"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." A timeless statement by Thomas Jefferson that epitomizes what the American Dream originally stood for upon the creation of our great country. The American Dream was founded upon the ideal that each person, no matter what his origins, could succeed in life on the sole basis of his or her own skill and effort. The dream was embodied with the notion of the self-made man, a person whom has persevered past poverty and adversity by means of his own talents or energies, and originally related to a desire for spiritual and material improvement. However beginning in the early 1920s, the material aspect of the dream was too readily achieved, so much so, that it soon outpaced and obliterated the early spiritual ideals. From there emerged a state of material well being that was characterized by reckless jubilance, overarching cynicism, greed, and an empty pursuit of pleasure. Within the novel, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald uses Jay Gatsby to illustrate the corruption and eventual downward spiral of the American Dream to the vulgar pursuit of wealth and materialism in the 1920s.
The transformation from James Gatz, the ambitious janitor from North Dakota, to Jay Gatsby, the epitome of the self made man, exemplifies Gatsby's lifelong pursuit of his aristocratic roots. James Gatz had been the product of shiftless and unsuccessful farm people, a fate that he never quite accepted as his own and always imagined himself a part of something much greater. In his years of beating along the south shore of Lake Superior, he was, in some capacity, in search of a destiny that would bring him a sense of importance and would validate his existence in this land of opportunity. It was not until that fateful day when ambitious, young Gatz in his torn green jersey came upon the miraculous Dan Cody.