“The Great Gatsby” is about the pursuit and failure of The Great American Dream, as F. Scott Fitzgerald envisioned it in the 1920s.
As part of Wichita’s Big Read, we asked readers to tell us who among the novel’s main characters they thought comes closest to realizing that dream. We also asked them to tell us how they would rewrite the book’s ending to reflect their understanding of that dream, nearly 100 years after “Gatsby” was published.
The winner of the adult division, Judy Keller Hatteberg, will receive a hardcover edition of The Library of America’s “F. Scott Fitzgerald: Novels and Stories of 1902-22.” The winner of the youth division, Elizabeth Yowell, will receive paperback copies of “This Side of Paradise” and “Tender Is the Night,” two other novels by Fitzgerald.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby is a novel filled with excitement, loneliness, and deceit. Fitzgerald shows readers a glance of the American dream, leaving us to determine who achieved that dream in the novel. The American dream is extremely individualized, but in The Great Gatsby it is Tom who achieves the stereotypical dream of wealth and women; in a perfect rewrite to the ending of the novel, Gatsby would claim Tom’s title, earn Daisy back and become the one who comes closest to touching that American dream we all strive to achieve.
Tom came closest to capturing the American dream, yet hardly had to lift a finger to earn it. He had an enormous amount wealth to begin with and it was completely secure throughout the content of the novel. He had Daisy from the start, who he shared a child with, and through the chaos of his own affairs and Daisy’s, he walked away with her at his side. Tom had multiple affairs that he blatantly showed off, which Daisy knew of and put up with. About halfway into the novel Daisy had an affair of her own with Gatsby. Even though Tom and Daisy’s marriage was quite twisted, her affair did not separate the two, in fact it kept them together. Tom knew how to play his cards well and through the whole mess, he never once without sorted out his dishonest lifestyle out with Daisy. Though Tom had the title of the character that came closest to the dream; his dream that he achieved was extremely worldly and materialistic.
From a reader’s viewpoint, I would have been more satisfied with the novel’s ending if it might have been tweaked or modified. When Daisy has an affair of her own we see that there was previous history between her and Gatsby that was explained to readers when their affair occurred. When Gatsby had Daisy, he quickly lost her because of her materialistic viewpoint. He came back with much potential only to find Daisy had chosen Tom. Even while Gatsby had to sit and watch his lover with another man, he truly loved and adored her.
If Gatsby and Daisy had found a way to be together multiple things could not have happened, or worked out the way they did. I believe the two would have thrived together, having difficulties yet having a successful relationship. Myrtle would have not been killed, and Wilson, her husband, would have eventually let her be with Tom in the end out of his own weariness. By that event playing out that way, Wilson would have not killed himself or Gatsby.
Gatsby showed great devotion to Daisy and devotion of that kind should be rewarded. Daisy could have been that lifetime reward of Gatsby’s.
Judy Keller Hatteberg
The greatness of The Great Gatsby comes from Fitzgerald’s precise prose, believable dialogue, and timeless themes. He accurately portrayed a careless, misguided generation who pursued their American Dream of money, power, success and happiness.
Most of the main characters in The Great Gatsby believed they were living the great American dream, only to find they felt lonely and bored. They filled this emptiness with opulent parties and impulsive purchases. They lived restless, wild lives with little regard to consequences.
Jay Gatsby achieved his American dream, only to find out it didn’t bring him love and fulfillment. He accumulated enough money to throw outlandish parties, of which he stood apart and observed others who appeared to be having a grand time. He built an opulent mansion across the bay from his former fiancée, Daisy, confident that he now had the money to buy back her love.
Daisy was a bored, restless young woman. She married Tom Buchanan for his power and money. She realized her dream of a life of luxury and comfort, but continually complained about her desire for something to happen.
Tom Buchanan attained what he thought was the American dream of having a beautiful, charming wife, and having enough money to buy anything he wanted. He had everything money could buy, but lusted for more; thus the affair with Myrtle Wilson.
Jordan Baker had money and resorted to cheating to succeed in her quest for the American dream of being a famous competitive golfer.
The narrator of the book, Nick Carraway, was intrigued with his neighbor, Jay Gatsby, and the all night elaborate parties. Nick was not so much into achieving the American Dream as he was in observing it. He had the maturity and wisdom to comprehend the artificial gaiety and hollowness of the others.
Nick Carraway was the closest to living the American dream, because in the end, he realized that those who he mingled with that summer in 1922, (Tom, Daisy, Jordan, Gatsby, Myrtle) all fell short of their expectations. They were still blindly following that unattainable green light which they thought would someday bring contentment.
I would not change the ending of the Great Gatsby. The end was genuine. Tom, Daisy, and Jordan continue to live out their American Dream, not realizing the shallowness of their lives. Nick had the astuteness to know he didn’t fit in there, and moved back to his homeland in the middle-west; back to where his people were living their American dreams.