Chasing Green Lights and American Dreams

An Apology: I’m so sorry this is like, two weeks late. I blame the school system (cough cough CHEMISTRY cough cough EXAMS), my lack of time management (I really did try; I had a resolution and everything and it kinda fell to pieces), and all of the wonderful blogs written by all of my wonderful classmates; I can’t help but be so utterly overtaken by the brilliance you all seem to hold. In a way, you guys are my green light, my inspiration… (and the subsequent death of me).


… Am I off the hook yet?


I’ll try to persuade you to forgive me by distracting you with tales of Gatsby and green lights. Shall we?



Humanity, in and of itself, is an intricate balance between its hopes and fears, its dreams and realities. It is through our dreams that we may establish a sense of certainty in an uncertain future, through our dreams that we hope to find a haven safe from the fear of failure and loneliness.

Dreams are things of passion, formulated by the desire for a purpose, hopeless idealism, and the human need to achieve some sort of recognition- through our dreams, we are remembered, and through our dreams, our legacy lives on. It is because dreams are things so inherently tied to emotion that they are so easily manipulated in the hands of others.

Though individuals may innately gravitate towards idealism, there’s no denying the fact that societal influences play a major role in instilling one with the desire to achieve the American Dream. The American Dream in itself refers to the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity towards success and prosperity via their hard work, determination, and initiative.

It was once, in and of itself, just a dream. An innocent individual desire for personal growth that found its way into the hands of those that would enforce it instead of enjoy it. When one is unable to define for themselves the meaning of success and prosperity- their own American Dream-, they will choose to listen to the loudest voice in the crowd. In the case of James Gatz, it was the music of the elite that lured him into a dream he may not have considered otherwise. In our world today, success has become very objective- we have tried to standardize a dream through the rules of materialism, attempted to create a one-size-fits-all version of happiness that is bound for failure. The beauty of a dream lies in its ability to be judged and measured by an individual, for the sake of said individual, and the motivation it provides as they set forth to achieve these visions. Gatz’s susceptibility towards chasing this particular offshoot of the American dream stems from the fact that he’s constantly been exposed to this specific brand of success, coupled with his insecurity towards his social standing. His reinvention of himself as Jay Gatsby is fueled by his need for some sort of security and recognition, especially in the eyes of Daisy.

As mentioned before, one of the driving factors towards achieving the American dream is the desire for recognition- be it a word of encouragement, an award, or even a simple nod of acknowledgement that puts you at ease. This serves to reassure you that the time, effort and hard work you put into pursuing your passion has finally borne fruit. It is unfortunate that, in the society we live in today, your ability to gain recognition is determined by those far above you, the people and ideals you are always a few paces behind. This, more than anything, allowed for the corruption of what should have been a pure dream- a dream that others could tweak for themselves as they saw fit. Gatsby fought tooth and nail for this recognition, but he was unable to receive it from the places he desired it most; his dream failed him because, in reality, his success was owned not by him, but by society. When Gatsby attempted to restore the purity of his dream- arguably through his love for Daisy- we see society starting to push back and restore its hold over Gatsby. In trying to make the dream his own again and rid it of the hypocrisy that has tainted it, Gatsby proves that he is unable to truly grasp this standardized version of the dream. For him, it’s a means, not an end, and his inability to conform to standard success and accept the illusions of the upper class makes him a failure. He was so corrupted by the dream and its illicit means that he was barred from its true, individual fulfillment.


That’s the thing with Gatsby; he’s too much of a dreamer to forsake the only part of the dream that was ever really his in the first place, and for that, he pays his price.



To my dearest James Gatz,


Ever since you were a little boy, your mind had a tendency towards leaving your head and floating up towards the lofty luxuries and American dreams that were built by others only to deceive. Your wide eyes took in all the glory, all of the lights and colours and sounds. You saw the billowing curtains and the rolling green hills, and you were blinded by the bright young things that seemed to bathe in liquid moonlight and molten stardust. You fell head first into a dream that was never yours to begin with; you loved an illusion that would never love you back.


But I really can’t blame you, now, can I?


I would be a hypocrite if I denied the reality that I too am completely, utterly enamored with the idea of the American Dream. This very ideology is embedded into our school systems, our fairy tales, our deepest hopes and fears. We were weaned on this belief, raised to trust in hard work and consistency. There is a familiarity to this dream, a responsibility towards attaining it, and an admirable, dangerously naive passion with which we work towards it.


The idea that any person can gain success, as long as they work hard enough, is a dream that allows an individual to plow through the mundane instances of day to day life; this dream gave you control over your impoverished upbringing. That was what you loved most, I think; in the hopes the dream provided, you gained control-certainty, even-over the course that your life would run.

And so, your name became synonymous with the hard work that would perhaps render your grand dreams worthy of consideration. I remember your schedule, filled from 6 to 9 with activities deemed important by those who had achieved their ideals. You saved money, quit smoking, exercised. You spent time on learning to cultivate your manners and holding your tongue. You stopped wasting time on the matters of the poor. You changed your name, left your family.


You were always facing forwards, building a dream you had been told would make you happy, a dream dictated by longings and green paper. Your dreams were never your own, but they were the only things pushing you forwards.


You fell in love, and there it was that Gatsby truly flourished.



My dear Gatsby,


It’s kind of funny, isn’t it?


You made it. Somehow, inexplicably, you made it into the land of the painfully bright and the foolishly wealthy. You became an enigma of a man, a desirous mystery of unknown origins. You became the quintessence of the dream you yearned after; and yet, you never really fit in.


You weren’t there to host your own parties, or treat your own guests.


You failed to maintain the illusion that this- this money, this luxury, this power- was all you wanted. You were recognized, but never truly understood. You couldn’t pretend that it made you happy, and so you started looking back, trying to reach someone you once knew.


You fell in love when you should have been running away.


You corrupted this dream with a purity unknown to those who have the masks of fickle desire and illusory success molded to their mottled skins. You saw through the hypocrisy, and you paid for it accordingly.


You just didn’t fit in a world of beautiful fools and green lights and daisy petals, a world where success was the bulge in your pocket and the amount of drinks you could guzzle. You weren’t built for their antics, their insincerity. They might have been bright young things, but the only light you needed was too close to touch.


You were too innocent for her jaded eyes.


And now, I’m left writing letters to an abandoned grave.



You rest so far away from the blue lawns and the lavish parties for which you were so renowned. Instead, you’re buried in the very dirt you so abhorred, mingling with the worms from the past you wanted to conquer.


You died no differently than you lived; no matter how close you were to achieving the American Dream, to those deemed the elite, your value lay in your expendability.


There’s no green paper down there, Gatsby, but you never really needed it.


There’s no starlight six feet under, in a grave built of gray, but you still manage to shine brighter than any of the young things I’ve ever seen.


There’s no green light anymore, James.


And yet, I can’t stop dreaming.


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6 thoughts on “Chasing Green Lights and American Dreams

  1. Hijab,

    Chemistry is a pain, I remember how stressful it was last year, and having just taken a brutal chemistry test a few hours prior to reading this blog post, I can relate to how you feel. I can also relate to your feeling of being overwhelmed, especially since it’s your first year in the AP program. During my first year in AP, I always felt awfully incompetent whenever I made a post on the blog. In fact, even this year, I still feel inferior to a lot of our classmates, even the ones in grade eleven. However, your writing is absolutely brilliant, and there should be no reason for you to feel incompetent in comparison to the other students in this class. Even though you were using it as a distractor, I actually really liked your metaphor of the class being the green light and you being Gatsby. Now that I look at it, though, I really have to say that I think all of us feel that way. Even though I’m technically at the top of the metaphorical class totem pole, I still feel like the brilliance of the students around me is some sort of green light that I can admire from a distance, yet never attain.

    Honestly, you are an absolutely brilliant writer, I have to say. From the very first line of this piece (after your little disclaimer) I was blown away by your writing. You did a fantastic job of analyzing what the American Dream is and comparing it to The Great Gatsby. I especially liked how you referred to the American Dream as a “one-size-fits-all” sort of happiness, that not everyone will be satisfied with. Personally, I never really thought of it this way, but now that I look at it, it does seem quite true. The American Dream was set as a standard, but even if one achieves it, they may find that they’re not satisfied with where they ended up. Perhaps they would realize that they’d be happy with less than what they have, or they would realize that they want more. As you pointed out, Gatsby is a prime example of this. He achieved the ideal of the American Dream, yet realized that he wanted something else–that being Daisy–yet he was unable to win her back. This analysis of yours is extremely insightful and it’s given me a new perspective on the novel that I never had before. Though I do like The Great Gatsby, it’s not one of my favourites, but this blog post of yours makes me want to re-read the novel with all of the new insights you’ve provided.

    In regards to the letters you placed at the end of this, they were well written, and I did enjoy reading them, but I would have liked it if you gave some context to them. Maybe you were being intentionally ambiguous and I’m looking at this the wrong way, but I would have liked it if you added an explanation afterwards of who exactly was writing the letters and what your purpose behind adding them to the blog post was.

    Overall, I really enjoyed reading this, and I’m absolutely in love with your writing. There really is no need for you to feel inferior to the other students in the class, you absolutely belong here <3

    – Genevieve

    P.S. Just to reassure you, I’ll have you know that I’m turning in all of my comments late, so you’re not the only one behind on your work 🙂

    1. Genevieve,

      Thank you so much for reading my blog! I really hope that your Chemistry test went well; at this point, everyone who has survived Chem 20- let alone Chem 30- has both my undying respect and my extensive condolences. I was initially a little bit confused as to how I wanted to approach my American Dream post, because I wanted to make it both personal and analytical in order to prep for the exams (and because I love Gatsby). I started out with the letters and then I switched to the analysis and then I switched back to the letters… you get the point. The letters were from me (being the fangirl that I am), and I guess I added them in a bid to solidify my ideas. I’ll be sure to incorporate more clarity into my shifts for my next blog posts. Also, you did me a real favour by making my apology more insightful than I had planned for it to be- you guys really are my inspiration! Once again, thank you for allowing me to take you on a journey through Gatsby!


  2. Dear Hijab,

    Ahhh, reading the beginning of your blog and Genevieve’s comment I am glad to hear that so many of us relate to each other. I can assure that chemistry is a pain to many as much as it is a pain to you, and you are not alone. I myself this year have turned in so many blogs late it made me feel like I was letting myself down. In a way I was, but I find comfort in the fact that I knew that even if they were late, I would work hard to turn them in as soon as possible. This just shows no matter how busy you get, you still care about the work you put forth. I know I can say the same to you. I commend you on turning this in despite it being late, instead of letting it slip away. (which I have a feeling you would never do)

    I am actually so sad I haven’t read any of your writing until now! AP LA has ended and *now* I get to experience it… Oh well, better late than never!!

    I’m finding it hard to get the right words into my mind about your post here, as it has blown me away so much so that I’m afraid I’m speechless. You took the role of each character so well, I could hear every word I read in their voices. I almost forgot it was you writing! I also love the perspectives and ideas you took with this piece, and just like Genevieve I started to rethink everything I had thought about The Great Gatsby. This is what amazing writing does – it takes you through an in-depth journey through your mind, making you question things you may have never thought of before. Thank you so much for sharing this insight with your readers!!


  3. Dear Elissa,

    You’re probably one of the only reasons I managed to retain my sanity throughout Chem- collective suffering at its finest! Honestly, right now everything is so up in the air- with exams, report cards, and new beginnings right around the corner- that I’m trying to hold on to AP for as long as I can, in an attempt to find a bit of happiness; I truly consider myself infinitely lucky in that I’m surrounded by such amazing people in this class, and it wouldn’t be fair to all this class means to me if I didn’t finish my assignments. So, though my current time management skills are atrocious, thank you for being one of the reasons I continue to remain motivated towards finishing my work. I’m so glad I had the chance to read your absolutely fantastic writing this year, and I wish you all the best on your Chemistry final, and throughout Semester 2! I hope I continue to benefit from your genius come AP exam prep!


  4. *Hijab!!!!
    First off, I have the utmost faith in you and your time management. We’re in this together fren.

    Second, I loved that you broke down the American Dream before getting into the creative – what a move! It avoids confusion in the mind of the reader and avoids confusion whilst still leaving room for interpretation as creatives generally allow.

    Also, wow! I feel like Gatsby was finally given the eulogy he deserved but was never given. Your love for his character made your blog read as if it was written by his best friend. Your understanding of the text made the blog all the more interesting to read as you were able to add plot points and details without directly quoting them. I think what I am trying to get at is because you understood the book so well your insertion of plot points was so seamless that even if someone hadn’t read the book they would have been able to appreciate the piece. I’m getting a bit muddled – sorry!

    My incoherence aside, you are a magnificent writer. *applause is heard throughout* Also, the art you used (citations >.<) aided in the beauty of the piece all the more. Every element of art in this blog (your writing and the visuals) blended harmoniously and made the reading experience a joy.

    Thank you for sharing your insight and beauty. 'Twas a lovely experience I hope I am not too quick to forget.

    Much love,

    P.S. You have a great deal of "brilliance" within you also and it would truly be a tragedy if you were to fail to realize this. Fear not, however, I won't stop reminding you ;).

  5. Aww, Ibukun!

    I really do admire the fact that your faith in my time management abilities has remained relatively intact, and for that, I thank you! Thank you also for reminding me that citations do in fact exist- I’ve neglected putting them in for the past few posts, and I will go back and add them in as soon as time allows. I’m really glad that you took the time to appreciate the love I have for Gatsby; I’ve wanted to write something on him for SO LONG, and your willingness to submerge yourself into this piece enough to understand its essence truly means the world to me. Also, you’ve managed to give me some clarity on my letters- I wrote them as Hijab, but when I read over them, I felt a different kind of vibe in them, if you will. I feel like I might have subconsciously tucked in a bit of Nick, and I wouldn’t have realized it had you not pointed out that they read like a eulogy from a best friend. Thank you for that; I would have been so bothered about it had you not blessed me with your insight and stunning coherence! Thank you so, so much for all that you mean to me, Ibukun, and for your incredibly warm comment! I don’t know what good deed I did to deserve you in my life, but I’m ever so grateful regardless!


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