The Great Gatsby

This paper is devoted to analysis of a famous novel by Scott Fitzgerald “The Great Gatsby”. We are going to take a look on the context of the novel, its main characters, themes and symbols and will try to investigate the notion of “American dream” in general and presented in the novel.
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born in 1896, he was an intelligent child but his marks at school were not that good. However he managed to became the student of Princeton in 1913. At college he was not doing well either and he was taken to military service in 1917 at the same time when the First World War was ending. When he became a second lieutenant he was sent to Alabama, where he met his love – a young girl of 17 – Zelda Sayre. At first she agreed to marry him, but then cancelled their wedding because of her wish for money and fun. By the year 1920 Fitzgerald had a great literary success after the publication of This Side of Paradise. Now he had enough money to make another attempt to become Zelda’s husband. Most of these events are related to those from his novel The Great Gatsby. The narrator of the story – Nick Carraway received an education and moved to New York after the war the same as the writer. The love story of Gatsby is very close to the love story of Fitzgerald himself. Being at the height of his success Fitzgerald plunged into the world of parties and fun and at the same time into writing more in order to earn money and please Zelda as much as he could. His hero – Gatsby was also throwing away money when organizing crazy parties with one single aim – to attract Daisy’s attention to him. The times of Great Depression brought little joy for the writer as well, as Zelda suffered from nervous breakdown and he started to drink a lot alcohol. In 1937 he decided to go to Hollywood to write screenplays , there when he was working upon the novel The Love of the Last Tycoon, he died because of heart attack, being only 44 years old. It is important to mention that The Great Gatsby was not simply a novel, this was a real historical chronicle of the time called “the Jazz Age” in America, it highlights the times when because of alcohol prohibition, bootleggers earned a lot of money, chaos and violence ruled the people in America, when underground culture harshly developed and the whole America was at the state of shock after the first World War. The value of money was mostly exaggerated at that time. Thus the decline of American Dream of the 1920s is one of the main themes of The Great Gatsby. There are no doubts that this is a romantic story about a man and a woman, but in reality there are deeper ideas in the novel. The setting of the story is some area of Long Island in New York and the setting plays an important role for the message of the author. “The Great Gatsby is a highly symbolic meditation on 1920s America as a whole, in particular the disintegration of the American dream in an era of unprecedented prosperity and material excess” (Scott Donaldson, 250). The way how American Dream is corrupted is presented with the help of crazy parties organized by Gatsby every Saturday. At those times a person from middle social background in America could make a good fortune whereas American aristocracy scorned the new rich speculators. These social trends are described by Fitzgerald with the help of his main heroes. The correlation of the “old money” and “new money” is presented in geographical symbols of the novel: East Egg is the place where the established aristocracy lived and West Egg – “the self-made rich”. Using his narrator – Nick, the author told about his views of American Dream - it was “originally about discovery, individualism, and the pursuit of happiness” (Eble, Kenneth, F., 200). This dream was corrupted by easy money and lowered social values, the same situation is with Gatsby’s dream about his love with Daisy, his pure wish to deserve her love and her materialism. As a result his dream is ruined as his object- Daisy is not actually worth it in reality “… and Gatsby was

1. Scott Donaldson, ed., Critical Essays on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1984).

overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves, of the freshness of many clothes and of Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor.” (Eble, Kenneth, 70); the same happened to the American Dream and its objects of money and fun. The Americans in 1920s were looking for the old times when their dreams were worth something and want to return these times, Gatsby is also trying to return past: “ ‘Can’t repeat the past?’ he cried incredulously. ‘Why of course you can!’” (Miller, James E., Jr., F. 45).
Another important theme of the novel is comparison of the two rich classes – of old aristocracy and of new rich people. Daisy and Tom both belong to the first group, they are presented like people with taste, grace and elegance, whereas the people from West Egg are vulgar and lacking social taste. Gatsby in his pink coat and ignorance towards Sloanes’ invitation is the bright example of this. But the fact is that those from East Egg seem to be absolutely cold and heartless natures, not paying much attention to the people they hurt and this is well shown at the end of the novel when Tom and Daisy simply leave for a new house. “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness… They can use their wealth and position to escape whatever they choose.” (Stern, Milton R., 113).
The word - careless - is important for the ideas of the novel, the heroes of Fitzgerald - Tom and Daisy - are careless towards other people, towards each other, it is because of the ease of their lives and mindless and irresponsible style of life. Not only East Egg and West Egg are important geographical symbols of the novel, the valley of ashes represents the amoral wish for money and pleasures.

1.Eble, Kenneth, F. Scott Fitzgerald, New York: Twayne, 1963
2.Miller, James E., Jr., F. Scott Fitzgerald: His Art and Technique, New York: New York University Press, 1966
The weather described in the story as well passes to the whole mood of it. When Gatsby and Daisy are reunited, it started to rain, this rain contributed to creating an atmosphere of melancholy; as soon as sun appears their love seems to be awaken. During one of the hottest days of that summer we are the witnesses of the dramatic quarrel between Gatsby and Tom.
A very important symbol if the novel is the green light. Gatsby says to Daisy: “You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.” (Ronald Berman, 101). This green light is connected with Gatsby’s dreams and hope for good future, he considers Daisy to be this light in the darkness for him when he was looking for his goal. “In Chapter IX, Nick compares the green light to how America, rising out of the ocean, must have looked to early settlers of the new nation (Scott Donaldson, 256).
The valley of ashes was already mentioned, in this valley there is an old billboard with painted eyes on it. There is an opinion that these eyes represent God himself looking at the American people and judging them, but this association comes only to the mind of George Wilson. In a way these eyes also represent meaninglessness of the world and emptiness of its objects. Actually all the crimes of the story are unpunished and the only judges condemning the guilty heroes are these eyes.
Overall the central tragedy of this story lies not simply in the tragic love of Gatsby, not only in his death, but in the whole state of society at the time described in the novel. As it was already said the author created not simply a perfect and appealing love story, he created a kind of historical chronic of the life in America in 1920s and he paid much attention to the so-called American Dream and its presentation at that time.

1. Stern, Milton R., The Golden Moment: The Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1970.

This notion is commonly associated for me with some kind of struggle for better life, with usage of all possible and impossible factors and resources in order to win the higher positions, the higher standards of living. The idea of American dream can not be simply associated with easy money and a lot of fun. Due to some historical facts – the First World War, and to the social trends of those times in America, the notion of American Dream was severely simplified and simplified only till material wealth as the main goal. This novel can be called distinctively American, as it is about American people, about their history, about their lives and their minds, about the American society and notions of wealth and happiness. Due to its emotional and in a way philosophical presentation of the events it can not leave a reader indifferent.

1.Ronald Berman, The Great Gatsby and Modern Times (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994) and The Great Gatsby and Fitzgerald’s World of Ideas (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1997).
2. Scott Donaldson, ed., Critical Essays on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1984).


1. F. Scott Fitzgerald Centenary Home Page

2. Bruccoli, Matthew J., Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald, New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1981. 140-189

3. Eble, Kenneth, F. Scott Fitzgerald, New York: Twayne, 1963. 56-219
4. Lehan, Richard D., F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Craft of Fiction, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1966 . 85-148

5. Miller, James E., Jr., F. Scott Fitzgerald: His Art and Technique, New York: New York University Press, 1966. 44-99

6. Mizener, Arthur, ed., F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Collection of Critical Essays, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963. 89-317

7. Sklar, Robert, F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Last Laocoon, New York: Oxford University Press, 1967. 23-96

8. Stern, Milton R., The Golden Moment: The Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1970. 113-115

9. “BookRags Book Notes on The Great Gatsby.” 24 April 2006.

10. Matthew J. Bruccoli, ed., F. Scott Fitzgerald on Authorship (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1996). 98-99

11. Ronald Berman, The Great Gatsby and Modern Times (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994) and The Great Gatsby and Fitzgerald's World of Ideas (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1997). 56-156

12. Scott Donaldson, ed., Critical Essays on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1984). 248-256

13. Ernest H. Lockridge, ed., Twentieth century interpretations of The Great Gatsby: A Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968). 385-397

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