English Literature
The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

Shiken premium Upgrade Banner

Exploring the Themes of Love, Loss, and the Illusive American Dream in F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby'

In 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald published his renowned novel 'The Great Gatsby', which takes place in the midst of the 'Roaring Twenties' in New York. This era was characterized by indulgence and extravagance, a stark contrast to the aftermath of World War I. The novel follows the lives of a group of characters as they navigate the complexities of the time and question the validity of the American Dream.

The Storyline

'The Great Gatsby' is set in Long Island in 1922, a period marked by excessive wealth and the pursuit of pleasure. It was a decade of economic growth and consumerism, but also the prohibition of alcohol, resulting in a flourishing illegal market. The 1920s ended with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression of the 1930s.

The story is told through the eyes of Nick Carraway, a quiet and observant man, who befriends the enigmatic and rich Jay Gatsby. Both men reside in West Egg, a neighborhood known for its residents who have earned their fortunes instead of inheriting them. As Nick gets to know Gatsby, he uncovers hidden secrets and realizes that Gatsby is not who he pretends to be.

Nick's cousin, Daisy Buchanan, lives in the affluent East Egg neighborhood, where the residents inherited their wealth. She is married to the aggressive and arrogant Tom Buchanan, who is having an affair with Myrtle Wilson, the wife of his mechanic George. As Nick helps Gatsby reunite with Daisy, the two begin an affair, but their happiness is short-lived as Daisy's husband discovers their secret. In a series of tragic events, Gatsby's unwavering love for Daisy ultimately leads to his demise.

About the Author

'The Great Gatsby' was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, born in 1896 and considered one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Among his other notable works are 'The Beautiful and the Damned' and 'Tender is the Night'. His tumultuous relationship with Zelda Sayre is said to have inspired much of his writing. Fitzgerald's portrayal of the 'Roaring Twenties' is highly acclaimed, and he passed away in 1940 at the age of 44.

The Dominant Themes

The American Dream

A central theme in 'The Great Gatsby' is the American Dream, the idea that hard work and determination can lead to success and prosperity. However, the novel challenges this notion, as Gatsby's relentless pursuit of Daisy and the wealth and status she represents ultimately leads to his downfall. This highlights the elusive and often corrupt nature of the American Dream.

The Harsh Reality of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby

The American Dream, the belief that anyone can achieve success and prosperity through hard work, has been a long-held ideal in America. However, F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, The Great Gatsby, challenges this concept through the character of Jay Gatsby. Despite his humble beginnings, Gatsby believes he can attain everything he desires: wealth, success, and most importantly, his lost love Daisy Buchanan.

"I'm going to fix everything just the way it was before...She'll see." This statement exemplifies Gatsby's unrealistic hopes of reliving the past with Daisy (Chapter 6). Yet, in the end, he fails to achieve any of these things. Despite his vast wealth acquired through illegal means, he is still looked down upon by the "Old Money" elite, such as Daisy's husband Tom, who refers to Gatsby as "Mr. Nobody from Nowhere" (Chapter 7). This ultimately proves that no matter how much wealth one may possess, they will always be seen as inferior to those born into privilege. Gatsby's greatest fear becomes a harsh reality, and he tragically loses his life as a result.

Can you recall any other examples of the American Dream portrayed in literature or cinema?

The Dark Side of Love: Dysfunctional Relationships in The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is filled with examples of unhealthy and toxic relationships. Daisy and Tom's marriage is tainted by infidelity, while Myrtle's affair with Tom is overshadowed by her abusive marriage to George. Even Nick Carraway, who falls for the charming Jordan Baker, eventually becomes disillusioned and ends their relationship when he realizes she has also betrayed Gatsby.

The Turbulent Relationship in The Great Gatsby: Exploring the Obsessive Love of Gatsby and Daisy

The novel, The Great Gatsby, portrays a turbulent relationship between Gatsby and Daisy. Gatsby's love for Daisy borders on obsession, as he clings to a romanticized version of her from their youth that no longer exists.

In chapter 5, Nick reflects on Gatsby's nostalgia, stating, "There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams - not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion."

The Corrupting Influence of Wealth in The Great Gatsby: Money and Corruption at the Center of the Novel

The characters in The Great Gatsby can be divided into two categories: those with inherited "old money" and those with newly earned "new money". However, the novel reveals that money is a corrupting force. The established elite, such as Tom, Daisy, and Jordan, lack empathy and look down upon those without wealth. Their privilege allows them to believe they are above consequences. On the other hand, Gatsby, who earned his fortune through illegal means, is also not immune to corruption. While he may not be snobbish like the others, his association with the criminal Meyer Wolfshiem raises questions about his character.

In chapter 4, Gatsby explains to Nick about his business partner, stating, "He's the man who fixed the World's Series back in 1919." This implies Gatsby's involvement in a criminal underworld. Additionally, his lavish parties funded by illegal activities reveal a darker side to the wealthy lifestyle glorified in the novel. Ultimately, Daisy, who Gatsby describes as having a voice "full of money," uses her wealth to escape the consequences of her actions and abandon both Gatsby and Myrtle.

This raises the question: Would Fitzgerald have portrayed Daisy differently if she had not been corrupted by wealth?

The Literary Devices at Play in The Great Gatsby: Uncovering the Techniques Used by Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby, like any great literary piece, employs various literary devices to enhance its message and storytelling. One of the key devices used is the unreliable narrator, Nick Carraway. Although he claims to be unbiased and constantly reserves judgments, his narration raises doubts about his trustworthiness. For instance, Nick not only tells Gatsby's story but also titled it as "The Great Gatsby," suggesting a level of bias and emotional connection to Gatsby. Furthermore, his strong friendship with Gatsby, especially after his death, brings into question the accuracy of the events he recounts.

The Symbolism in The Great Gatsby: Decoding the Hidden Meanings in Fitzgerald's Masterpiece

Following the tragic death of Jay Gatsby, the East becomes a haunting reminder for Nick Carraway. F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, The Great Gatsby, is a literary masterpiece that delves into the glamorous and turbulent world of the 1920s. One of the key techniques used by Fitzgerald is symbolism, where objects, characters, and events hold deeper meanings. Exploring the various symbols used in the novel helps us understand the overarching theme of the story.

The Green Light and the Elusive American Dream

Among the many symbols in The Great Gatsby, the most significant is the green light at the end of Tom and Daisy's dock. For Gatsby, deeply in love with Daisy, this light represents hope and his longing to win her back. It also symbolizes the elusive American Dream, with Gatsby's relentless pursuit ultimately leading to his downfall. Despite his efforts, he fails to reach both the light and Daisy, showcasing the futility of chasing the American Dream.

The Yellow Car and the Shallow Lifestyle of the Nouveau Riche

Gatsby's flashy yellow car is another symbol that represents the lifestyle of the newly rich in the novel. This gaudy vehicle, which those from old money like Tom judge, reveals Gatsby's lack of sophistication and his naivety in flaunting his newfound wealth.

The Enduring Impact of The Great Gatsby on English Literature: Its Contribution to the Criticism of the American Dream

While The Great Gatsby was not initially a commercial success, it gained recognition and popularity in the mid-20th century. It has since been adapted into several films and remains a widely read novel today. However, perhaps its most significant contribution to English literature is its critical exploration of the American Dream. Fitzgerald's portrayal of Gatsby's idealism and Daisy's betrayal breaks down the facade of the American Dream, making it a popular and recurring theme in American literature.

The Main Players in The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby, a timeless classic by F. Scott Fitzgerald, features a cast of complex characters whose actions and relationships propel the story forward. Let's take a closer look at the main players in this enigmatic tale set in the roaring twenties.

  • Jay Gatsby: The enigmatic protagonist, whose illegal gains and deep love for Daisy drive the story.
  • Idealistic
  • Naive
  • Romantic
  • Nostalgic
  • Nick Carraway: The young stockbroker and narrator, who is Daisy's cousin's close friend.
  • Observant
  • Intelligent
  • Compassionate
  • Loyal
  • Daisy Buchanan: A wealthy and selfish woman, married to Tom but having an affair with Gatsby.
  • Careless
  • Selfish
  • Materialistic
  • Privileged
  • Tom Buchanan: A wealthy and deceitful polo player, married to Daisy but cheating on her with Myrtle.
  • Arrogant
  • Deceitful
  • Stubborn
  • Careless
  • Jordan Baker: An independent golfer from old money, and Daisy's close friend, who is in a relationship with Nick.
  • Aloof
  • Confident
  • Independent
  • Shallow
  • Myrtle Wilson: A lower-class woman married to Tom's mechanic, who becomes his mistress in hopes of climbing the social ladder.
  • Trapped
  • Ambitious
  • Abused

Uncovering the Key Themes of The Great Gatsby

Published in 1925, The Great Gatsby is a masterpiece that delves into the complexities of post-World War I society in America. Let's explore some of the main themes that F. Scott Fitzgerald weaves throughout the novel.

  • The American Dream: The pursuit of success and happiness in a culture of materialism and indulgence.
  • Dysfunctional relationships: The disintegration of marriages and friendships in the midst of wealth and extravagance.
  • Corruption: The decay and moral corruption hidden beneath the glamorous facade of the wealthy.

To convey deeper meanings, Fitzgerald utilizes an unreliable narrator and symbolism, making The Great Gatsby not just an entertaining read, but a thought-provoking and enduring literary work.

Understanding The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is a classic novel that tells a timeless tale of love and loss in the midst of the lavish and turbulent era of the Roaring Twenties. Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, it remains a significant contribution to English literature and continues to captivate readers of all ages.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is The Great Gatsby about?
  • The Great Gatsby follows the journey of Jay Gatsby as he tries to win back his lost love, Daisy, in the lively and tumultuous setting of 1920s New York.
  • Who wrote The Great Gatsby?
  • The Great Gatsby was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  • When was The Great Gatsby set?
  • The Great Gatsby takes place in 1922, during the Roaring Twenties.
  • Is The Great Gatsby a true story?
  • No, The Great Gatsby is a work of fiction. However, some characters may have been loosely based on real people.
  • Why is The Great Gatsby so famous?
  • The Great Gatsby's exploration of the American Dream and its critical insights into society have made it a widely studied and celebrated novel in English literature.

The Timeless Appeal of The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby has stood the test of time as a literary masterpiece that continues to captivate readers from all walks of life. Its enduring popularity can be attributed to its portrayal of universal human experiences and its reflection of the glitz and corruption of 1920s America.

As the novel centers around the pursuit of the American Dream, it resonates with people of all generations, as the desire to achieve our goals is a fundamental part of the human experience. Moreover, its vivid depiction of the Jazz Age and its underlying social dynamics makes it an engaging and relatable read for people of all ages, further solidifying its place as a timeless classic.

The Enduring Relevance of The Great Gatsby as a Reflection of American Society

For decades, the concept of the American Dream has been a prominent motif throughout American literature. Authors have used this theme to examine the values, ideals, and struggles of their society. In F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel, The Great Gatsby, this idea is scrutinized as a false promise that hard work and determination alone can lead to success and fulfillment.

Although the story is set in the 1920s, its themes and messages remain pertinent today. The pursuit of happiness and the obstacles and sacrifices one must face to attain it are still prevalent in our lives. Through the tragic and enthralling tale of Jay Gatsby, the novel serves as a cautionary reminder that blindly chasing the American Dream can have disastrous consequences.

Ultimately, the timeless appeal of The Great Gatsby lies in its ability to touch upon universal themes that continue to resonate with readers. Its deep exploration of the complex human experience and the perils of pursuing the American Dream make it a must-read for all generations, firmly establishing it as a significant contribution to the American literary canon.

Join Shiken For FREE

Gumbo Study Buddy

Explore More Subject Explanations

Try Shiken Premium
for Free

14-day free trial. Cancel anytime.
Get Started
Join 20,000+ learners worldwide.
The first 14 days are on us
96% of learners report x2 faster learning
Free hands-on onboarding & support
Cancel Anytime