The development of Gatsby's dream in connection with his fascination to Daisy. About "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Term Paper, 2014
15 Pages, Grade: 1.0


Table of Contents


I. Gatsby's dream before meeting Daisy - an imaginary construct of himself
II. Gatsby meets Daisy - Daisy becomes the personification of his dream
III. Separated from Daisy - Gatsby building up a colossal construct around her
IV. The ‘reunion’ - Daisy "tumbles short of his dreams”




“Living in dreams of yesterday, we find ourselves still dreaming of impossible future conquests.”[1] Charles Lindbergh, the American aviator who piloted the first solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, seemed to have achieved something extraordinary - the impossible, something that had been a ‘dream’ for many years. Presumably, everyone of us has a dream, “a cherished aspiration, ambition, or ideal”[2]. But what happens when this ideal is rooted in the past? Is it still possible then, as Lindbergh claimed, to dream of the future or does it turn to “an unrealistic or self-deluding fantasy”[3] ? Or is it exactly this characteristic of impossibility which makes a dream a dream - can a dream ever be fully achieved or is its attractiveness rooted in its elusiveness?

The Great Gatsby by Fitz Scott Fitzgerald is considered to be one of the greatest American novels, one of the key themes in the book is Gatsby's dream and it will be the centre of this term paper. Out of the various approaches to the book[4], this paper will focus on the character constellation of the protagonist Jay Gatsby and Daisy, the woman with whom he falls in love. How does Gatsby's dream develop in connection with his fascination to Daisy? Claiming that, although two people are involved, his dream is only focused on himself, I will try to show, at least to a certain extent, how Gatsby's dream has “three basic and related parts: the desire to repeat the past, the desire for money, and the desire for incarnation of ‘unutterable visions’ in the material earth.”[5] Since Daisy represents all of these dreams when they meet for the first time, she becomes the personification of his dream, but in the course of the events their paths become separated. Therefore, this term paper will also investigate how Gatsby's dream further develops since being separated from Daisy and finally what happens when he meets Daisy again - why does she in the end “[tumble] short of his dreams”[6] ?

Regarding the often discussed issue, whether or not Fitzgerald was writing a myth specifically about America and the American Dream, or whether Gatsby's dream can attain a wider relevance, I will not be able to refer to in much detail.[7] The paper will also not discuss the point of narrative, but it is nevertheless crucial to mention that “Gatsby is presented almost entirely through Nick's puzzled and often disapproving eyes.”[8] It is only through Nick Carraway's subjective narration that we as readers are able to examine Gatsby and Daisy, but in analysing Gatsby's dream in more detail we will accept Nick's narrative as true.[9]

Main Part

I. Gatsby's dream before meeting Daisy - an imaginary construct of himself

The origins of Gatsby's dream can be found long before he meets Daisy, as his father tells Nick at Gatsby's funeral. Way back in his childhood, his fantasies about a better life begin and Gatsby's schedule of his day shows how determined he is to not be identified with his parents' life, but to start creating his own world with “a big future in front of him”[10]. Already here, his self-centeredness is visible, since he does not care that his parents are “broke[n] up when he run[s] off from home”[11]. His dream is marked by naive idealism - as a seventeen year-old, he constructs “an Platonic conception of himself’[12]. Referring to Plato's school, that the material world we experience is only a mere shadow of the ideal world which constitutes reality, Fitzgerald points out that Gatsby's dream is not a superficial dream, but that its roots are deeply founded in the pursuit of a high ideal.

Nevertheless, the encounter with Dan Cody, who has earned his fortune mining silver, links Gatsby's ideal dream with the first of the three parts of his dream - the desire for money[13]. “...when he saw Dan Cody's yacht drop anchor over the most insidious flat on Lake Superior.”[14] - This quote reveals some characteristics of his dream: the name of the lake, Lake “Superior”, indicates Gatsby's striving for being in a superior position and this striving, his dream, now gets anchored in the materialism, represented by Cody. This does not make Gatsby's dream superficial, since materialism serves more as a fertile soil in which his idealism can be planted. It can be seen as the dream of rising from rags to riches, based on the “fallacious assumption that material possessions are synonymous with happiness, harmony and beauty”[15]. But the adjective “insidious” means that something appears to be innocent or inconspicuous, may also imply danger. Foreshadowing the danger of dropping anchor in corruption contrasts to the purity of Gatsby's dream.

Another characteristic of the origins of his dream can be found in Nick's comment:

“For a while these reveries provided an outlet for his imagination; they were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy's wing.“[16] “Fairy's wing” indicates the dream-like, non-existing quality of his dream, a romantic belief. Again it foreshadows the danger of Gatsby's dream, since it is not founded on a strong and solid foundation. At this point some reference can be made to the description of Daisy's house, which is also described with the language of a fairy-tale[17]. It highlights that, right from the beginning, Gatsby builds up a fairy-tale and pursues its happy ending with everything he has.

Daisy's surname “Fay”, sounding similar to “fairy”, points out that she will play an important part in Gatsby's dream. What happens to his dream when they meet for the first time? In the following, this shall be analysed in more detail.

II. Gatsby meets Daisy - Daisy becomes the personification of his dream

Meeting Cody provides Gatsby with the first focus of his fantasies[18] ; but after Cody's death Gatsby remains penniless, a fact that he hides behind wearing his uniform. When meeting Daisy in this state of being, he binds his dream to her because she represents all three parts of his dream[19]. To prove this claim, two key scenes will be analysed: firstly, the meaning of Daisy's house for Gatsby's dream, when he visits her house for the first time[20] and secondly, the kiss-scene, which Parkinson claims to be Gatsby's “moment of revelation”[21].

“[Her house] amazed him - he had never been in such a beautiful house before. But what gave it an air of breathless intensity, was that Daisy lived there - it was as casual a thing to her as his tent out at camp was to him. There was a ripe mystery about it.. ,”[22] For Gatsby, it is important, that Daisy lives in such a rich house: it increases her attractiveness since she represents some kind of status he aspires, but does not have yet. Nick's use of the metaphor “High in a white palace the King's daughter, the golden girl”[23] is another reference to fairy­tales and invokes a typical situation and contrast of the inaccessible highborn maiden and the poor suitor. As Parkinson further points out, it is not the house itself as a material object that is of importance, but rather Gatsby's response to it. Associating Daisy with the house, he imagines and attributes to it a quality of radiance in terms of mystery and only wealth can sustain it. For Gatsby, wealth becomes the power to transcend the mundane and to make it ideal. He therefore “transforms and makes enchanted the prosaic and the ordinary by an act of his imagination”.[24]

Gatsby is enchanted by everything Daisy represents, so “...eventually he took Daisy one still October night, took her because he had no real right to touch her hand“[25]. Only after it, he realizes that he has actually fallen in love with her. For the events to follow, this is important to keep in mind, because it starts the process of binding his dream to Daisy. Before Nick finds out about this incident, Gatsby tells Nick about him kissing Daisy. The language used paints the picture of a mysterious, exciting but also dream-like scenery where “the blocks of the sidewalks really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees”[26]. This ladder symbolizes how much he cuts himself off from ordinary experiences in his aspiration to achieve the perfect, ideal conception of himself. Nick points out that Gatsby can only climb the ladder alone and highlights again the selfish nature of Gatsby's dream: even in this romantic moment he shares with Daisy, his thoughts are centred on his “longing for an ideal self’.[27] This is why he hesitates kissing Daisy, realizing her “perishable breath”[28], which acts as a reminder that she is human and subject to chance and decay. The final act of kissing is an expression of Gatsby's desire for the “incarnation of ‘unutterable visions’ in the material earth”[29], the second part of his dream: He kisses Daisy since she represents the ‘material earth’ on which his ‘vision’ has become focused.[30]


[1] Andrew S. Berg, Lindbergh, London: Simon & Schuster, 1998: 3.

[2] “Dream”. The Oxford Dictionary of English. 3rd ed. 2010. Print.

[3] Berg 1998: 3.

[4] For an overview of different approaches, see Stephen Matterson, The Great Gatsby. The Critics Debate, Basingstoke: Macmillian, 1990: xii ff.

[5] Ernest H. Lockridge (ed.), Twentieth Century Interpretations of “The Great Gatsby”: A Collection of Critical Essays, Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall, 1968: 11.

[6] F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, London: Penguin, 2000: 92.

[7] For further information on this argument, see Matterson 1990: 1. Matterson distinguishes i.a. between the approach of ,The Great Gatsby’ as a new myth of America or as a non- American myth. Due to the length of this term paper it is not possible to analyse this in detail, but for further studies it would be interesting to ask “Is there something we can learn from Gatsby for the pursuit of our dreams?”.

[8] Kathleen Parkinson, F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby, London: Penguin, 1988: 98.

[9] For a more detailed analysis of Nick Carraway's character and point of narrative, consult Matterson 1990: 39­43, who claims that “It is Carraway who alerts us to the dignity and depth of Gatsby's character, and suggests the relation of his tragedy to the American situation.” (Matterson 1990: 40.)

[10] Fitzgerald 2000: 164.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., 95.

[13] See Lockridge 1968: 11.

[14] Fitzgerald: 94.

[15] Fahey 1973: 70.

[16] Fitzgerald 2000: 95-96.

[17] See Ibid.,141. “There was a ripe mystery about it, a hint of bedrooms upstairs more beautiful and cool than other bedrooms, of gay and radiant activities taking place through its corridors, and of romances ...”

[18] See Parkinson 1988: 107.

[19] See Matterson 1990: 38.

[20] See Fitzgerald 2000: 141.

[21] Parkinson 1988: 108.

[22] Fitzgerald 2000: 141.

[23] Fitzgerald 2000: 115.

[24] Parkinson 1988: 54.

[25] Fitzgerald 2000: 142.

[26] Ibid., 106.

[27] Parkinson 1988: 108.

[28] Fitzgerald 2000: 107.

[29] Lockridge 1968: 11.

[30] See Matterson 1990: 38.

Excerpt out of 15 pages


The development of Gatsby's dream in connection with his fascination to Daisy. About "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
University of Constance
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The American Dream, Gatsby, The Great Gatsby, Gatsby meets Daisy, Daisy, The Reunion
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Janina Gaiser (Author), 2014, The development of Gatsby's dream in connection with his fascination to Daisy. About "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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