The Great Gatsby


by Scott Fitzgerald
"The Great Gatsby" by Scott Fitzgerald embodies many
themes; the most salient one relates to the corruption of
the American Dream. The American Dream had always been
based on the idea that each person no matter who he or she
is can become successful in life by his or her own hard
work. The dream also embodied the idea of a self-sufficient
man, an entrepreneur making it successful for himself. The
Great Gatsby is about what happened to the American dream
in the 1920s, a time period when the dream had been
corrupted by the avaricious pursuit of wealth. The pursuit
of the American dream is the sublime motivation for
accomplishing ones goals and producing achievements,
however when tainted with wealth the dream becomes devoid
and hollow.
When the American dream was pure, motivation and ambition
were the driving forces. "He stretched out his arms toward
the dark water in a curious way...and distinguished nothing
except a single green light" (Fitzgerald, 26). This shows
how Gatsby was striving for his goal, trying to accomplish
it but not finding it to be within realistic reach. This
quote relates to Gatsby's daily agenda and how in his
earlier days he upheld the pure American Dream: "No wasting
time at Shafters, No more smoking or chewing, Read one
improving book or magazine per week, Save $3.00 per week,
Be better to parents" (Fitzgerald, 181-182). Nick says "I
became aware of the old island here that flowered once for
Dutch sailors' eyes-a fresh green breast of the new world"
(Fitzgerald, 189). This quote shows the pristine goals of
individuals whose possibilities were endless; one could
accomplish anything through hard work.
 These were the times of the 'roaring twenties'. Cars were
the things to have and a party was the place to be.
Everybody wanted something. Scott Fitzgerald's book, The
Great Gatsby, describes the events that happen to eight
people during the summer of 1922. In the book, people went
from west to east because something they desired was in the
east; unfortunately in the end those 'somethings' were
 Nick went to the east to make money. He was from the
Midwest, and even though his family was doing quite well in
the money department, Nick wanted to make his own money. By
going from the Midwest to the east, Fitzgerald shows Nick's
desire to become self-sufficient, one of the aspects of the
American Dream. After spending the summer in the east, and
seeing how money affects people, he decides to go back west.
"I see now that this has been a story of the west, after
all-Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all
westerners and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in
common which made us subtly unadaptable to eastern life."
In other words, after finding out what the east was really
like, Nick lost his interest in being in the east and
returned to his roots in the west. Gatsby came east looking
for another type of wealth - Daisy's Love. Gatsby and Daisy
had last seen each other about five years before, when they
were dating. Then Gatsby had to go to fight in the Great
War. While Gatsby was away in the war, Daisy met Tom and
then married Tom. Daisy had always been rich and Gatsby
thought that in order to get Daisy back, he needs to have
money so that he would be able to give Daisy anything she
wanted. He found out that Daisy was in the east so he
followed her there to get her back.
"...I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out
the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a
long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed
so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it."
The green light is of great significance in the novel,
Great Gatsby. This symbol is depicted throughout the novel.
It is first mentioned in the first chapter of the novel. At
first, it was no more than a green light. When it is
further examined in chapters four and five it becomes more
evident that this green light is not Daisy, but a symbol
representing Gatsby's dream of having Daisy. The fact that
Daisy falls short of Gatsby's expectations is obvious.
Knowing this, one can see that no matter how hard Gatsby
tries to live his fantasy, he will never be able to achieve
it. Through close examination of the green light, one may
learn that the force that empowers Gatsby to follow his
lifelong aspiration is that of the "American Dream." 

 Nick realized what Gatsby did not. Right after he spoke of
Gatsby seeing the light on the dock, he said:
"...He did not know that it was already behind him,
somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city,
where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the
Fitzgerald uses the green light as a symbol of hope, money,
and jealousy. Hope signifies the center of the dream, but
jealousy and the lure of money pollute it. Gatsby is a
noble man whose vision is fouled by his dream because he
remains in a "wonder" at Daisy's presence throughout the
 The loose morality of Dan Cody, Gatsby's unfortunate role
model, and the superficial people who flock to Gatsby's
parties contribute to Gatsby's downfall. Their example
encourages Gatsby's interpretation of The American Dream:
his naive belief is that money and social standing are all
that matter in his quest for Daisy. The self-absorbed
debutantes and their drunken escorts are among those who
"crash" his extravagant soirees. As Nick Carroway tells us,
"People were not invited- they went there." (Fitzgerald,
40) Shallow, corrupt people like Jordan Baker gossip with
reckless abandon about their mysterious host. Their
careless, superficial attitudes and wanton behavior
represent Fitzgerald's depiction of the corrupt American
 Gatsby is indeed morally superior to the other characters
in the book, but this superiority is another factor which
contributes to his ultimate misfortune. No matter what we
think of Gatsby or of his dream, we are drawn to him by the
sad apprehension that dreams themselves are often more
beautiful than dreams fulfilled. Nick realizes this, too,
when he says: "There must have been moments even that
afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams -nor
through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality
of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond
everything." What Gatsby and Daisy have is so much more
than an endeavor; it's beautiful, more intense, and,
finally, more painful in the end. There is both a joy and a
sadness in a love as great as theirs. In some ways Gatsby
is morally superior than the society at the time, but this
moral superiority is the cause of Gatsby's disillusioned
dream, and inevitable fate.
Gatsby's character is probably the single most important
factor in the story of his life and death, but Daisy and a
society which rewards corruption play a part as well. F.
Scott Fitzgerald's depiction of the soured American Dream
dramatizes the internal and external forces at work in a
modern tragedy about human potential for corruption. The
American dream became corrupted and its main aims became
wealth and power. Gatsby became corrupted because his main
goal was to have Daisy, at all costs; this is the way a man
should love a woman, except when that love sacrifices his
morality. Gatsby sacrificed his own soul in order to please
the lost soul of Daisy. Perhaps the poverty in which James
Gatz found himself was partly responsible for his obsession
with a rich girl like Daisy. "Her voice is full of money"
(Fitzgerald, 127). Gatsby needed to have an enormous
mansion so he could feel confident enough to win Daisy. "
'That huge place over there?' 'Do you like it?' ' I love
it.' " (Fitzgerald, 95). The tainted dream was so empty
that having accouterments of wealth could even incite
feelings of love. Jay Gatsby had all the trappings of
wealth: a huge mansion, fancy clothes, and expensive cars.
His lavish, decadent parties were designed to impress
Daisy. But why did Gatsby feel he needed to flaunt his
material wealth to win Daisy's love? Why was he so
materialistic, and why are we? Are material possessions
what we need to be happy? Part of the answer is that people
"seek in material possessions fulfillment that is lacking
in other areas, especially human relationships"
(Schmookler, 18). The very fact that our market society
feeds on economic growth like a fetish is a clue that
excess consumption does not really satisfy. It is like an
addiction. We can never have enough. A famous study done in
the early 1970's by Richard Easterlin, entitled "Does
Economic Growth Improve the Human Lot?" found that "members
of wealthy societies do not seem happier than members of
poor societies (Easterlin, 119)." Perhaps the poor are
better off, for they are more connected in their
interpersonal relationships; a wealth of this sort is far
more valuable that gold and diamonds.
The American Dream became so focused on money that any
means of a obtaining it were condoned, even if those means
were unscrupulous. Determined to marry Daisy after
returning from the war, Gatsby is blind to her shallow,
cowardly nature. He is unable to see the corruption which
lies beyond her physical beauty, charming manner and
playful banter. That she is incapable of leaving her brutal
husband, Tom, of committing herself to Gatsby despite his
sacrifices, escapes him. As Nick observes, Gatsby's
expectation is absurdly simple: "He only wanted her to tell
him [Tom] that she never loved him." (Fitzgerald, 91) Daisy
is not worthy of the pedestal on which she is placed. Since
she is hollow at the core, so is Gatsby's dream which is
based on an idea, and not substance. The character of Daisy
Buchanan has many instances where her life and love of
herself, money, and materialism come into play. Daisy is
constantly portrayed as someone who is only happy when
things are being given to her and circumstances are going
as she has planned them. She is forever looking forward to
showing off, and she exhibits such behavior when she
parades her daughter around in front of guests like an
inanimate object. So intimate in fact, that it seems as if
Pammy was not even really wanted.
"In June 1922, Nick records Daisy's statement that her
daughter is three years old. Daisy married Tom Buchanan in
June 1919. If her child is indeed three, then Daisy was
nine months pregnant at her wedding. ... The age of the
child is a clue, planted by Fitzgerald, to Daisy's
premarital promiscuity or even an indication that Pammy is
Gatsby's child... It might also be asserted that Daisy's
mistake in Pammy's age was intended by Fitzgerald to
indicate her indifference to the child." (Bruccoli 38)
Daisy seems to be the character that turns Fitzgerald's
story from a tale of wayward love to a saga of unhappy
Gatsby's own characteristics, especially his willful
obsessions, contribute to his fate. Despite his naiveté
about Daisy and her friends who "are rich and play polo
together," he, too, has been seduced by the lure of money
and fame. Unable to control his obsessive desire to have
Dasiy, he cares little about the means by which he acquires
the money to marry her. He associates with known criminals
such as Myer Wolfsheim, appears to be involved with
bootlegging, and is rumored to have killed a man. Finally,
he lies about himself and his family to enlist Nick's
support of his grand quest. The means he uses to achieve
his goal pervert his sacred dream. He prefers the pretty
illusions he concocts to the harsh reality of the obsession
he allows to corrupt his life.
 The result of this corruption is that the motivation and
ambition vanished and the dream was left with the pursuit
of an empty goal. This is displayed when Daisy says "Do you
always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss
it? I always watch for the longest day of the year and miss
it." This quote shows the lack of motivation and
meaningless life to which the empty rich society had turned
to. Another result of this corrupted dream is the dearth of
the idea that each person no matter who he or she is can
become successful in life by his or her own hard work. The
absence of this ideal is shown when Tom says "The idea is
if we don't look out the white race will be utterly
submerged. It's all scientific stuff; it's been proved"
(Fitzgerald, 17). Ignorance and the idea of amassing wealth
for oneself to show off had become prevalent, whereas in
the pure American Dream, striving to accomplish ones' own
personal goal was the main focus. The American Dream is
about motivation and hope that one can achieve his or her
personal goals. The dream should be reasonable, or else its
integrity and simplistic moral beauty is lost. "Gatsby's
story is a story of failure - the prolongation of the
adolescent incapacity to distinguish between dream and
reality, between the terms demanded of life and the terms
offered."(Troy, 21-22). Gatsby turns to doing things that
violate his nature in order to pursue his dream. The Dream
should never be centered on money and other materialistic
things but on a deeper goal: a goal which transcends the
physical realm, and delves into the inner spirit. After
all, the physical things in life are merely representations
of the spiritual; our bodies are expressions of our inner
souls, the means by which we say "I love You". The painting
is never as beautiful as the painter.

Quotes: Search by Author