How Does Gatsby Not Achieve the American Dream?

The American Dream is a concept that has been deeply ingrained in the national psyche of the United States for decades. It is essentially the idea that anyone, regardless of their social background, can achieve great success and prosperity through hard work and determination.

Many works of literature have been written about the pursuit of the American Dream, and one of the most famous examples is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”. The novel tells the story of Jay Gatsby, a mysterious and wealthy man who is living the high life in 1920s New York City. Despite all the glamour and opulence surrounding him, however, Gatsby ultimately fails to achieve the American Dream.

Lack of Social Mobility

One of the key problems that prevent Gatsby from achieving the American Dream is the lack of social mobility in society. Fitzgerald portrays a world where social status and aristocratic lineage are more important than hard work and talent. Gatsby, despite his wealth and success, is still viewed as an outsider and is never fully accepted by high society.

Throughout the novel, Gatsby is constantly striving to be accepted by the old money elite, represented by characters such as Tom and Daisy Buchanan. He throws lavish parties in the hopes of impressing them and even buys a mansion across the bay from them to be closer to their world. Ultimately, however, he is never able to penetrate their inner circle and is left feeling disillusioned and alone.

Obsession with the Past

Another factor that contributes to Gatsby’s failure to achieve the American Dream is his obsession with the past. Gatsby is fixated on a romanticized version of his past with Daisy Buchanan and spends years building his wealth and reputation in the hopes of winning her back.

However, Gatsby’s fixation on the past ultimately prevents him from moving forward and achieving his goals. His obsession with Daisy blinds him to the fact that she is not the person he remembers from his past, and he is left alone and disillusioned once again.

The Illusion of the American Dream

Ultimately, perhaps the most significant reason why Gatsby fails to achieve the American Dream is because the Dream itself is an illusion. The concept of the American Dream suggests that anyone can achieve great success and prosperity through hard work and determination, but in reality, this is not always true.

Despite his wealth and success, Gatsby is never able to escape his past or the societal barriers that prevent him from fully achieving his goals. He becomes a tragic figure, undone by his own ideals and the limitations of the world he lives in.


In conclusion, “The Great Gatsby” is a powerful commentary on the American Dream and the limitations of social mobility in American society. Gatsby’s failure to achieve the Dream highlights the ongoing struggle for equality and fairness in our society.

Through the character of Gatsby, Fitzgerald exposes the flaws in the American Dream and reminds us that it is ultimately an ideal that can never truly be attained. Gatsby’s story serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of becoming too consumed by the pursuit of wealth and status, and the importance of living a life that is true to one’s own values and ideals.

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