and the essences of Gatsby’s American Dream


As been mentioned in the above, the writer has showed us a young American boy whose pursuit was the ideal American Dream. Then what is the American Dream? And what is Gatsby’s dream?


A. Definition of the American Dream
The 1920s is a decade when the outline of contemporary America clearly emerges. World War I creates a new generation, the Lost Generation and a new time, the Roaring Twenties. Modern American culture bursts into full bloom in the 1920s. It is a time of youth, a