“The true essence of life is to walk the balance between yin and yang,” Said Jordan Peterson. By this, it is described that life should be walked in the balance of life and death, light and dark, chaos and organisation. The American Dream, however, differs in that it is made up by a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers. The American Dream is the most socially ‘ideal’ and desired way of life for the characters in The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald critiques society’s ideals of life and the American Dream through Daisy, Gatsby and Myrtle’s illusions, that are presented to the world in place of their true selves.
Fitzgerald has left underlying critique in Daisy’s use of illusion towards the American Dream, through symbolism. Daisy is described by Nick to be: “High in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl”. The ‘Golden Girl’ describes her to be the best of them all, so to say. The gold, in the term, references to her riches, indicating that they’re real, unlike Gatsby’s which are symbolised by yellow. Daisy views herself as ‘high in a white palace’, a place of purity above everyone else: superior to all else around her. Her illusion of herself also portrays the fact that she is pristine and perfect which is often described by white. But this is not the case, because as the facade falters, for a moment, Nick is able to see her for who she really is: a girl lost in her own dream to be as rich as she can and living the ‘good life’, the American Dream. The illusions she spun were to make herself, and those around her, believe that she is a goddess of the American Dream, but it is all an illusion, nothing more, simply a means to an end because this is not, the much desired, American Dream. Daisy’s life became overruled by her humane greed and vanity for the American dream, that it left her as a void shell. Fitzgerald has critiqued the American Dream, as demonstrated by Daisy’s illusion of herself throughout the book because she herself is not truly happy and has not achieved success or been fully socially accepted by all, which is why she creates the illusions of her persona, furthermore leaving herself as a hollow shell of a person.
Gatsby’s entire life is an illusion, created to gain the love of his life (Daisy), the American Dream and society’s acceptance. At the age of seventeen, Gatsby left home and created a Platonic conception of himself. This ‘new Jay Gatsby’ became his life, his delusional life, his illusional self. As a boy, he always lived in an illusion that he was rich. When he started creating that life for himself, showered in riches and his plans to ‘seduce’ Daisy into a life with him, Gatsby lost sight of the real world and, in-turn, lost who he really was. As said by Nick “The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself… So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen−year−old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception, he was faithful to the end” The invention – an illusion – was all he had and became his life, a life that he was faithful to, until the end. Jay Gatsby came the closest, out of all the characters, to accomplish the American Dream. But to him gaining Daisy, the love of his life, was his life-long goal and an accomplishment he never made, which is why he never truly accomplished ‘The American Dream’, because he was not happy and did not ‘walk the balance’. But on his path to gaining Daisy and the American Dream, he created a newer, richer and socially ‘better’ version of himself. Sadly, Gatsby’s invention of himself was at a means to end, and when his illusion died, so did he. This proves Gatsby to be proof that the American Dream is never accomplished because the mind will always want more, simply due to humanity’s greed. Through this Fitzgerald shows that Gatsby did not carry ‘the true essence of life’ (as said by Jordan Peterson) and did not walk the balance of life. In the end, he died from the society’s ideals of the American Dream, and the love of his life, Daisy.
When Myrtle goes to ‘the place where anything can happen’ she creates an illusion for herself to sink into. Her illusion of living in the American Dream would only have occurred when she was in New York. ‘”Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge,” I thought; “anything at all. . . .” even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder.’, as said by Nick on the bridge to New York. New York is known, by all, to be the place ‘where anything can happen’. When Myrle, Tom and Nick go for a little road trip, she weaves an illusion, for herself, that she isn’t from The Valley Of Ashes, where the American Dream is dead, but that she is living the American Dream, in New York, bathed in riches. When Tom strikes her, the reality of life shines through, before quickly vanishing once more as she sinks back into her illusion, where she is more than content. But when she gets home, to the Valley Of Ashes, the illusion has been lifted and all that is left is the harsh reality that she can’t handle, so she casts aside when she is in New York, in hopes of achieving the American Dream, even if only for a few hours. To feel this way and hide her reality she creates a false reality, an illusion, but that is not what life is. In the end, her misery for accomplishing the American Dream and her unfulfilled life in The Valley Of Ashes kills her. Lastly, through this, Fitzgerald has underlain a critique of their ways of life in this scene because he shows how she has gone after the society’s ideals, the American Dream. But from the pursuit came her death.
In conclusion, Fitzgerald has underlain critique throughout, differing characters in The Great Gatsby via his language techniques. The critique has been placed in the goal and ideals of the American Dream, and the illusions used to make each character feel that they have accomplished this goal or are at least close to the accomplishment. Each of the characters discussed (Daisy, Gatsby and Myrtle) have portrayed an illusion to hide their true personality in order to feel and appear as part of the American Dream. In the end, Fitzgerald killed off Myrtle and Gatsby but has left Daisy as a hollow shell of a human being, void of emotion. By killing off these characters and leaving Daisy as he did, he has shown how the American Dream will never be satisfactory for oneself, therefore it will only lead to their own demise.