What Was Gatsby’s Dream?

Last Updated: October 18th, 2023 by Kerry Wisby (Teacher-BA English Literature, 1920s & Great Gatsby Expert)

Jay Gatsbys Dream

Have you ever read The Great Gatsby book, or at least watched a movie? If the answer is yes, they probably left you wondering about Gatsby and his dream.

The movie is somewhat different compared to the novel, but since I prefer books, we will focus on the novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. After all, it is the original story. Let’s take a look if we can discover Gatsby’s dream in this fantastic book!

What You Should Know About Gatsby

jay gatsby

Before we continue, allow me to give you some pointers in case you forgot what the book was about. The Great Gatsby focuses on James Gatz, a man born in a poor farmer’s family in the 1890s.

Before he goes to World War I, he falls in love with Daisy Fay, a girl from a rich family. She seems to share the same feelings, and he goes to war with a promise that he will return to her and increase his wealth so that they can both enjoy a better life.

Gatz had become a Major during the war and became an actual war hero. He had moved to England to attend college when he discovered Daisy didn’t wait for him. In a letter, Daisy explained to James that she had married Tom Buchanan, a wealthy man from a reputable family.

Everything Goes Sideways

daisy buchanan jay gatsbys true love

At this point, it seems that Gatz’s world fell apart. He focused on getting rich as he believed that is why he lost Daisy. Gatz returned to New York City and earned a fortune. Allegedly, he did that by smuggling alcoholic beverages, which were illegal at the time.

Gatz created the character of a millionaire Jay Gatsby and moves in a mansion close to Daisy. Gatsby organizes parties hoping that Daisy would come so that he could see her again. Eventually, Gatsby, Daisy, and her husband Tom have a conversation where she admits she loved them both.

A Sad Ending to the Story

Events take an unbelievable turn – Daisy accidentally hits Tom’s mistress Myrtle with a car while driving with Gatsby. Tom tells Myrtle’s husband it was Gatsby who killed her (read more on how did Tom and Myrtle meet in The Great Gatsby ), and the husband goes to Gatsby’s house to shoot Jay and commit suicide.  Click Here to  read more about who killed Myrtle

What Did Gatsby Want?

Those who read the Great Gatsby are left wondering what did Gatsby truly dream of, and what would make him happy. If you ask me, the best explanation lies in the word “happy.” That is why Jay’s dream was to have a happy and enjoyable life.

Unfortunately, life wasn’t kind to James Gatz. He tried hard and was willing to join the army to help defend his country. That is when he met Daisy and fell in love with her. James’ dream about a happy life from that point on always included Daisy.

Even steps that James took when he returned from war lead us to believe he was dreaming about a life with the rich girl. Once he received the news about her marrying another man, Gatsby completely lost it. Perhaps it was at this point he realized he wouldn’t be able to fulfill his dream.

Striving for a Happy Life

In a nutshell, his dream was simple. He was willing to work hard to secure a better life, and he wanted to live it with the woman he loves. In reality, achieving this dream was almost impossible.

James came from a poor family, and it was not easy to get himself through college. The girl he loved was from a rich family, and they were apart for a long time when he went into war, which explains how she fell in love and married another man.

From there, Gatsby only focuses on getting rich. Once he manages to do that, he tells everyone stories about how successful and great he is. Gatsby shares details about him being a war hero and Oxford graduate, even to his friend Nick, the guy who narrated the story. James even tries to impress Daisy with his wealth.

What Was Gatsby’s Dream?

The Great Gatsbys Dream

It is wrong to think that Gatsbys dream was to become rich. Whenever he mentions wealth, it is only in the context of ensuring Daisy lives the life “she deserves.” That is why many are inclined to believe that James was dreaming about love. I believe it is more accurate he was dreaming about happiness.

In the movie, we can see Gatsby asking Daisy to get a divorce instead of running away with him. It is a huge moment that shows Gatsby wants to be with the woman he loves but also wants to do things right. He is incredibly hopeful and believes that is the right path to take him to the life he was dreaming about.

Gatsby Never Fulfilled His Dream

Unfortunately, Gatsby’s dream never became a reality. It is not for the lack of effort, but maybe for putting in the effort where he shouldn’t. Nick describes him as extremely hopeful, but perhaps he wasn’t aware of which goals were truly attainable.

At the end of the day, James wanted to be happy, but life wouldn’t let him. While he managed to climb the social ladder, it is hard to explain he did it any other way aside from criminal activities. Even the girl Gatsby loved wasn’t the same girl once he returned from war. He got stuck on the memory and failed to meet any other girls that could be a better fit for his idea of a happy life. Ultimately, his dream was novel and beautiful, but the story showed real life doesn’t always work the way we hope.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What does Gatsby’s dream symbolize?

A: Experts believe that Gatsby’s dream symbolizes nothing else than the American Dream. According to the belief of many Americans, freedom gives you a chance to succeed and move up the social ladder, as long as you are willing to work hard. The theory is that your effort and ability should be enough to give you a richer and better life. The novel, however, sends a clear message that the dream is not always attainable.

Q: What is Gatsby’s main goal?

A: Gatsby’s main goal seems to be to win Daisy back, but if you scratch under the surface, all that he wants is to be happy. It is up to the reader to determine whether Gatz truly succeeded in achieving that feeling at any point in the novel.

Q: Why did Gatsby’s dream fail?

A: You can find various explanations on the topic, but everyone agrees that Gatsby’s dream failed because he was stuck in the past. He was in love with Daisy, but when he returned from the war, it was obvious she was not the same girl as before. Gatsby talks about living in the past and the desire to stop time. He tried to adjust to the new circumstances while pursuing the woman he believed was his true love, but he failed.

What Was Gatsby’s Dream?
What Was Gatsby’s Dream?
Have you ever wondered what was the Great Gatsby’s dream? Read this article to learn more about this character and what he wanted from life!
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