The Great Gatsby: The Loss of the Dream
Many critics have argued for the idea that Jay Gatsby’s death was a result of his romanticism. Dilworth, for example, notes Gatsby’s romanticism for Daisy Buchanan.
Gatsby dreams of a future in which she leaves her husband Tom and marries him. Fearing that
Tom will harm Daisy, he stands vigil outside her home all night. He even willingly takes the blame for Daisy’s accidental killing of Myrtle (119).
But the novel provides evidence that he also became a martyr to the callousness of the American Dream. Gatsby believed in the “green light,” the idea that if he worked and hoped long and hard enough he would eventually achieve one of the dreams of his life—to be accepted into the universe of the elite (Fitzgerald 180). But even if Gatsby had not died, the Tom Buchanans of the world would never have welcomed him as one of their own. Tom contemptuously refers to Gatsby as “Mr. Nobody from Nowhere” (130). He resents Gatsby’s attempt to make his way into the higher echelons of society; he believes that his position among the elite is being threatened by the presence of Gatsby and anyone else who tries to come up in the world. In chapter one, Tom vouches for the idea that the white race has to fight to maintain its dominant place in the world. But despite Tom Buchanan, Gatsby continues his dedication to his belief, even unto death, that he can become a great man among the elite.
One of the ways a reader can come to terms with The Great Gatsby is through the use of New Historicism, the technique of viewing the novel in light of its historical and social moment.
The Great Gatsby is set in 1922 and was written in 1925. One of its central themes is the concept of the American Dream. The term came into usage in 1931 through the work of James Truslow. Traditionally, it is defined as the belief that if one work’s hard, one can achieve financial success and security. As Truslow puts it, “It is…a dream of social order...