The Great Gatsby - American Dream or American Nightmare
It is pretty easy to find real life stories about people living the "American Dream." Take Edward Slinin for example. Born in Russia. Moved to America at the age of twelve. And through hard work and determination, turned a one car transportation company into a million dollar business.
Is that what the American Dream is about for everyone. Achieving financial success? Maybe for others it simple means being allowed to follow their dreams and find happiness. Gatsby, from F. Scott Fitzgerald, believes that one - money and power - will lead to the other - reconnecting with his long lost love Daisy.
The story takes place during the Roaring Twenties, full of flappers, jazz, and bootlegging. Prohibition made the production and distribution of alcohol illegal, but speakeasies (secret bars serving alcohol) were easy to find. The people filling these places with alcohol, underground mob bosses, became rich and powerful - living their own version of the American Dream.
The story is full of characters with different sets of priorities and different versions of the American Dream. The narrator, Nick, feels once removed from the lives of the eclectic group of people around him, but is not totally free from the tangles of their troubles. Daisy, the love interest of the story, has a taste for the fine things in life. Her life of materialism is supported by her decision to marry old money Tom Buchanan. But is money enough to keep her happy in the wake of Tom’s obvious affairs?
For the title character, Jay Gatsby, a poor boy who was in love with Daisy before he left to serve his country only to find her married to someone else upon his return. This small town kid has somehow accumulated great wealth and lives a life of great mystery. But all of the lavish parties, expensive clothes, and many vehicles mean nothing except means to win back the love of his life.
All of these characters are wrapped up in a web of lies, half truths, and affairs. And at the corner of it all seems to be the American Dream in all of its forms. At one point at one of Gatsby’s parties, a drunk party goer comments in amazement that all of the books are real! Like he was expecting the library to be full of fake books. Drawing attention to the sometimes misleading appearance of wealth.
What makes Gatsby so great? His financial success? His dedication to his first love? As you read your answer will probably change over the course of the story. Is he really living the American Dream?