The Difficulty of Achieving the American Dream: the Role of Society

The American dream contextualizes the idea of people being able to rise from rags to riches with little fortitude and not having a dependence on their class; although this idea is still sustainable, with an obscene of proper economical support the American dream can no longer be feasible.

The American dream is no longer practical because it contradicts the idea that any man or woman, of any social class, can achieve the dream. In the novel, The Great Gatsby, the author, Scott Fitzgerald, uses characters that are set in different social classes to manifest that the American dream is unattainable. George Wilson and Jay Gatsby are both developed from the lower class, while Jay Gatsby acquired great wealth and was able to jump class, George remained stuck in his. Primarily focusing on George for now, Fitzgerald conveys that he is entrenched in his economical state. After George is first introduced, Nick explains, “Generally he was one of these worn-out men: when he wasn't working he sat on a chair in the doorway and stared at the people and the cars that passed along the road. When anyone spoke to him he invariably laughed in an agreeable, colorless way”. Nick emphasizes on George’s submissive personality, giving the readers an understanding of his meek and grey life. Although George works hard and owns a body shop, his economical standpoint will most certainly not change since he was born into it. On the other hand, Gatsby is a character who has attained wealth and social status, however, achieved in unlawful and illegal ways. Nick encountered Gatsby at afar for the first time and rendered, “Gatsby stretched out his arms toward the dark water. . . . I distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away. . . . When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished”. The green light symbolizes the physical and emotional distance between Gatsby and Daisy. Gatsby’s version of the American dream was never about getting rich, it was about retrieving the woman of his dreams, Daisy. The wealth was just a means to an end; the sole reason why Gatsby got rich was that he understood that it would be the only way to get her back. Therefore, Daisy being the dream, Gatsby never achieved the American dream because he lacked the suitable economical virtues to fit Daisy’s ideals.

The American dream is vastly misinterpreted by society, it’s proved to be only a concept of perfection, which could never be truly acquired, but habitually sought out for. At the end of the novel, Fitzgerald brings up the metaphorical green light, which has made its appearances earlier in the book, in order to conclude and convey his final message on the American dream. He wrote, “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning — So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”. The light is a manifestation of Gatsby's hopes and dreams. His house was perfectly positioned to be able to see this light, which was at the end of Daisy’s dock. The light is a metaphor used by Fitzgerald to represent the distance between Gatsby and his dream. Now that the light has diminished, it encapsulates the inaccessibility of the American dream. Following the death of Gatsby, Nick realizes the endless dream which Gatsby has been pursuing his entire life. Nick understood that Gatsby has been lost in his own version of society and has been disconnected from reality for years. Nick thought to himself, “[Gatsby] had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him”. As hard as Gatsby may have tried to achieve the American dream, he was never capable of achieving it from the beginning. Through Nicks’s eyes, we see not only the suffering that the light and dream bring to Gatsby, but the collapse of human morality, as well as the devastation that is left behind. While Myrtle attempted to use Tom’s status to advance her social class, and achieve her American dream, Jay Gatsby used his status to help achieve his; yet both of them still fail and ended with the loss of their lives. This is Fitzgerald’s way of showing that the American dream is unachievable by such means. Without their deaths, theoretically Myrtle would perpetually remain stuck in her socioeconomic status and although Gatsby had money, he would have never been seen as an “elite” through Daisy’s eyes. This not only means that the American Dream is fundamentally unsatisfactory, but it also indicates that those from the lower classes will never be fully accepted by those born into wealth, given the promise of social mobility.

Some may argue by saying there are numerous amounts of evidence demonstrating families who have immigrated to America with no money and presently living in million-dollar homes, therefore earning the right to say the American dream is truly obtainable. Although this is true, the American dream is complemented by the ideal by which any individual has an equal opportunity in having their utmost ambitions and goals fulfilled, as well as not having their socio-economic effect their probability in achieving it. A study done by Karl Paul, who works for Marketwatch, explained “A study gave occupations a socioeconomic score based on income potential ranging from 9 (shoe shiner) to 53 (flight attendant) to 93 (surgeon). Half of the GSS survey respondents whose parents were in the top tier (76 or higher) are still in that tier, while half of those whose parents scored 28 or lower are still in that tier”. Concluding from this, doing financially better than your parents is harder than society has interpreted it to be. A person from a tier 3 class is most likely to remain anchored to that tier. In essence, it is much more laborious to advance your economical situation without an adequate amount of money. With that in mind, most Americans' perception of the American dream is changing.

10 October 2020
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