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Get the most important and famous quotes on the American Dream in The Great Gatsby. Below are famous lines from this easy classic fiction book by F. Scott Fitzgerald about how just out of reach the American Dream can feel to all Americans, even the most wealthy and privileged.

You’ll be able to easily read and use these quotes for academic or personal use, such as essays, presentations, senior yearbook quotes, social media posts, or just to get more insight into the book. Let’s get literary!

f. scott fitzgerald, the great gatsby held in front of bookshelves.
Penguin Vitae Edition of The Great Gatsby

Best Quotes on The American Dream in The Great Gatsby

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." - f. scott fitzgerald, the great gatsby.

Since there are so many editions of this novel, I have annotated their chapter numbers instead of their page numbers. Beware of uncited quotes on the internet for this book, as I have seen incorrect quotes out there.

“‘In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘Just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.'” (Chapter 1)

Read More: Famous First Lines in Books

“But I didn’t call to him for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone—he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward—and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock.” (Chapter 1)

“Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.” (Chapter 1)

“Why they came East I don’t know. They had spent a year in France for no particular reason, and then drifted here and there unrestfully wherever people played polo and were rich together.” (Chapter 1)

“I lived at West Egg, the—well, the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them.” (Chapter 1)

“Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water, and the history of the summer really begins on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Tom Buchanans.” (Chapter 1)

“The Carraways are something of a clan, and we have a tradition that we’re descended from the Dukes of Buccleuch, but the actual founder of my line was my grandfather’s brother, who came here in fifty-one, sent a substitute to the Civil War, and started the wholesale hardware business that my father carries on to-day.” (Chapter 1)

“He stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.” (Chapter 1)

“But his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground.” (Chapter 2)

“This is a valley of ashes–a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight.” (Chapter 2)

“I was immediately struck by the number of young Englishmen dotted about; all well dressed, all looking a little hungry and all talking in low earnest voices to solid and prosperous Americans. I was sure that they were selling something: bonds or insurance or automobiles. They were, at least, agonizingly aware of the easy money in the vicinity and convinced that it was theirs for a few words in the right key.” (Chapter 3)

“On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold. In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another.” (Chapter 3)

“‘Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge,'”‘ I thought; ‘anything at all…'” (Chapter 4)

“The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.” (Chapter 4)

“He smiled understandingly—much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced—or seemed to face—the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.” (Chapter 4)

“He was balancing himself on the dashboard of his car with that resourcefulness of movement that is so peculiarly American – that comes, I suppose, with the absence of lifting work or rigid sitting in youth and, even more, with the formless grace of our nervous, sporadic games. This quality was continually breaking through his punctilious manner in the shape of restlessness. He was never quite still; there was always a tapping foot somewhere or the impatient opening and closing of a hand.” (Chapter 4)

“‘How did he happen to [fix the 1919 World Series]’ I asked after a minute. […] ‘He just saw the opportunity.'” (Chapter 4)

“He looked at me sideways—and I knew why Jordan Baker had believed he was lying. He hurried the phrase “educated at Oxford,” or swallowed it or choked on it as though it had bothered him before. And with this doubt his whole statement fell to pieces and I wondered if there wasn’t something a little sinister about him after all.” (Chapter 4)

“There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.” (Chapter 4)

“I keep [the house] always full of interesting people, night and day. People who do interesting things. Celebrated people.” (Chapter 5)

“‘If it wasn’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay,’ said Gatsby. ‘You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.'” (Chapter 5)

“We went upstairs, through period bedrooms swathed in rose and lavender silk and vivid with new flowers, through dressing rooms and poolrooms, and bathrooms with sunken baths—intruding into one chamber where a dishevelled man in pajamas was doing liver exercises on the floor.” (Chapter 5)

“One thing’s sure and nothing’s surer
The rich get richer and the poor get – children.” (Chapter 5)

“There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams—not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion… No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.” (Chapter 5)

“It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such–such beautiful shirts before.” (Chapter 5)

“Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry.” (Chapter 5)

“No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.” (Chapter 5)

“Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.” (Chapter 5)

“He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.” (Chapter 6)

“The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God—a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that—and he must be about His Father’s Business, the service of a vast, vulgar and meretricious beauty.” (Chapter 6)

“Out of the corner of his eye Gatsby saw that the blocks of the sidewalk really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees – he could climb it, if he climbed alone, and once there he could suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder.” (Chapter 6)

“Oh, you want too much!” she cried to Gatsby. “I love you now—isn’t that enough?” (Chapter 7)

“With every word she was drawing further and further into herself, so he gave that up, and only the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped away, trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling unhappily, undespairingly, toward that lost voice across the room.” (Chapter 7)

“‘Her voice is full of money,’ he said suddenly.” (Chapter 7)

“Thirty–the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning brief-case of enthusiasm, thinning hair.” (Chapter 7)

“That was it. I’d never understood before. It was full of money—that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it.” (Chapter 7)

“No telephone phone message arrived […]I have an idea that Gatsby himself didn‘t believe it would come, and perhaps he no longer cared. If that was true he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream.” (Chapter 8)

“A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about.” (Chapter 8)

“[The new world’s] vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.” (Chapter 9)

“That’s my Middle West — not the wheat or the prairies or the lost Swede towns, but the thrilling, returning trains of my youth and the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark and the shadows of holly wreaths thrown by lighted windows on the snow. I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all—Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.” (Chapter 9)

“‘Did you start him in business?’ […] ‘Start him! I made him.'” (Chapter 9)

“And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.” (Chapter 9)

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…” (Chapter 9)

“For a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.” (Chapter 9)

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” (Chapter 9)

Read More: Best Final Lines in Literature

Short Examples of The American Dream in The Great Gatsby

Gatsby’s Definition of The American Dream

The short classic novel The Great Gatsby depicts the American Dream as one of materialism. It epitomizes Jay’s pursuit of happiness through more success, love, and wealth. This dream is alluring and promising, yet unattainable.


Portrayal of the American Dream Through the Characters

Jay Gatsby: First, Jay Gatsby’s life represents the achievement of wealth and status through his rise from poverty and his elaborate parties. However, his unrequited love for Daisy also shows that the American Dream can cause one to always seek more, eventually causing disillusionment and even a tragic downfall.

Daisy Buchanan: Daisy represents the American Dream in this classic romance novel because both are both desirable and unattainable for Jay Gatsby. She is also portrayed as the American Dream through her selfishness and materialism.

Nick Carraway: As an outsider, he offers unique views on the American Dream by narrating Jay’s story. He offers a dose of observant reality in contrast to Jay’s grandiose words and actions.


Symbols of The American Dream

Jay Gatsby’s Parties: They show his wealth but also the superficiality that comes along with it.

The Green Light: The color of money, it sits just out of Gatsby’s reach at the end of Daisy’s dock.

Settings: From East Egg to West Egg, the Valley of Ashes and beyond, locations referenced in the novel makes statements on wealth and class.

The Time Period of the Jazz Age / Roaring Twenties: This was a time of both extravagance and moral decay.

The Eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg: They symbolically watch the corruption of the American Dream.

The Last Sentence: This famous literary line shows the endless cycle of the American Dream and disillusionment.

TIPS

If you’re looking to pair this book with an adaptation, the 2013 adaptation of The Great Gatsby starring Leonardo DiCaprio is very well done, with lots of glittering eye candy!

Also, if you want to immerse yourself in an audio version, Audible has one, read well by actor Jake Gyllenhaal, that was an Audie Award Finalist.

Lastly, get in the spirit with some Taylor Swift music! The Great Gatsby is a Taylor Swift book recommendation, and it was one of the books referenced in The Tortured Poets Department album.

About the Famous Author F. Scott Fitzgerald

about

illustration of f. scott fitzgerald.

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) was a famous American novelist, fiction writer, and essayist. His work was heavily influenced by the themes of the Jazz Age, including material wealth and social status, as well as his wife, Zelda Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald was also known for being part of the Lost Generation, a group of disillusioned American expatriate writers in Europe after World War I, including Ernest Hemingway.

Published in 1925, The Great Gatsby is often considered to be the “Great American Novel.” Also noteworthy is Fitzgerald’s final novel, 1934’s Tender is the Night.

Learn more at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the American Dream quote from The Great Gatsby?

A famous American Dream quote from The Great Gatsby is: “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.” The green light symbolizes Gatsby’s endless pursuit of more.

How is the American Dream shown in The Great Gatsby?

In The Great Gatsby, the American Dream is shown through the story of Gatsby’s life. It epitomizes the pursuit of success, love, and wealth. It’s also symbolized by his unrequited love for Daisy and the green light out of his reach at the end of her dock.

What are the American Dream quotes in The Great Gatsby Chapter 9?

The most famous quote in chapter 9 of The Great Gatsby about the American Dream is the famous last line of the novel: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” It shows the endless cycle of dreams and disillusionment.

What is the American Dream in Chapter 2 of The Great Gatsby?

In chapter 2 of The Great Gatsby, the American Dream is portrayed through a dark depiction of the industrial wasteland, the valley of ashes. It’s a symbol of the decay caused by obsession with wealth, showing the social inequity caused by industrialization.

How does Daisy represent the American Dream?

In The Great Gatsby, Daisy represents the American Dream because both are both desirable and unattainable for Jay Gatsby.

Conclusion

These quotes on the American Dream in The Great Gatsby explore the American Dream as one of materialism in 1920s New York. They epitomize Jay Gatsby’s pursuit of happiness through more success, love, and wealth. This dream is alluring and promising yet unattainable, making Gatsby one of the most famous book characters, yet also one of the most tragic.

More Inspirational Quotes From The Great Gatsby

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