Fitzgerald’s film, “The Great Gatsby”, explores in depth several elements of the
American Dream theme and what it means to an individualwithin the context of society.
More specifically, the film, through the life of Gatsby- the main character, offers several
lessons to the viewer about the reality of the American dream. The creator uses a complex
plot that narrates the story of a man’s journey from rags to riches in pursuit of the American
Dream. For Gatsby, it takes sacrifice, reinvention of himself and criminal ventures to achieve
the American Dream. Yet, at the end of it all, he does can’t seem to find happiness and his
life is devoid of fulfillment that his heart so much craves. The film reveals that the American
Dream is an illusion that demands so much sacrifice yet gives so little.
Gatsby, as a young man craves to live the American Dream of wealth and status but
discovers, subconsciously, along the way it is an illusion. At first, the smiles of the rich
American folks attending dinner parties in Europe when he was a young lieutenant in the
Army fools him. In his mind, he strongly believes they are happy and contented. However, he
quickly realizes that all the plastic smiles of the wealthy are just part of a cultural formality
for acceptance in society(Bloom 98). Behind those smiles, the wealthy and rich are just as
lonely and unhappy as other ordinary citizens. He sacrifices his moral code in pursuit of an
illusion that only brings darkness and loneliness to his life. Thus, as Fitzgerald depicts
through Gatsby, the American Dream is merely a deception of the mind that does bring any
actual happiness, only remorse and loneliness.
The only form of happiness that one derives from achieving the American dream is
through consumerism and indulgence. When Gatsby host the lavish parties at his house, he
looks around and wonders if drugs and alcohol is the only form of happiness that the
American Dream bring to a person. His bootlegger enterprise thrives so quickly because the
rich, or rather those living the American Dream, only find happiness through drinking and
partying(Fitzgerald 67). It is almost as if they are living in denial of themselves. The
addiction of consumerism, the fake mannerisms and over indulgence in drugs is the form of
happiness that the America Dream brings to his life. Until, he finds love which he can’t buy.
The film, towards the end, when Gatsby’s life began to crumble captures the
desperation to find happiness, despite having wealth and status, that individuals living the
American dream face. He can longer ignore the void in his life and as he starts to find
meaning in life, it is seemingly too late for him. He has to host big parties to enjoy the
company of the only woman who brings happiness and a sense of peace to this life.
Fitzgerald uses the life Gatsby to deconstruct the deceptive beliefs of the American dream
through using irony.
To conclude, Fitzgerald’s film, “The Great Gatsby” is tale that shifts the attention of
the view from the illusion of the American Dream, to the reality of true happiness. He shows
that true happiness is not gained by achieving the American Dream but rather finding
meaning in one’s life through the small things that matter such as love and family. Gatsby, at
the end of it all is left alone, destitute and desperate until he finally decides death is the only
Bloom, H. The Great Gatsby. Infobase Publishing, 2006.
Fitzgerald, F. S. The Great Gatsby. Simon & Schuster, 2003.