Essay, Research Paper
Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, and Arthur Miller, author of Death of a
Salesman, both tell the stories of men in the costly pursuit of the American dream. As a result of
several conflicts, both external and internal, both characters experience an extinction of the one
thing that they have set their sights on…. The American Dream.
Jay Gatsby, a mysterious, young and very wealthy man, fatally chases an impossible
dream. Gatsby attempts to rekindle an old relationship and has confidence in repeating the past.
Gatsby claims that he is going to “fix everything just the way it was before” (Fitzgerald 117). In a
a conversation with Nick, Gatsby discusses how the past can be repeated and how he wants the
relationship that he once had with Daisy (Fitzgerald 116). Secondly, Gatsby attempts to
exemplify his wealth through fancy cars and stylish clothing. Gatsby shows his clothing to Daisy
and informs her that he has a “man in England” who buys his clothes every season (Fitzgerald
97). Illustrating his wealth, Gatsby drives a Rolls Royce that “was a rich cream color, bright with
nickel” (Fitzgerald 68). Although Gatsby’s foolish quest of the American dream exemplifies a
respectable aspiration, it ends in a tragic death that goes virtually unnoticed. A sharp contrast to
the parties , the funeral was sparingly attended and “nobody came” (Fitzgerald 182). Following
the death of Gatsby Daisy leaves town with Tom and “hadn’t sent a message or a flower”
An elderly salesman lost in false hopes and illusions, Willy Loman works for strict
commission and cannot bring home enough money to pay his bills. Willy foolishly pursues the
wrong dream and constantly lives in an unreal world blinded from reality. Despite his dream
Willy constantly attempts to live in an artificial world and claims “If old Wagner was alive I’d be
in charge of New York by now” (Miller 14). As a result, Willy often ignores his troubles and
denies any financial trouble when he says “business is bad, it’s murderous. But not for me of
course” (Miller 51). Another false segment of Willy’s dream includes the success of his two sons
Happy and Biff. Biff was a high school football star who never cared about academics and now
that he needs a job says “screw the business world” (Miller 61). Ironically, Willy suggests that
Biff go west an “be a carpenter, or a cowboy, enjoy yourself!”, an idea that perhaps Willy should
have pursued. Constantly advising his boys of the importance of being well liked, Willy fails to
stress academics as an important part of life (Miller 40). Furthermore, Willy dies an unexpected
death that reveals important causes of the failure to achieve the American dream. At the funeral
Linda cries “I made the last payment on the house today… and there’ll be nobody home” to say
that she misses Willy but in essence his death freed the Lomans from debt and the hopes and
expectations Willy placed on his family (Miller 139). Very few people attend Willy’s funeral but
they all agree that “he had the wrong dreams” and how “he was a happy man with a batch of
cement” (Miller 138).
Both Jay Gastby and Willy Loman fail to achieve the American dream. Both men share
the common dream to be happy and live a content life, but are unable to conquer their desire.
Gatsby’s dream of winning Daisy crumbles and he “didn’t believe it would come and perhaps he
no longer cared” (Fitzgerald 169). With the well being of his family in mind Willy eliminates any
chance of achieving his dream by taking his own life and allowing his family to collect the life
insurance money (Miller 136). A key external difference between the two characters lies in the
financial situations. Willy worked hard for the little money he earned, received no credit for his
hard work, and was even fired (Miller 97). Gatsby is a self made man who achieves financial
success through illegal acts, but fails to understand how wealth works in society (Fitzgerald 78).
Lastly, the dreams of the two men were truly unattainable and were perhaps the one true thing
that prevented happiness.
Ultimately, the chase of the American dream proved to be a costly, and even deadly
journey. Although the two characters were of opposite financial status and social rank, both men
lose their lives in the quest for their dreams. In reality the stories both convey a similar message:
that one must set achievable goals to be happy and that often times you have to be happy with
what you have and who you are.
none- Death of a Salesman
The Great Gatsby