Sample Film Studies Paper on “American Dream” Theme in Great Gatsby

Fitzgerald’s film, “The Great Gatsby”, explores in depth several elements of the American Dream theme and what it means to an individual within the context of society. More specifically, the film, through the life of Gatsby- the main character, offers several lessons to the viewer about the reality of the American dream. The creator uses a complex plot that narrates the story of a man’s journey from rags to riches in pursuit of the American Dream. For Gatsby, it takes sacrifice, reinvention of himself and criminal ventures to achieve the American Dream. Yet, at the end of it all, he does can’t seem to find happiness and his life is devoid of fulfillment that his heart so much craves. The film reveals that the American Dream is an illusion that demands so much sacrifice yet gives so little.

Gatsby, as a young man craves to live the American Dream of wealth and status but discovers, subconsciously, along the way it is an illusion. At first, the smiles of the rich American folks attending dinner parties in Europe when he was a young lieutenant in the Army fools him. In his mind, he strongly believes they are happy and contented. However, he quickly realizes that all the plastic smiles of the wealthy are just part of a cultural formality for acceptance in society(Bloom 98). Behind those smiles, the wealthy and rich are just as lonely and unhappy as other ordinary citizens. He sacrifices his moral code in pursuit of an illusion that only brings darkness and loneliness to his life. Thus, as Fitzgerald depicts through Gatsby, the American Dream is merely a deception of the mind that does bring any actual happiness, only remorse and loneliness.

The only form of happiness that one derives from achieving the American dream is through consumerism and indulgence. When Gatsby host the lavish parties at his house, he looks around and wonders if drugs and alcohol is the only form of happiness that the American Dream bring to a person. His bootlegger enterprise thrives so quickly because the rich, or rather those living the American Dream, only find happiness through drinking and partying(Fitzgerald 67). It is almost as if they are living in denial of themselves. The addiction of consumerism, the fake mannerisms and over indulgence in drugs is the form of happiness that the America Dream brings to his life. Until, he finds love which he can’t buy.

The film, towards the end, when Gatsby’s life began to crumble captures the desperation to find happiness, despite having wealth and status, that individuals living the American dream face. He can longer ignore the void in his life and as he starts to find meaning in life, it is seemingly too late for him. He has to host big parties to enjoy the company of the only woman who brings happiness and a sense of peace to this life. Fitzgerald uses the life Gatsby to deconstruct the deceptive beliefs of the American dream through using irony.

To conclude, Fitzgerald’s film, “The Great Gatsby” is tale that shifts the attention of the view from the illusion of the American Dream, to the reality of true happiness. He shows that true happiness is not gained by achieving the American Dream but rather finding meaning in one’s life through the small things that matter such as love and family. Gatsby, at the end of it all is left alone, destitute and desperate until he finally decides death is the only way out.



Works Cited

Bloom, H. The Great Gatsby. Infobase Publishing, 2006.

Fitzgerald, F. S. The Great Gatsby. Simon & Schuster, 2003.