Before writing The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald must have done thoughtful and extensive research. This is apparent because, to explore the novel’s main theme, ‘The American Dream’, he chose to place it in the 1920s. This was, indeed, a perfect time slot because the 20s were notorious for the numerous ways in which they influenced the public. These years served as a defining point for many aspects of everyday life such as wealth, social status, and general ‘success’. The American population during this time became obsessed with the term ‘success’ and exactly what it meant to be ‘successful’.
That was the common goal for just about everyone who lived during this time. Life was all about the ‘American Dream’. Everyone wanted ‘it all’, and often times would go to great lengths to have it. Jay Gatsby, one of the main character in Fitzgerald’s novel, was not unlike the rest of the people who lived during this time. Tragically, his own, personal obsession with wanting to have everything eventually became his downfall. This was Fitzgerald’s intention in writing this novel: to warn his readers that the ‘American dream’ can turn tragic if reality becomes too obscured by the overwhelming lust for money and material possessions.
Jay Gatsby was born James Gatz; a man who was very ashamed of his heritage. He was a poor man whose family did not posses a name in society. His parents were “shiftless and unsuccessful farm people (pg. 104)”. Gatsby’s pathetic family situation was somewhat tolerable for him, for a little while. It was not until he met a girl named Daisy that he realized he was less than content with what little he possessed. Gatsby was very much in love with Daisy. He wanted to marry her and keep her forever. To Gatsby’ dismay, that was not to be. Their brief romance only lasted only four short months, which was not long enough for him by far.
Daisy decided that she had to leave Gatsby behind and go on with her life. In many ways, this was the worst thing that she could have done to Gatsby. After she left, he tried to follow her, “he says he’s read a Chicago paper for years just on the chance of catching a glimpse of Daisy’s name. (pg. 84)”, but she was out of touch. Gatsby wanted Daisy back so much that he would do anything to keep his sorry past where it should be: in the past. He needed to change his life to keep his love with him. The first turning point in Gatsby’s life occurred when he found out that Daisy was getting married.
The man who had taken her away from him was named Tom Buchanan. In a sense, He was everything Gatsby wanted to be. Tom was rich, successful, and most importantly, he had just acquired the one thing that Gatsby loved most in the world: Daisy. Gatsby decided that he needed to change his life to win Daisy back. Gatsby assumed that the reason Daisy had left him was because he was poor and had a less than satisfactory background. Thus, he forced himself to climb out of the hole of his childhood and shed his outer shell in order to create a whole new name for himself.
He changed his name to Jay Gatsby and began to make his mark on society. The only thing that makes Gatsby different from everyone else in the 1920s was that he did not want ‘it all’ for himself. He HAD to achieve greatness in order to win Daisy back. He was positive that if he came back to her as a wealthy successful man, she would not be able to resist him, and he would have her back forever. Ultimately, Gatsby’s goal was to be closer in status to Tom, the rich man who intimidated him, but who kept him away from the love he adored. Gatsby did not waste any time creating his fortune.
He made haste, for he believed that the sooner he made money, the sooner he would win Daisy and his rightful happiness. So, with the help of a close friend of Gatsby’s, Dan Cody, Gatsby made his fortune and was soon an extremely wealthy man. Thus began the extravagant lifestyle of Mr. Jay Gatsby. Jay Gatsby used all of his money to obtain only one thing: Daisy. He first bought a large house next to a beach. He hosted enormous parties every weekend at this mansion. These parties consisted of having food catered, swimming in Gatsby’s pool, drinking cocktails, playing sports such as cricket, and socializing.
He thought that maybe one of these parties would attract Daisy or a friend who may be able to tell of her whereabouts. Gatsby did not drink, nor did he thoroughly enjoy his parties. He sat alone in hopes that Daisy would one day appear in the doorway and his happiness would be true. Gatsby’s dream finally came true when he met Daisy after one of his parties. Luckily, Daisy was still in love with him and was willing to try their relationship one more time, even though she was married. For a little while, Daisy was impressed with what Gatsby made of himself. However, her infatuation was suddenly interrupted by the reality of her life.
Gatsby was not her husband, and she decided that she loved more about her husband than just his money. She loved the security, social status, and maturity of Tom. Those were qualities that Gatsby could not offer her. He could offer his undying love and devotion, but that was not as Tom’s concrete respectability and reputation. Gatsby was unable to deal with the fact that Daisy was in love with more than one person. He reluctantly let her go back to Tom while he pondered over the waste he had made out of his life. He spent five years earning so much money and climbing all the way to the top that he forgot to secure the prize to be won.
Gatsby died before he got to really achieve the happiness that he craved. His fate simply would not allow a poor man like him to go on living a lie. Gatsby’s illusion became his ultimate downfall. Being rich, reputable, and on the arm of his true love had finally become a reality, until he realized it was not really HIM. He could not go on living a fantasy forever. It took Jay Gatsby a whole life of hardship to figure out that illusion and desire would always remain in his mind, and happiness was not money and pleasing others, it meant pleasing yourself through goodness: something he probably knew all along.