The American dream is something that is relevant in everyone’s life. People strive to obtain this dream throughout their entire life. However, the American dream can be different for each person depending on what they value and feel is important to them. In the book Walden by Henry David Thoreau he feels that everyone should live as simple as possible because life is more about finding your inner self rather than material possessions. Contrasting Thoreau’s American dream in the book The Great Gatsby by F.
Scott Fitzgerald, the main character Jay Gatsby is focused on material possessions and his wealth. These two dreams are very different from each other because there is no correct answer as to what the American dream is. As Henry David Thoreau put it, “I have learned this, at least, from my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. ” To many people the American dream means having a nice house, kids, and money but Thoreau did not want any of that.
Thoreau wanted to enjoy the simple things in life that most people do not even notice. When Thoreau moved out into the woods near what is now called Walden Pond he built himself a cabin with his bare hands. He enjoyed building the cabin and living in it every night. His thought for living out in the woods was so he would be able to write comfortably without the distractions of the outside world. To Thoreau one of the most important things in life is self-reliance. People should not need to rely on someone else in order to live or even to have fun.
Thoreau was able to find many things out in the woods that kept him occupied, one such thing was he liked to listen to the animals outside or even watch ants move around on the ground. To most people these things may seem trivial and stupid but to Thoreau ants were interesting creatures, the fact that they are always busy carrying things back and forth from their home. Thoreau would be in disbelief if he saw how people are today. Always on their phones or playing video games, Thoreau would not like any of the modern devices that we have today.
To him people should not have to rely on anything besides their own mind in order to be entertained. Thoreau would not approve of people working hard to earn money just so they can buy new clothes or now a new phone. To him these things are unimportant and he focuses more on simplicity and only what he needs to survive. In his mind people who buy their house do not even actually own it because of the mortgage they have to pay. He is better off because he built his own house and he already owns it no matter what.
Jay Gatsby lives his life in a very different way than Thoreau did. Gatsby is only focused on money and the material possessions that he can buy with his money. To Gatsby the most important thing in life in having as much money as possible, although Gatsby may claim that he only needed to be rich in order to get the girl of his dreams, Daisy. However, Gatsby did not really need to have money in order to get Daisy if she truly loved him. When Gatsby was younger he ended up working on a boat as the owner’s assistant, traveling around with him.
When he saw what it could be like to have money he knew that his goal in life was to become rich and popular. He succeeded and ended up owning a huge house with a pool and he threw elaborate parties every weekend. All of these material possessions didn’t really mean anything because Gatsby was not happy with his life. Every weekend when he would throw a party he would invite celebrities and other rich people. However, many of the celebrities that came to his parties were not even friends with him; they were just using him to have a good time. Gatsby lives his life very opposite from how Thoreau lived.
He does not live simply nor is he self-reliant; he is so caught up in his money and possessions that it is as if he is not even living at all. As Gatsby’s friend Nick said, the American dream should be about discovery, individualism and the pursuit of happiness. I feel that Gatsby got caught up in his opulent lifestyle and forgot what he was really trying to achieve in his life. Many of Gatsby’s so called friends would not have even associated with him if it had not been for his wealth. This is proof that everyone else was very shallow and that they relied on Gatsby for their own entertainment.
If you compared Thoreau and Gatsby there is really nothing to compare at all because they lived completely opposite lives. To Thoreau the American dream is about simplicity and self-reliance and to Gatsby the American dream is about wealth and material possessions. Gatsby would not be content with living in a cabin in the woods because he would have no idea what to do, while Thoreau on the other hand is able to live simply and be happy. I believe that Gatsby is not living the American dream in reality because he is not happy with his life.
He got lost in his money and trying to please other people around him that were not even his friends. Gatsby never even swam in his pool until the end when he ended up getting murdered. The American dream is different for each person but it is the same in one aspect, people should be happy with their life and find a way that they can achieve that happiness. For Thoreau he found happiness in himself and being self-reliant. He was able to live a simple life in his own hand-built cabin in the woods. To Gatsby this would sound like a terrible way to live, but to Thoreau this is his American dream.
On the other hand Gatsby’s American dream was really to find love in his life and he attempted to do this by becoming wealthy and surrounding himself with material possessions in order to try and sweep Daisy off her feet. However, I feel that Gatsby never even achieved the American dream because he was not really happy with his life. Other people may argue that he did achieve the American dream because he was wealthy and had whatever his heart desired but in reality if he is not happy with his life so he really didn’t achieve anything. The typical definition for the American dream is gaining wealth, a house and living a happy life.
To me the most important part is achieving happiness because if you have the other two and you are miserable it doesn’t really matter how rich you are. I would rather live life simply and rely on myself than be unhappy.