The Materialistic American Dream: How The Great Gatsby and Fight Club Prove that Money does not Buy Happiness

The American Dream was described by James Truslow Adams in his book, The Epic of America as, “…that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” (Adams 214). Perhaps, we have taken the idea of “richer” too literally. There is not a renewed desire to better oneself in order to better society or improve life for future generations as there was in the past. Now, in order to achieve the American Dream, many believe that they must own a home, drive a nice car, wear the best clothes, live a life of luxury and money. Money is the necessary means to happiness. This idea of the American Dream seems to be more about keeping up with the Joneses than achieving equal opportunity for all. However, although we may believe that material items equate to happiness and the achievement of the American Dream, novels like, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, both prove that money cannot buy happiness, and that perhaps money impedes the achievement of the true American Dream.

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  • Paper Presentation
  • Literature
  • When thinking of the “American Dream,” many tie in materialistic desires. This presentation looks into how The Great Gatsby and Fight Club explain materialism in 20th century fiction, and how the fixation on material goods may not lead to the achievement of one’s “American Dream” after all.

5 thoughts on “The Materialistic American Dream: How The Great Gatsby and Fight Club Prove that Money does not Buy Happiness”

  1. I love how you flipped back and forth between speaking and your slides. Good job!
    I just used this same definition for the American Dream in a paper I did this semester and how it morphed from there so it was cool to see in your presentation. I really like how you tied two stories that could look like opposites together and how they really both show how money will not buy happiness.

  2. This is a thoughtfully composed and seamlessly presented literary analysis of the American Dream. Though your presentation considered it specifically within the works of Fitzgerald and Palahniuk, it is so very timely. With material wealth and other conventional definitions of the American Dream in sudden jeopardy, this invites us to reflect and re-evaluate. Thanks for your insights!


    I love the comparison presentation that you used to talk about the American Dream. I read both of the books you included in my 8th grade English class, and “The Great Gatsby” was one of my favorites. This was a good representation of the fact that money cannot buy you happiness. Over time the view of wealth has significantly changed yet the dream is still to have lots of money, nice cars, clothes, etc. The only thing money can’t buy is happiness. you can have all of those things that come with wealth, and still be miserable. I love the quote that you used from “Fight Club” which stated the things you own end up owning you, it is only after you lose everything that you are free to do anything”. I agree that both of these books the characters are too wrapped up in materialism that they are unable to have true happiness. This was a wonderful presentation as always Morgan! I am so sad that this will be the last year with us in the Honors program together. Your research is always enlightening. Have a great rest of the year!
    Caitlin Tyree

  4. Tiffany Nascimento

    What a phenomenal presentation, Morgan! I love the way you engaged the topic of materialism with these two novels. This was incredibly enlightening. Thanks!!!

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