The primary focus of the American dream is that hard work will lead to success, respect, and social status. In Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby the characters show the deterioation of the American dream.
Each character in The Great Gatsby shows the withering away of the American dream. George Wilson works hard at fixing cars but never is successful in life. He gains no social status, respect, power, or wealth. Wilson works hard but no matter how hard he works he can never be accepted into the social status of Tom and Daisy and will never gain their respect. Wilson never gained respect from his wife Mytrle either because ” He borrowed somebody’s best suit to get married in…” (39). Therefore showing that the American dream is a failure. Myrtle Wilson, his wife, has nothing in her life. She does not work hard and therefor has no success, respect, power, or wealth. Even though she is Tom’s mistress she does not gain anything because she is only being used by him. She uses her body to gain what she wants. Myrtle lacks culture and is very concerned about her appearance making her out to be a superficial character.
James Gatsby shows no hard work yet has gained wealth illegally. Although he has wealth he does not attain anything else. He has no respect, power, or success. Gatsby realized that the life of the higher class requires wealth to become their priority and he realizes that is the only way which will allow him to be with Daisy. When Gatsby fails to reach his dream all he has left to show for is his wealth, which was not even gained morally. Gatsby engaged in criminal activity as his only path to being among the rich. His need for money had become so intense that he “was in the drug business” (95). He had entered a world where money took precedence over moral integrity.
Gatsby shows yet another way that the American dream has withered away. Jordan Baker is just like Gatsby. She has no hard work to show for and cheats her way achieve her wealth. She has no respect, power, or success.
Tom Buchanan has gained his money through inheritance which has required him no hard work. He has respect. power, success, and a social status. Tom is a a direct contrast to Gatsby. He expresses himself in physical ways which gives him his power. He is not very smart and lacks ethical and moral values. He seeks approval at the lowest levels and feels threatened by Gatsby.
He is a pefect way of showing how the American dream is not fair and does not exist. Daisy Buchanan, his wife, is just like Tom. When she married Tom she came into the wealth, respect, power and high social status that they both have. She can not make decisions for herself and is determined by her external things, such as her wealth. She is a vacuous women and lacks substance and never develops herself internally. Even though she may seem to have all that a person desires Tom and her represent the unfairness and failure of the American dream.
Nick Carraway unlike the rest of the characters in The Great Gatsby works hard, is respected, has an acceptable social status, and has morals. He is the only character that shows any morals through out the novel. He is unwilling to jump to conclusions and he tells us that his cardinal virtue is honestly which shows us why he has gained respect from everyone and is accepted into society. Nick is the only character that shows that the American dream has not completly deteriorated.
Each character shows that despite all that they have they have never achieved their American dream. They all show that no matter how hard you work or do not work that you may or may not gain wealth, success, respect or power. They all show “the withering away” of the American dream.