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Dreaming in the Great Gatsby

an analytical essay by a student

"The Great Gatsby is a story of a man's dream. It is also the story of the Jazz Age in America, when illusion prevailed and nothing seemed to be what it really was. Perhaps it is also the story of all our dreaming."

The Great Gatsby was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is indeed, as the statement above says, set in the Jazz Age of America.
It is about Jay Gatsby, a self-made man wishing to rekindle the flame of an unrequited love. The narrator is his friend, Nick Carraway.
It is indeed the story of one man's dream, but is it really the story of all our dreaming? Perhaps, in many ways, it is.

Jay Gatsby was originally a poor man. He met and fell in love with Daisy Faye, a rich girl in the same town, and they had - as some people would call it - a love affair.
Unfortunately Gatsby was called to war, and he left Daisy, to wait for him.
Daisy goes by the philosophy that "rich girls can't marry poor boys", and she was rich, and he was poor, thus she did not wait for him, and instead, married Tom Buchanan.
When Gatsby returned from the war, he soon found out what had happened, and his dream was set. He would become a rich man, a popular man, and he would win back Daisy Faye. That was his dream. That was the dream. And for Gatsby, no price was too high to achieve that dream. Whether he would become a law-breaker mattered not; it was a suitable price for his dream.
He set out to relive the past, and he believed that he could accomplish that.

"'I wouldn't ask too much of her,' I ventured. 'You can't repeat the past.'
'Can't repeat the past?' he cried incredulously. 'Why of course you can!'"
Chapter VI, Pg. 106

The 1920's, often called the Jazz Age, was a time of Prohibition. The term prohibition means that alcohol was made illegal - basically the Government was trying to phase out alcohol - the prohibition obviously failed.
But because of the prohibition, many people who liked alcohol (obviously a lot of people) resorted to "black market dealers" to supply their alcohol. Or, as they were called, bootleggers.
To achieve his dream, as stated before - and will be reiterated, because this is a very important point; Gatsby was willing to do anything - anything, to achieve his dream, to win Daisy back. Thus to achieve his 'fame and fortune' he resorted to boot legging, supplying people with alcohol - an illegal business at that time.

"'I found out what your "drug stores" were.' He turned to us and spoke rapidly. 'He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That's one of his little stunts. I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him, and I wasn't far wrong.'"
Chapter VII, Pg. 127

Gatsby's dream invokes the theory of what is called 'The American Dream.' The American Dream suggests that men and women are masters of their own destiny, that they can achieve anything they set their minds to - with the proper amount of work and determination.
Gatsby is willing to work to attain his dream; he has had the determination and the will to put in the effort to attain his dream. Gatsby is the 'living' embodiment of the American Dream. He has done all he could to attain his dream, and towards the end, he almost attains it, but for a minor dilemma - that is, his death.

Though Gatsby himself was rich, he was a self-made man. He lived in West Egg, the less popular of the two Eggs, and the inherited rich, ie, the Buchanans, lived in East Egg, the more popular Egg.
Across the bay from Gatsby is the Buchanan's house. This is where the jewel of his dream, Daisy Faye, lives. His dream is close to him, yet it is so far from him. She lives right across the bay, yet unless he makes his move, his dream will never be accomplished. Nick Carraway's arrival as the neighbour is timely - without Carraway, Gatsby's dream would never have a chance to fruit.

After the war, people became complacent. Many didn't know what to do with their time, and they turned to crime and many other things that were immoral, but became socially tolerated, and they managed to create an illusionary world for themselves.
As it is said, the twenties were a time of illusion. It was the decade that 'roared', true, with the introduction of Jazz, with the new inventions of the 20th Century, but it was also the 'age of illusion.' Not everything appeared as it was. Residents of the 1920s believed in what they wanted. The I, the me and the my, not the him, the her, or the theirs. They lived for themselves; they cared for no one other than themselves. This led to an illusion, because they believed what they wanted was right - even if it was wrong. If anyone tried to stop them, they were wrong. This was what they wanted. This was the I, the me and the my.
A perfect example of this illusion in more ways than one, is Jay Gatsby. He believed his dream was right. Anything he did to achieve his dream, whether legal or illegal, was right to him, though it be wrong to others. This was his illusion, the illusion that anything he did was right.

Another example of 'The Great Gatsby Sham' is his popularity. Gatsby was supposed to be this super popular man. He threw big parties to which anybody who was anybody came. He was meant to be a friend to all and an enemy to none - the Mr Popular of Egg. The parties were in fact held in the hope that Daisy would one day show up to one, but nevertheless the people counted him as a friend. They counted him popular. They counted him as the good guy. In the end, what happened? He got shot. In the end, what happened? No one showed up to his funeral except Nick Carraway, Mr Gatz (Gatsby's father), and 'Owl-eyes' the man who read the books in Gatsby's library. In the end, what happened? The illusion that his dream was about to come into fulfilment was shattered. It was destroyed. The illusion of the dream stopped with the beating of Gatsby's heart. Mr Popular wasn't so popular after all. His illusion had ended. But the illusion of so many others lived on. They believed in the I, the me and the my - 'we had our fun with Gatsby, now we don't feel like going to his funeral. What's he ever going to do for us anymore?' That is the illusional attitude, that they were right in thinking so. But no, were they ever wrong.

"'When a man gets killed I never like to get mixed up in it in any way. I keep out. When I was a young man it was different - if a friend of mine died, no matter how, I stuck with them to the end. You may think that's sentimental, but I mean it - to the bitter end.'"
"'Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead,' he suggested. 'After that, my own rule is to let everything alone.'"
Chapter IX, Pg. 163

Meyer Wolfsheim, the man who claims to have made Gatsby, said the above two quotes. He is one of those illusional people who believed he was right. Before he believed in the him, the her, the theirs, but now he believes in the I, the me, the my. He believes that he is showing Gatsby respect by not turning up to his funeral, but that is also an illusion. In his heart, he knows he has disrespected Gatsby. But he believes in the illusion. He believes he is right. And he won't do anything to change that.

"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further ? And one fine morning -
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
Chapter IX, Pg. 171-172

In fact, many people believe in the green light. The green light, which represents our future. The green light does not only represent the future, it represents our dreams, our aspirations, everything we hope will happen in the future. The quote above is not just a statement about Gatsby, as The Great Gatsby is not just about Gatsby's dream. It is the story of all our dreaming. The quote above is not just a quote. It is a definition. What it defines is what is possible, what we can do. Whether it defines the Meaning of Life, nobody knows, as nobody knows the true Meaning of Life. But what it defines is important to all of us. It defines what we hold in our hearts, what we hold in our minds. It defines what some call the American Dream, and what others call the truth.

Gatsby's story is the story of all our dreaming. His dream, is like many others. It is the dream of an unrequited love. Unlike so many of us, who leave the dream as what we take it for, a dream, Gatsby didn't. He worked for the dream, he treasured the dream, he nurtured his dream, and worked hard to bring it into being, he was determined, to not keep the dream a dream, but to make the dream a reality. He ran faster, he stretched his arms further! And one fine day ? his dream almost became reality. But tragedy struck, and he was killed. He had reached the green light. He was determined, he encircled the green light and touched it. And for awhile, he thought he had his dream. But he lost it. Whether it was his fault or not, we cannot say.
But, it proves, if we work harder, if we run faster, stretch our arms further, if we believe, if we are determined! Then one fine day ? who knows? The dream might come true. The green light defines our dreams. Whether we choose to follow it, or whether we choose to admire it from the distance is our choice. But The Great Gatsby shows us that the green light can be touched. If only for a moment, but happiness was brought to that moment. Gatsby's story isn't just about his dream. It is an example. An example of all our dreams.

The Great Gatsby is the story of one man's dream. It is the story of the Jazz Age of America. Yet more importantly it is the story of the green light. It is the story of 'The American Dream.' It is the story of what we can do if we run faster, if we stretch our arms further, if we just try. Try, that is the moral of the story, that is what Gatsby did, and he reached the green light, he touched his dream in the past, and the feeling was so wondrous he forgot, and tried to touch it again after he had lost it - and he almost did. He achieved the American Dream. Yes, The Great Gatsby is the story of the green light and the American Dream. But most importantly it is the story of all our dreaming, all our dreams. And what dreams can become if we only tried.
Our dreams are wonderful things, which if we touch, we will know joy unfulfilled. This is what Gatsby touched. And this is why he tried to get it back. Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby. And yet it is about Gatsby, and not about Gatsby. It is about dreams.

"And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I though of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in the vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms further ? And one fine morning -
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back endlessly into the past."

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