Fitzgerald criticized the American Dream in The Great Gatsby through Gatsby and Wilson, and symbols such as Gatsby s car. The American Dream is the pursuit of materialism, centralism, and idealized love. Gatsby s character partially fulfilled the American Dream, but kept on pushing for the final part of the dream, even though he had lots of money, he had to get back his true love, Daisy. The characterization of Wilson describes how he devoted his whole life to achieve the American Dream, however, both characters, Gatsby and Wilson, failed to make it come true, both characters misunderstanding what the real meaning of the American Dream is.
Jay Gatsby believed in the American Dream. The American Dream was corrupted for him as he traveled with Cody on his yacht in luxury and wealth to many places such as the Barbary Coast and the West Indies. Daisy, Gatsby s true love, was his girlfriend that left him because he came back from World War I poor, and Daisy wanted to marry a rich man. He was determined to become rich and get back Daisy. “I can’t describe to you how surprised I was to find out I loved her, old sport. I even hoped for a while that she’d throw me over, but she was in love with me too.” (157) Several years later after becoming wealthy, he threw extravagant parties to lure Daisy to him so he could see her again. Gatsby s character symbolizes the degradation of the American Dream. He works until he gets most of the dream, and instead of being happy, he goes for it all, and tried to get Daisy. Gatsby’s disregard for reality lets him think that love can be recaptured if one can make enough money. Gatsby distorted the American Dream to fit his needs, just as many Americans have, and failed to reach their new, customized dream. Gatsby is not going to give up until he fulfills the completion of his dream, winning back Daisy, however, it is never reached and he dies trying to accomplish it. Gatsby is a prime example of pursuing the American Dream and how he lost the battle of achieving this dream.
Wilson also represents the American Dream. He represents it by being a hard worker who is just trying to move up the social ladder. He worked every day to support the only thing that he loves, Myrtle. For all of the things that he did, all he got in return was a wife that was cheating on him, a friend that always showed that he was better and higher than him and his wife getting killed by a car. Fitzgerald criticizes the American Dream in Wilson s character by having him working on this dream, but before he gets anything, he loses it all.
Another example of the corrupt American Dream is the automobile, a classic symbol of material wealth in America in the 20 s. Gatsby owns a remarkable automobile whose appearance is envied by many. “It was a rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hat-boxes and super-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of wind-shields that mirrored a dozen suns.” (68) Gatsby’s car is an overblown item created by wealth to fulfill the American Dream of personal material success. It is, however, ironic that this symbol of wealth is the same one that kills Myrtle when Daisy runs her over. This directly leads to Gatsby’s own death and portrays Fitzgerald’s theme that basing the Dream on materialism alone is undoubtedly destructive. By the end of the novel, the glamorous car that portrayed the greatness in the American Dream now represents the greed and evil in the dream.
Fitzgerald presents clearly that a life based on materialism alone is a corruption rather than a fulfillment of the American Dream. Gatsby’s destruction shows that those who try to maintain a lifestyle based purely on materialistic values are doomed by their self-delusion. The novel becomes an exploration of the American Dream, challenging it. Wilson uses the American Dream as a goal to strive for. Wilson works his whole life to achieve it and in return receives nothing. Gatsby, lured on by Daisy, who is no more than a symbol for him, pursues the green light and is eve6ntually destroyed.