Although the American Dream has different meanings for each individual, it is most simply defined as Americans' desire to live better than their parents and those who came before them. The American dream was originally about discovery and individualism with happiness and wealth as the rewards for hard work. However for the characters in The Great Gatsby, easy money, relaxed social values, and the conflict between American political ideals and social conditions have corrupted this dream. Corrupt beliefs and practices of 1920's society destroy all the characters' dreams in The Great Gatsby.
One example of a character who has had her version of the American Dream ruined is Myrtle Wilson. Myrtle's dream is to be a part of the rich upper class. Myrtle tries to live out her dream by having an affair with Tom Buchanan from East Egg whose inhabitants come from old wealthy families. Myrtle puts on airs trying very hard to break into the upper class. For example in the train station drug store, Myrtle buys a copy of "Town Tattle", a magazine featuring celebrities, some cold cream, and a flask of perfume because she believes this is how the rich act. The reality is that the rich would most likely spend their money in an expensive department store or not spend it at all. Another example of Myrtle's affectedness is when Mrs. Mckee compliments Myrtle's dress and Myrtle rejects the compliment saying "It's just a crazy old thing. I just slip it on sometimes when I don't care what I look like." Although Myrtle becomes corrupt and vulgar like the rich, she is never accepted into the upper class. Despite all the affairs he has had, Tom can never leave Daisy to be with Myrtle because he truly loves Daisy. Myrtle's dream is doomed to fail because American democracy is based on the idea of equality among people, but in reality, social discrimination still exists and the divisions among the classes cannot be overcome.