There are probably no people in the US who do not know about the American Dream. Almost all want to rise from rag to riches and have wealth, power and high status. Although the presentation of this dream has changed with the flow of epochs, the main features of it such as self-reliance, freedom, and a desire for the better life remain stable. For example, the dream of early settlers to travel out West to find a good fortune has been gradually substituted by a simple wish based on the materialistic values such as having a luxurious house, car and life. As literature has always been regarded as a method of revealing the ruling tendencies in the society, it cannot be indifferent towards this issue. The Great Gatsby is the striking example of it. The literary work shows the influence of the American Dream on the life of a young man Gatsby. The last chapter proves that material well-being brings only temporary happiness, but it is helpless in attempt to gain love and friendship.
In order to understand the meaning of the American Dream, firstly, it is necessary to reveal the plot of the ninth chapter. It deals with the death of Gatsby. As he is rich, paparazzi do not leave his house. For them, his death is a great chance to make an interesting report. Nevertheless, Nick, the narrator and Gatsby’s friend, does not want only them to be present on the funeral. He knows Gatsby’s obsession with great sumptuous parties. Therefore, he wants to organize the last one for him. Nevertheless, almost no old friends come to honor Gatsby. For them, only his money matters, but not his dead body. Nick describes the conversation with one of such friends in such a way,
- “You were his closest friend, so I know you’ll want to come to his funeral this afternoon.
- I’d like to come.
- Well, come then.
- I can’t do it—I can’t get mixed up in it,’ he said” (Fitzgerald 183).
Gatsby’s parents also do not treat their son with great love and tenderness. Three days after Gatsby’s death, Nick receives a letter from Gatsby’s father Henry C. Gatz. He points out that he refuses to take Gatsby’s dead body to the Midwest, his homeland. He explains it in such a way, “Jimmy always liked it better down East. He rose up to his position in the East” (Fitzgerald 179). It means that even the father treats him as an alliance. The ninth chapter also reveals that people are accustomed to treating Gatsby only as a person who can help them to solve some of their problems. For example, some days after Gatsby’s death, the phone rings and Nick guesses that it calls someone who wants to express his sympathy. However, in fact, Klipspringer wants to ask only about tennis shoes. Even people who make the business together with Gatsby remain indifferent towards his death. When Nick calls Wolfshiem and asks him to come, he refuses but underlines that, in fact, he has made Gatsby’s fortune. It becomes clear that he thinks only about the means of finding a way to receive Gatsby’s money after the funeral but not about the funeral itself. According to such behavior of Gatsby’s friends, the only people who still have come to accompany him in his last journey are the mail carrier, a few servants, the minister, Mr. Gatz, and Nick. After the funeral, Nick immerses in memories. He recalls his wish to travel to West when he graduated from college. He begins understanding that his life in West would be much better. Nick tries to compare the benefits of Midwest with vices of East. Gatsby’s example also helps him to achieve this goal. Wandering over Gatsby’s garden, he understands why his house, which used to be full of people, enjoying the luxurious parties, does not interest people anymore. The root of all evils is incorporated in wealth, which links the fates of people only during a short period of time. He sums up that all people are similar to boats, tossing on the waves in pursuit of a dream. “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” (Fitzgerald 193).
If to read this chapter between the lines, it becomes clear that it is an encyclopedia, which reveals the consequences of the American Dream. In other words, it shows what can happen to the person, who achieves it.
1. Good relationships with people last only to the point, when they can achieve material benefit.
From the first chapters, readers get to know that Gatsby is a happy rich young man, who is always surrounded by people. Everyone wants to attend his parties and receive his attention. According to it, it seems that his funeral in the last chapter will gather many Gatsby’s friends, expressing sincere compassion. Nevertheless, it is not so. Friendship based on money is not eternal since it is limited by the presence of money. It is clearly described in such a quotation, “At first I was surprised and confused; then, as he lay in his house and didn’t move or breathe or speak hour upon hour it grew upon me that I was responsible, because no one else was interested – interested, I mean, with that intense personal interest to which everyone has some vague right at the end” (Fitzergald 175).
2. All people try to take advantage from those who achieve the American Dream.
As all citizens are engaged in a race, known as the American Dream, they become rather egoistic. Due to it, only a few people can be truly happy for the success of others. In contrast to them, the vast majority wants only to make a profit with the help of rich “friends”. In case of Gatsby, everything becomes clear after his death. All people surrounding him think how to get benefit from relations rather than how to honor him in the last time.
3. Big money does not give people opportunity to regard the internal merits of its possessor.
When a person is rich, all people praise him for his wealth. They are concentrated on his external benefits such as house and car among others. In case of Great Gatsby, it becomes clear even from his relationships with father, who, after son’s death, thinks not about the way how to take his body home but about the great fortune and achievements of Gatsby. Nick describes it in such a way, “His pride in his son and in his son’s possessions was continually increasing and now he had something to show me” (Fitzergald 184).
To sum up, it is very harmful to be immersed in a dream, which final destination is money and property. The fate of Gatsby proves it. From his example, it becomes clear that wealth does not give the opportunity to build solid friendship and unselfish relationship as well as to be valued for rich inner world by others. That is why Nick, the narrator of Gatsby’s history, decides that it is necessary to escape from the world of money and vices and find peace in the world not so rich but full of moral values. In other words, the American Dream should be transformed in such a way to make love, solid family, truly friendship but not property the goal of every person’s life.