Dreams are aspirations, yet less tangible. They are imaginations, yet more boundless. They are the instantaneous outburst of inner drive expressed in terms of outward hope. They represent all the hate about the present and all that will be marvelous in the future. They are the ultimate capacity for limitless creation.
So came the concept of the American Dream, the climax of the life of anyone born on this land of hope and opportunity. It started as the wish to own a piece of land and live a self-sufficient life, and gradually evolved into the intense desire to climb the social ladder— to become better, to reach higher. Even though it’s a dream with which few saw success.
In two hundred years, generations upon generations of immigrants came to America to rid themselves of their past. Sailing past the Statue of Liberty, passing under the Golden Gate Bridge, marching across Long Beach, everyone who came believed that no matter hideous their past, how oppressive their destitute, as long as they work hard, persist, and endure, they will earn what they deserved: wealth, status, respect, love. Everyone who came had a dream, their own green light. Everyone is a Gatsby.
Gatsby: Flawed Greatness
We can’t say Gatsby failed to achieve the material aspect of the American Dream. He does get rich. Mansion on Long Island: check. New yacht: check. Wall full of books: check. New name: check. Even his father, upon visiting his mansion for the first time for his funeral, said that he’s proud of Gatsby.
Maybe Daisy can be interpreted as a positive influence that encouraged him to challenge his situation and rise above it. Or maybe it’s Daisy who messed it all up. Maybe the carelessness is to be blamed. But is Daisy a bad person? A good person? No, she’s simply a person. What’s truly dangerous is when a pretentious guy finds an opinionated love, when someone who deems himself to be the chosen one becomes engrossed in a love that may never reciprocate.
Or perhaps Gatsby’s dream was never quite pure. He bundled his quest for love with a childhood goal: that’s when his dream sublimated into something vibrant, something brave, and something beautiful. The tragedy is that though the dream might be possible, the love was a bubble destined to pop. His love was too dogged, too stubborn, too certain that what’s beautiful inevitably became tragedy.
In light of the waning illusion, Gatsby has lost his dream. His American Dream became Daisy, and he idly let himself be subjugated to Daisy’s standards. He became who he imagined she wanted him to be, but no matter how much he loved her (or thought he loved her), he never understood her. He understood her less than Tom, less than Nick. He was the fool who sought for that sickly, whimsical love more than he respected himself, more than he recognized his hard work, more than he understood his abilities. And in doing so, he’s lost himself.
He’s always had the opportunity to dominate the social ladder: there were many times when he could’ve reformed himself to be the modern Count of Monte Cristo, to become a better version of Jay, and to complete his social metamorphosis. But even though he did get rich, he never quite escaped from the dream of the boy who sailed the yacht. The unattainable dream that until death, he firmly believed he could accomplish. The dream of Daisy.
Indeed, Gatsby is great, very great. But he should’ve been more careful. He should’ve thought it through, his perseverance, his determination, his tireless pursuit, what it was all for.
Dreams Through The Great Gatsby
So according to Fitzgerald, dreams may be illusions. Illusions that we might never quite grasp. They are the subconscious hints that we can be something we know we really can’t become. They are affirmations that we would always covet what we consciously know we can’t possess. People say his story is a tragedy, yet Gatsby never faltered in his chase for his dream.
I guess the takeaway here is that the word “dream” carries the gravity of time. Dreams are meant to be left in the past. We don’t grow toward it, or for it. We grow out of it.
The Great Gatsby is about youth, dream, and most importantly the courage to go after dreams even if the cost will be failure. No settling. No compromising. Just us persevering, beating on, boats against the current. But instead of being borne back into the past, we are heading for a future that may or may not be there, and I think that’s fearless too.