Log in using OpenID

The Great Gatsby

By F. Scott Fitzgerald
Student Notes
F. Scott Fitzgerald
п‚— BORN on September 24, 1896, in St. Paul, Minnesota.
п‚— Intelligent child, he did poorly in school and was sent to a New
Jersey boarding school
Enrolled at Princeton in 1913
Academic troubles and apathy plagued him throughout his
time at college, and he never graduated,
Enlisted in the army in 1917, as World War I neared its end
Stationed at Camp Sheridan, in Montgomery, Alabama
Met and fell in love with a wild seventeen-year-old beauty
named Zelda Sayre
The publication of This Side of Paradise in 1920, Fitzgerald
became a literary sensation
Most of his work is semi-autobiographical
Scott and Zelda
п‚— Fitzgerald was considered the spokesman for his generation,
by extension he and Zelda were incredibly famous
 Zelda came from money, and wouldn’t marry Scott until he
published his first book, put pressure on Scott to continue
his success
п‚— The couple lived a lavish lifestyle, sometimes wild and
п‚— Lived in Europe for a period of time
п‚— Turmoil in their Marriage
п‚— Constant stress from their drinking,
п‚— Scott worked continuously to support their lifestyle
п‚— Zelda felt neglected
Tragic Endings
п‚— In 1930 Zelda was placed in a
sanatorium for a brief period
Diagnosed as a schizophrenic,
by 1932 she was in a mental
Scott still devoted to her, but
Died in a hospital fire in 1948
Now seen as a tragic icon
Feminist image of someone
oppressed by her husband
п‚— Scott struggled with drinking
through out his life, left him in
poor health
Went to work in Hollywood,
which he found degrading
Died of a massive heart attack in
Died think he had been a failure
After his death his work found a
new audience
He is recognized as one of the
most influential American
Impact on Society
 Fitzgerald named the 1920’s “The Jazz Age”
п‚— Wrote screenplays for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
п‚— Created the The Great Gatsby which is said to be the
most accurate description of the 1920’s
The 1920s
п‚— Prohibition was in effect
п‚— Made millionaires out of bootleggers
п‚— Speakeasies secretly sold alcohol
п‚— Violence of World War I left America in a state of shock
п‚— The generation that fought the war turned to extravagant
living to compensate
п‚— Conservatism and timeworn values of the previous decade
were turned on their ear
 Economy was in a “Boom”
п‚— Flappers were women who rebelled against the fashion
and social norms of the early 1900’s.
п‚— They married at a later age and drank and smoked in public
п‚— Flappers were known for their carefree lifestyles.
п‚— Dances such as the Charleston were popular
п‚— West Egg- where Nick and Gatsby live, represents
new money
п‚— East Egg- where Daisy lives, the more fashionable
area, represents old money
п‚— The City- New York City, where the characters
escape to for work and play, a place where
anything goes
п‚— The Valley of Ashes- between the City and West
Egg, where Wilson’s gas station is, desolate
Fitzgerald in Gatsby
Nick Carraway
п‚— Thoughtful young
Jay Gatsby
п‚— Sensitive young man who idolizes wealth
man from Minnesota п‚—
п‚— Educated at an Ivy
League school
п‚— Moved to New York
after the war
п‚— like Nick, Fitzgerald п‚—
saw through the glitter
of the Jazz Age to the
moral emptiness and
hypocrisy beneath,
and part of him longed
for this absent moral
Falls in love with a beautiful young woman
while stationed at a military camp in the South
Fitzgerald fell into a wild, reckless life-style of
parties and decadence, while desperately trying
to please Zelda by writing to earn money
Similarly, Gatsby amasses a great deal of wealth
at a relatively young age, and devotes himself to
acquiring possessions and throwing parties that
he believes will enable him to win Daisy’s love
Like Gatsby, Fitzgerald was driven by his love
for a woman who symbolized everything he
wanted, even as she led him toward everything
he despised
 Green Light- at the end of Daisy’s dock and visible from
Gatsby’s mansion. Represents Gatsby's hopes and dreams
about Daisy.
п‚— The Valley of Ashes- the area between West Egg and New
York City. It is a desolate area filled with industrial waste. It
represents the social and moral decay of society during the
1920’s. It also shows the negative effects of greed.
п‚— The Eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg- A decaying billboard in the
Valley of Ashes with eyes advertising an optometrist. There
are multiple proposed meanings, including the
representation of God’s moral judgment on society.
Important Quotes
 “I hope she’ll be a fool- that’s the best thing a girl can be in
this world, a beautiful little fool.” – Daisy’s description of
her daughter
 “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back
ceaselessly into the past.” –the last line of the novel
п‚— "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed
up things and creatures and then retreated back into their
money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that
kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess
they had made." – Nick’s description of Tom and Daisy
Major Characters
п‚— Nick Carraway - The narrator of the novel; moves from the
Midwest to New York to learn the bond business
Jay Gatsby - Lives next to Nick in a mansion; throws huge
parties, complete with catered food, open bars, and orchestras;
people come from everywhere to attend these parties, but no
one seems to know much about the host
Daisy Buchanan - Shallow girl who is the embodiment of
Gatsby's dreams
Tom Buchanan- Husband of Daisy; a cruel man who lives life
Jordan Baker - A cynical and conceited woman who cheats in
golf; wants Nick to go out with her.
Myrtle Wilson - Tom has an affair with this married woman,
and then abandons her after he become bored with her
п‚— Hope - represented by the light across the bay that Gatsby was
fixated on. It was the embodiment of his sole goal in life, which
was a reunification with Daisy.
Success - Gatsby felt that the only way he would win Daisy was
through his money.
Ignorance - The characters have little self-knowledge and even
less knowledge of each other.
Judgment - Nick misinterprets the advice of his father and tries
not to judge people.
Disillusionment - Gatsby dreams of getting back together with
Daisy even though she is married and has a daughter.
Morals - The morals of people with great wealth seem to be less
than desirable, but many times are more socially accepted than
lower classes.
п‚— Money cannot buy happiness.
п‚— You cannot relive the past.
п‚— If dreams are too fantastic, and reality cannot keep up
with ideals they are usually not fulfilled.
 Life is paradoxical – aspects and attitudes seem to
The Great Gatsby Narrator: First Person
(Peripheral Narrator): Nick Carraway
п‚— The story is told in the first person, through the eyes of Nick Carraway.
п‚— The primary and most visible story is about Jay Gatsby and his devotion
to his dream.
 Other stories, also told through Carraway’s eyes, include Tom’s
reconciliation with his wife Daisy, Nick’s own relationship with Jordan,
and Nick’s evolving friendship with Gatsby.
п‚— Nick Carraway is able to easily become part of the wallpaper. His major
character trait – reserving judgment – allows him to be almost an
"invisible" narrator, similar to a traditional third-person omniscient
point of view.
 Ultimately, however, if we lost Nick’s point-of-view, we would never
understand the evolution of his character. He is the invisible man until
the end of the book, when suddenly, he has opinions about everybody.
"I'm glad it's a girl. And I hope she'll be a fool- that's the best
thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.“
-- Daisy Buchanan
Nick has moved from the Midwest to work in NYC
His cousin, Daisy, lives close by with her husband Tom
He meets Jordan and first hears about Gatsby
Class is one of them most important themes in the novel
п‚— Affects the relationships of the characters
п‚— Much of the way people are treated can be linked to their class and
social position
п‚— Nick is non-judgmental but very much aware of his class
п‚— " I'm glad it's a girl, And I hope she'll be a fool- that's the best
thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”
п‚— The social position of women is criticized here.
п‚— Daisy is a witty and clever woman, far more so than her brute
husband. Yet she is the one treated as inferior because she is a
п‚— Nick sees Gatsby at the end of the chapter
 He is looking out at a green light at the end of Daisy’s dock
Nick Carraway
п‚— Nick often becomes a confidant for those with troubling secrets.
п‚— The Great Gatsby is told entirely through Nick's eyes; his thoughts and
perceptions shape and color the story. The story is revealed gradually.
Nick is the hardest character to understand in the book because he is the
narrator and will therefore only give us an impression of himself that he
would like to give. He tells the reader that "I am one of the few honest
people that I have ever known", but we see him lie on several occasions.
So it is all but impossible to get an accurate picture of Nick.
By the end of the book he is very jaded, though. When he and Jordan
break up he says "I'm thirty. I'm five years too old to lie to myself and call
it honor". So the experience with Gatsby and the others takes its toll on
him. But in the end, the reader cannot be certain of who the real Nick is.
Nick the Moral arbiter, everything is seen through his consciousness.
Carraway is the only character to exhibit, and hold onto, a sense morals &
decency throughout the novel.
Has a backbone – he will not be rumored into an engagement
 Nick’s father tells him, “Whenever you feel like criticizing
anyone, just remember that all the people in this world
haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” (p.1) Nick shares
this advice because he wants the reader to know that he is
not a man who jumps to conclusions, but has learned to give
people the benefit t of the doubt. Fitzgerald wants to
establish Nick as a credible narrator and a sympathetic
 “When I came back from the East last autumn...” (p.2) tells
reader that Nick has returned to his home in the West and is
telling the story of Gatsby through the filter of time.
 “My family have been prominent, well-to-do people…for
three generations”? (p.3) This information makes Nick’s
participation with socialites, money, and privilege believable
 “They [books on investments and securities] stood like new money from
the mint.” (p.4) The new books on the shelf could be there simply for
show, as much of what happens in East Egg and West Egg are. It is
interesting to note that the books are about investments and securities.
The fact that Nick has some of these books and intends to read them
makes one believe that he is going to earn his money legally. The author
draws a comparison (simile) between the books and mint condition.
Coming from the mint can signify new money. Gatsby represents new
money, thus highlighting the theme of social stratification.
 “Two old friends whom I scarcely knew at all.” (p.6) The phrase
containing the oxymoron “Old friends” is a term used to indicate deep
friendships, and, yet, Nick states he scarcely knows them. Perhaps this
foreshadows the fact that even though he thinks he knows them, he will
find out he knows little of them. It also suggests the superficiality of the
upper class. Daisy is a relative of Nick’s, and Tom is an old college friend.
Nick has known them a long time (old friends), but he does not know
them well. Their relationship has always been surface-level and
п‚— Personification is used to make the Buchanan palace seem
alive. The lawn appears as a runner, starting at the beach,
jumping over sun-dials, running up the wall of the house,
drawing the reader and Nick towards the house, giving the
impression things are alive here. (p.6)
п‚— Tom is described with a negative tone. Tom is a straw-haired,
bossy, muscular man in his thirties with arrogant eyes.
Fitzgerald uses words with negative connotations such as
arrogant, proud, hard, shifting, and cruel in describing Tom,
causing the reader to immediately dislike him.
п‚— Fitzgerald creates a light, airy mood in the home by having the
wind flowing through the room, lifting the curtains, ruffling
the ladies dresses. He uses a simile comparing the couch to a
balloon to add to the airy, light feeling. The girls feel paralyzed
with happiness.
 The hyperbole “The whole town is desolate,” and Nick’s
comment that follows it are used to add humor and to
emphasize the superficial boredom of the upper class.
п‚— Nick is annoyed that Tom is quick to remark he has never
heard of the bond company Nick works for. It is Tom’s way
of diminishing Nick, keeping him in his place.
 East & West Egg –
п‚— One of the most important themes in the novel is class and social standing. It is a
barrier for almost every character. East and West Egg acts as a symbol of this in its
physical makeup.
п‚— The barrier that the water creates between these worlds in symbolic of the barrier
that keeps these people apart from one another and from much of what they want.
п‚— The green light shines from the East Egg enticing Gatsby towards what he has always
wanted. And Daisy, the woman that Gatsby has always wanted but never gets, lives
on East Egg.
 The Green Light – Green the color of Promise
п‚— The green light is a multi-faceted piece of symbolism in the book. It's most obvious
interpretation is that the light is symbolic of Gatsby's longing for Daisy, but that is
too simplistic. Daisy is part of it, but the green light means much more.
п‚— Gatsby has spent his whole life longing for something better. Money, success,
acceptance, and Daisy. And no matter how much he has he never feels complete.
Even when he has his large house full of interesting people and all of their attention,
he still longs for Daisy.
 The effect of wealth – wealth is depicted as selfish &
 Morals – the morals of people with great wealth seem to
be less than desirable, but the wealthy are more socially
accepted than lower classes.
 Hope – represented by the green light, embodiment of
his single goal in life
 Ignorance – characters have little self-knowledge & even
less knowledge of each other
“The eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic – their
retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead,
from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a
non-existent nose.”
-- Nick Carraway
п‚— Nick and Tom go to NYC
 Nick meets Tom’s mistress Myrtle
п‚— Nick mentions how shameless Tom is in taking Myrtle out in public no
matter who may see them
 Myrtle takes advantage of Tom’s money by spending it on silly things
п‚— Tom and Myrtle host a small party in their apartment
 The party differs from the Buchanan’s because it is noisy and wild
п‚— It is similar because there is an air of boredom
 Nick hears rumors about Tom’s and Daisy’s marriage
 In spending Tom’s money, Myrtle becomes very arrogant towards
the less well-off, even though she and her husband have very
little money
п‚— She is in the novel as yet another commentary on wealth and class. Her
attitude exemplifies what money can do to a person
п‚— Tom's senseless attack on Myrtle goes back to the issue of
п‚— Tom need not worry about any reaction to what he does, so he has no fear
 Tom’s allegiance is to Daisy
George Wilson
 As with many of Fitzgerald’ characters, the name George Wilson is
carefully chosen to reflect certain traits and ideals.
It was President Wilson who took the Americans into WWI. During the
peace process, Wilson was outmaneuvered by England, France, and
Italy. Unwilling to compromise his ideals, Wilson set out across the
country working to “sell” his position to the Americans.
He worked himself too hard and became ill, eventually suffering a
Wilson eventually died a defeated idealist. The character George Wilson
is also a defeated idealist, living in the valley of ashes. He is unwilling to
compromise his ideals about marriage, and has become very ill in the
George is the name of the United States’ first president. Just as
Fitzgerald intends to illustrate how the American Dream has
deteriorated, George Wilson, in the valley of ashes, indicates a waste of
potential greatness.
п‚— Valley of Ashes
п‚— Represents the modern world
п‚— Physical desert = spiritual desolation
 The Eyes of T.J. Eckleburg –
п‚— These eyes are from a billboard that looks over Wilson's
garage. The eyes are always mentioned whenever Nick is
п‚— They look over the situation objectively, but offer judgment
on the characters & their actions.
 Spiritless-ness – George Wilson
 Escape – Myrtle Wilson wants to change class
 Hypocrisy – Tom’s hypocrisy, selfishness and
brutality, other people are below him, when he hurts
Myrtle he is not defending Daisy but brutalizing
п‚— Fitzgerald uses alliteration to create a musical effect. Some
examples are: railroad and runs, fantastic farm, grotesque
gardens, cars crawl, obscure operations.
 “I think he’d tanked up a good deal at luncheon, and his
determination to have my company bordered on violence.”
(p.24) This statement seems to foreshadow the fact that
Tom, particularly after drinking, may exhibit violent
tendencies. Perhaps, one of his women may experience the
unpleasantness of abuse.
 “She’s said to be very beautiful by people who ought to
know.” (p.28)Myrtle refers to “people who ought to know”
as though there are some in the society who set the
standards for others. It seems that that thought is
Nick: "Suppose you meet someone just as careless as yourself?"
Jordan: "I hope I never will."
 Nick attends the party at Gatsby’s house, where he runs into
 The guests all speculate on Gatsby’s background
п‚— No one has a real understanding of Gatsby
 He is detached from the guests in his home – aloof
п‚— Finally meets Gatsby
п‚— Gatsby uses Jordan as a go between with Nick
п‚— Owl Eyes is overwhelmed by the fact that Gatsby's library is
stocked not with the fake, cardboard backs of hooks, but with the
works themselves. He knows that Gatsby has never read the
books, however, because the pages have never been cut. “This
fella's a regular Belasco.”
п‚— The reference to David Belasco, the great playwright-producer-director of
realistic plays. Owl Eyes is the first to realize the essentially theatrical
quality of Gatsby's world. Just as Belasco was a technician who wanted to get
everything right, so Gatsby spares no expense to build the material world
necessary to fulfill his dream. Owl Eyes, as his name suggest s, is one of the
few to really see and, in some way, understand Gatsby.
Jordan Baker
 “New woman” of the 1920s, cynical & conceited woman, friend of Daisy
п‚— Jordan faces the same problems that Tom and Daisy do. She has been
born with money and has lived in a culture full of money and has been
spoiled by it.
п‚— She is surrounded by people like the Buchanans who perpetuate her
indulgent behavior.
п‚— It can be seen that Jordan has no concept of accountability and that has
been furthered by the people who allow her to go unaccountable.
п‚— Purpose
п‚— Jordan, a professional golfer, is one of a rising group of athletic stars. In the
1920s, attitudes began changing, and athletes, including women, were
elevated to a higher social status.
п‚— Character Flaws
 Careless – unconcerned about her driving
п‚— She is a chronic liar. She lies in her private life as well as in her public life as
an athlete. The reader has been warned and should not take anything she
says to heart.
 Illusion – Gatsby is an illusion, difference in
appearance & reality
 Carelessness – accident don’t understand that actions
have consequences
п‚— Nick describes Jordan as a "careless" driver. She seems
unconcerned that she drives so poorly. Nick asks,
"suppose you met somebody just as careless as yourself?'
and she replies "I hope I never will". Fitzgerald uses the
word careless to describe many of the characters
because this attitude is so closely tied to the theme of
consequence and responsibility
п‚— By holding off on his introduction of Gatsby, Fitzgerald knits a
closer relationship between the reader and Nick. Secondly,
Fitzgerald creates an air of mystery for the reader, not unlike the
mystery that Nick and the others associate with Gatsby. This
technique of delayed character revelation is also used to
emphasize the theatrical quality of Gatsby’s approach to life that is
an important part of his personality.
п‚— In the opening paragraph (p.39), is one example of polysyndenton,
“…with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers and gardenshears,” and in the second complete paragraph on page 40, the
word “and” is used eighteen times. This device is used to convey
multiplicity, to give an energetic enumeration, and to add buildup. In this particular case the polysyndenton gives the idea that, if
it can be found, Gatsby owns it. If it can be purchased, Gatsby has
it. At Gatsby’s house, the party goes on and on and on.
 Nick comments that the people at the party conduct “themselves
according to the rules of behavior associated with an amusement
park.”First, the statement draws a comparison of the atmosphere
at Gatsby’s to an amusement park: many things going on in
different places, many things to do, many drinks and food items,
many people who don’t know each other. Second, the statement
highlights the fact that the people at the party lack manners,
even to the point of showing up at a party uninvited; their
nouveau riche lack of “breeding” is what stands out to Nick.
 Fitzgerald uses the books in Gatsby’s library as a metaphor to
convey the theme of hollowness. Owl Eyes is completely amazed
that the books on the shelves are not simply hollow, cardboard
looka-likes, but are actual books. They are not there just for
show; someone could actually read them. In this class of people,
so many of them are simply hollow cardboard replicas of people
with nothing real or useful on the inside.
 “…I was looking at an elegant young roughneck, …whose elaborate
formality of speech just missed being absurd. Some time before he
introduced himself I’d got a strong impression that he was picking
his words with care”? (p.48)Since we have seen nothing ill mannered
or rowdy about Gatsby, we can assume that Fitzgerald means to
suggest that, despite Gatsby’s elegant dress and appearance, there is
something hard-looking about him. That he is “picking his words
with care” suggests he is speaking in a manner that is not entirely
natural to him, a manner with which he is not comfortable, or one
which his family has not taught to him.
п‚— Although there are many rumors regarding Gatsby, there is a clue
given to the reader about what the nature of Gatsby’s work may be, “
…a butler hurried toward him with the information that Chicago was
calling him on the wire.” (p.48) Chicago was the seat of organized
crime and bootlegging in the 1920s. The reader begins to see past the
rumors and discern that perhaps Gatsby came by his money, at least
partially, as a bootlegger.
 “…at intervals she appeared suddenly at his side like an angry diamond,
and hissed: �You promised!’ into his ear.” (p.51) As a diamond has many
facets, so does this simile. The diamond, a symbol of forever love, a
promise of undying love, is being challenged by a flirtatious, young
actress and the husband of the woman speaking. His wife was once the
diamond of his life and, as her position is challenged, the sharpness of
the diamond, the cutting aspects of the diamond, are exposed. The
diamond sharply reminds him, “You promised!”
п‚— The four motifs of geography correspond with a particular theme or
type of character encountered. West Egg is represents “new money,”
like Gatsby, and symbolizes the emergence of the newly established
aristocracy of the 1920s. East Egg symbolizes the old upper class that
continues to dominate American social life. The valley of ashes is
desolate and desperate, like George Wilson, symbolizing the decay of
American society hidden behind the facade of a glittering upper class.
New York City is an example of the chaos that Nick perceives in the
East. Setting reinforces the themes and characters throughout the
entire book.
“…those who accepted Gatsby’s hospitality and paid him the
subtle tribute of knowing nothing whatever about him.”
-- Nick Carraway
п‚— The date, July 5, 1922, is the day after Independence Day. It seems
to indicate that the people are enjoying a freedom they didn’t
fight for.
 Another party at Gatsby’s
п‚— Later Nick goes to lunch with Gatsby
п‚— Seeing the hearse is foreshadowing
п‚— Gatsby offers proof of his background, has created an image
 Nick knows he is lying, “thread bare phrases”
п‚— Nick is fascinated by Gatsby, begins to believe him
п‚— Wants Nick to speak with Jordan
п‚— Nick meets Wolfsheim
п‚— Gatsby avoids Tom
 Jordan tells Nick about Daisy’s & Gatsby’s past
п‚— Met during when Gatsby stationed in the South
п‚— Gatsby has followed Daisy, but she had forgotten him
п‚— Gatsby wants to show Daisy he has money
 Rootless-ness – Tom & Daisy have no roots, travel &
move from place to place
 Innocence & corruption – highlighted by Gatsby’s
better self & the unsavory Wolfsheim
Gatsby’s Car
 “Gatsby’s car is a rich cream [yellowish] color trimmed
with bright nickel on the outside with a green leather
interior. It is monstrous in length and has “…hat-boxes,
and supper-boxes, and tool boxes.” (p.64)
 Gatsby’s car is the symbol of his wealth.
п‚— It reinforces the theme of the American Dream, as the
car is certainly representative of that dream.
 The East Egg’s list of names includes names such as Mr. Bunsen from
Yale, Doctor Webster Civet, the Blackbucks who always gathered
together and flipped up their noses at whoever came near, Stonewall
Jackson Abrams of Georgia, and Mrs. Ulysses Swett; reputable,
American-sounding names from reputable, stuffy places. The West
Egg’s list of names includes the Mulreadys, Don S. Schwartze and
Arthur McCarty, people connected with the movies in one way or
another, Da Fontano and De Jongs who came to gamble, Gus Waize and
Horace O’Donavan, theatrical people; ethnic-sounding names from
less-reputable businesses or places. Fitzgerald meticulously names
each character to further the motif of geography.
п‚— Not only does the list offer an explanation of the makeup of the two
Eggs it is also a description of the excessive nature of these parties.
Fitzgerald wants this book to be critical of the materialism of America
during this time period. The list talks of people who were wealthy and
acted excessively in all that they did.
 Characterization – Fitzgerald first describes Wolfsheim
using caricature. He exaggerates the size of his head and
nose, and points out the “two fine growths of hair which
luxuriated in either nostril.” (p.69) Fitzgerald then alludes
to the incident with Rosy Rosenthal, a small time gambler,
involved with the underworld. The characterization of this
shady fellow further develops by drawing attention to the
fact that he eats with “ferocious delicacy” and that his cuff
buttons are human molars. (p.71) After Wolfsheim departs
from the restaurant, Gatsby informs Nick that he is the
“man who fixed the World’s Series back in 1919.” (p.73)
Fitzgerald appropriately names him Wolfsheim, meaning
wolf’s home. There is no doubt left in the reader’s mind.
This Wolfsheim is a shady character, and if Gatsby keeps
company with him, something about Gatsby must be amiss.
 Metaphor – “He [Gatsby] came alive to me [Nick], delivered
suddenly from the womb of his purposeless splendor.” (p.78)
Nick had been in the dark and confused about Gatsby, but
all of a sudden, it all made sense, no longer hidden, but
delivered and exposed. What had seemed purposeless now
had meaning. The bright lights, big parties, and carnival
atmosphere were to draw attention to his home in hopes
that Daisy might attend. The purposeless nights of staring
off into the sound at a green light now made sense; Daisy
was across the sound. Now Nick understands more of
Gatsby’s actions.
“He had passed visibly through two states and was entering
upon a third. After his embarrassment and his unreasoning joy
he was consumed with wonder at her presence. He had been full
of the idea so long, dreamed it right through to the end, waited
with his teeth set, so to speak, at an inconceivable pitch of
intensity. Now, in the reaction, he was running down like an
over wound clock.”
-- Nick Carraway
п‚— As Nick is driving up to his house, he thinks it may be on
fire, but turning the corner, he sees that it is Gatsby’s house,
lit from tower to cellar, looking like the World’s Fair. This
description furthers the mood that Gatsby’s place is much
like a carnival. By continuing the development of the
carnival like feeling, Fitzgerald conveys to the reader a sense
that, like a carnival, Gatsby or Gatsby’s money may not be
stable, may not be real, may be here today and gone
 Gatsby can’t hide his excitement that Daisy is coming for tea
п‚— He offers a job to Nick, who declines
п‚— Daisy comes for tea
п‚— Gatsby shows up and gets reacquainted with Daisy
 They go to Gatsby’s house where he shows off his processions
 Daisy’s opinions matte, Gatsby “revalues” things based on
Daisy’s reaction
п‚— Gatsby points out the green light
Symbolic of Gatsby’s longing for Daisy & wealth
Represents all that in the distance that Gatsby wants to posses
п‚— Daisy is a part of the world that Gatsby wants to be a part of
п‚— The rain outside mirrors the storms within, as Gatsby and Daisy
meet again. When Nick leaves Gatsby and Daisy alone to talk, he
stands outside under a tree and the rain sounds like their voices.
As the rain stops, signifying the end of their conversation, the
sun begins to shine. Nick perceives that silence has fallen within
his house as the sun begins to shine, and he enters the house to
find Gatsby absolutely glowing, radiant.
 Dreams – Tour of mansion is culmination of
Gatsby’s dream
 Pursuit of an ideal – Gatsby has a long-sought
reunion with Daisy & resumption of romance
 “The flowers were unnecessary, for at two o’clock a
greenhouse arrived from Gatsby’s…” (p.84) The
exaggeration (hyperbole) of the number of flowers sent
over by Gatsby emphasizes both his extravagance and the
desperateness of his quest—the lengths to which he feels
he must go in order to win his lost love.
 “The exhilarating ripple of her voice was a wild tonic in the
rain.” (p.85) is a metaphor that compares the sound of
Daisy’s voice to tonic. It is appropriate to compare Daisy’s
voice to a wild tonic since it is her voice that is intoxicating
to men. A “tonic” can also be a medicinal cure, and the
sound of Daisy’s voice is a cure for Gatsby’s longing.
п‚— The clock is like Jay Gatsby, who, when he realized he was poor
and would never get Daisy, stopped ticking. He is trapped in his
dreams just as the clock is trapped in a moment. Fitzgerald may
also be implying that Gatsby stopped growing emotionally, and is
essentially frozen in time
п‚— The self-assured, easy-going Gatsby is visibly ill at ease. He is as
pale as death with his hands shoved into his pockets. First, he is
embarrassed at seeing Daisy again. Then, he is filled with
unreasoning joy. Next, he is consumed with wonder.
п‚— Daisy cries about the shirts, She says because they are beautiful,
but, in reality, she is mourning the fact that she could have had
both money and love. Perhaps at this moment she realizes the
emptiness of her life with Tom and is overwhelmed at the
thoughts of a dream she can now not attain.
 “He had been full of the idea so long, dreamed it right through to the end,
waited with his teeth set, so to speak, at an inconceivable pitch of intensity.
Now, in the reaction, he was running down like an over-wound clock.” (p.92)
This is the second time that Fitzgerald uses a clock to compare Gatsby and
his dream. The first time, it was a broken clock, frozen in time. This time, it
is a clock that has been wound too tightly. It seems the spring will break and
uncoil. This may be used as a symbol to alert the reader that this is the
climax of the story, and it is all down hill from here. This passage reflects not
only Gatsby’s life and dream, but also reflects America in the 1920s. As WWI
ended, the Roaring Twenties began. The American dream changes as the
stock market grew. By 1929, the stock market had reached an unprecedented
level, like an over-wound clock, until the spring broke and the stock market
crashed. It is an uncanny predication of what is to come, as Fitzgerald could
not have known it when publishing this book in 1925, but he surely could
have known that the growth could not continue at this rate for long.
 “Daisy tumbled short of his dreams.” (p.95) Much of The
Great Gatsby, including symbols and themes, has to do
with, and is associated with, dreams. This statement is
filled with symbolic meaning as well as literal meaning.
Oftentimes one dreams and builds such an illusion, that
when the dream comes to fruition, it is often less than
one had hoped for. This is true for Gatsby. The romantic
vision of Daisy that Gatsby has created, much as he
created himself, dissipates as the reality sets in that
Daisy is only human. This statement also reflects the
sentiments of the American people as the elusive
American dream, once attained, also tumbled far short.
Nick: I wouldn’t ask too much of her. "You can’t repeat the past.
Gatsby: Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!
п‚— Chapter VI provides the reader with more details regarding
Gatsby’s past and points out the distinction between old
money and new money. Regardless of how wealthy one is,
what matters is the source of the money, and how long
one’s family has had it.
п‚— The reader sees that Gatsby has risen from rags to riches
through his ingenuity and resourcefulness – The American
п‚— James Gatz
п‚— Jay Gatsby is actually James Gatz from North Dakota.
п‚— At sixteen, he left home and became his own man.
п‚— He met wealthy Dan Cody and joined him on his yacht as a
personal assistant.
п‚— Cody becomes a mentor and a link to another class
 Tom and two friends arrive at Gatsby’s
п‚— Gatsby tries to remain polite
п‚— Invite Gatsby to go with them, but leave without him
 He doesn’t fit in to there “club”
 Tom and Daisy attend one of Gatsby’s parties
п‚— Tom questions how Gatsby got his money
п‚— Daisy is unhappy
 Creating own identity – Nick details Gatsby’s true
 Illusions – shattered by real history – party not up to
Daisy’s standards
 Dreams –
 American Dream parallels Gatsby’s dream
п‚— Gatsby wants to go back in time
п‚— Dan Cody is the American archetype of instant wealth
п‚— The meaning of the name Dan Cody. Dan is short for
Daniel, a probable allusion to Daniel Boone. Daniel Boone
was one of the first frontiersmen who headed for the West.
Wild Bill Cody is one of the last of the frontiersman.
Gatsby is fashioned by Dan Cody to be a type of
frontiersman—one who lives and dies in the pursuit of the
frontier of the American dream.
“He put his hands in his coat pockets and turned back eagerly to
his scrutiny of the house, as though my presence marred the
sacredness of the vigil. So I walked away and left him standing
there in the moonlight — watching over nothing.”
-- Nick Carraway
 Foreshadowing – Hot weather builds climate for the
confrontation, shows intensity
п‚— The group heads to NYC
 Tom, Nick & Jordan are in Gatsby’s car
 Gatsby & Daisy are in Tom’s car
п‚— Tom wants to take what Gatsby loves, just as Gatsby has taken what
Tom loves. Daisy slips away from Tom and says she will ride in the
coupe with Gatsby. Gatsby is not thrilled about give up his car, but,
if Daisy is with him, he will.
п‚— Tom stops for gas and finds out Wilson wants to leave town
п‚— Argument at the hotel
п‚— Gatsby says Daisy never loved Tom
п‚— Tom wants Daisy to say she never loved Gatsby
п‚— Gatsby & Daisy leave in his car
п‚— Myrtle, thinking Tom is in the yellow car, runs out into the street.
She is hit by the car and dies
п‚— Gatsby is only concerned about Daisy
п‚— Tom sees an opportunity to get rid of Gatsby
п‚— Trimalchio is a character in the novel The Satyricon
by Petronius.
п‚— Trimalchio is a freedman who through hard work and
perseverance has attained power and wealth. He is
known for throwing lavish parties.
 His background parallels Gatsby’s.
п‚— Trimalchio and Trimalchio in West Egg were among
Fitzgerald's working titles for the novel.
 Carelessness –
 Jordan not affected by Myrtle’s death
 Daisy treats Gatsby as a game – wants the security of
being Mrs. Buchanan, but like Gatsby’s attention
 Dreams – Gatsby needs Daisy to have never loved
Tom to justify his dream
 Hypocrisy – Tom defends marriage & family
 Responsibility –
 Gatsby still wants to protect Daisy – keeps watch
п‚— Nick sympathized with him
 “I’m right across from you”? (p.118) Gatsby is conveying the idea
that he and Tom are equals.
 “Her voice is full of money.” (p.120) Daisy’s voice has been
highlighted throughout the story, but it is Gatsby who is able to
identify the sound. It is full of money. She is a prize to be had.
Gatsby’s lust for wealth preserves his love for her
 “… �I just remembered that today’s my birthday.’ I was thirty.”
(p.135) This statement is significant because this is the day that
Gatsby’s dream dies. It seems as though Fitzgerald signals the
end of dreams as Nick turns 30. – the passing of youth
 “So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.”
(p.136) This statement serves three purposes. It highlights the
fact that Gatsby’s dream is dead, foreshadows an upcoming death
as twilight closes in, and works as a transition statement
signaling that the climax of the novel is over
"They're a rotten crowd. You're worth the whole damn bunch
put together.“
-- Nick Carraway
п‚— The tone is set in the opening paragraph by foreshadowing
upcoming trouble. Nick says that he cannot sleep and feels
he should warn Gatsby about something.
п‚— Gatsby finally tells Nick the truth about himself
 Gatsby’s love for Daisy is real to him
п‚— He has been obsessed with the mystique of wealth that she has
п‚— Wilson is told Gatsby was involved in the accident
п‚— The eyes of T.J. Eckleburg
п‚— Wilson: God sees everything
п‚— The eyes remind the characters of the judgment they deserve,
even if they never receive it.
п‚— The eyes make them and the reader conscious of the guilt these
people should be feeling.
 Dreams – Gatsby won’t run away = end of a dream
 Carelessness –Daisy over protected
 Social Awareness –Michaelis & Wilson the state of
ordinary man in wasteland
 Innocence & corruption – Nick tells Gatsby he’s
better than all of them
 “’Jay Gatsby’ had broken up like glass against Tom’s hard
malice…” (p.148) The simile compares Gatsby with a broken
pile of glass. Tom has broken the image that Gatsby created.
All that Gatsby says he is, and all that he hopes to
accomplish, is gone forever. His dreams are shattered; his
image is shattered. There is nothing left but a broken, empty
 Nick says, “You’re [Gatsby] worth the whole damn bunch put
together.” (p.154) Although at first glance this sounds like a
compliment, in actuality Nick is saying that even though he
knows Gatsby isn’t the greatest, in comparison to the crowd,
Gatsby looks angelic. Following this statement to Gatsby,
Nick informs the reader that he is glad he said that to Gatsby
although “I disapproved of him from beginning to end.”
“After Gatsby’s death the East was haunted for me like that,
distorted beyond my eyes’ power of correction. So when the
blue smoke of brittle leaves was in the air and the wind blew the
wet laundry stiff on the line I decided to come back home.”
-- Nick Carraway
п‚— Tom & Daisy have left without telling anyone where they are going
 Henry Gatz shows up for his son’s funeral
п‚— Nick learns that Gatsby had always been determined
п‚— Nick ends his relationship with Jordan
п‚— Nick decides that he doesn't want to live in the East anymore. He
believes that he, and all of the others, were not fit to live out in the
East and that is why they failed there.
п‚— The poor attendance at Gatsby's funeral exemplifies the ultimate
failure of Gatsby to ever achieve what he wanted.
п‚— The woman he loved was not present, she was off with her husband.
п‚— None of the people who frequented the parties over the summer
showed up
п‚— Wolfsheim, one of the few people who could be called a close friend
to Gatsby, refused to attend.
п‚— This can all be tied into the final quote about trying to grasp for that
green light. The more Gatsby tried to obtain, the less he ended up
with. Like the green light, it receded before him no matter how badly
he wanted all of it.
 Carelessness –
 “Tom & Daisy are careless people.” Tom and Daisy escape in
the end of the book. They won’t be bothered by the
suffering they cause
п‚— There was a situation they would have to face and they didn't
want to.
 Emptiness of people – contrast of parties with hundred’s
of people & a funeral with three
 Hypocrisy – Tom saddened by the loss of Myrtle, but he
cold-heartedly sent Tom to murder Gatsby
 Pride – Henry Gatz is proud of his son, sees him as Jimmy
the All-American boy
 Shallowness – Gatsby’s smile is a social weapon, it has no
п‚— Rain at the funeral the end of a dream & Autumn
setting – the end is near
 Gatsby’s schedule – hard working ambition & thirst for
 Gatsby – idealism – embodiment of spiritual
desolation & waste
 Nick – hope for moral & spiritual growth – traditional
moral codes of America
 Tom – representative of the moral wasteland which
has replaced American idealism
п‚— Gatsby uses a corrupt form of the American dream to acquire the wealth
he thinks he needs to win back Daisy.
The energy that might have gone into the pursuit of noble goals has been
channeled into the pursuit of power and pleasure, and a very showy, but
fundamentally empty form of success.
Gatsby had been in love with Daisy for a long while. He tried every way
that money could buy to try to satisfy his love and lust for Daisy.
Instead of confronting her with his feelings, he tried to get her attention
by throwing big parties with high hopes that she might possibly show up
Gatsby was actually a very lonesome and unhappy man who lived in a
grand house and had extravagant parties.
He did it all for one woman, who initially was impressed with his
flagrant show of wealth.
Daisy was extremely disenchanted after she found out how Gatsby had
acquired his fortune.
п‚— The characters in this novel live for money and were
controlled by money.
п‚— Love and happiness cannot be bought, no matter how
much money was spent.
п‚— Tom and Daisy were married and even had a child, but
they both still committed adultery.
п‚— They tried to find happiness with their lovers, but the risk
of changing their lifestyles was not worth it.
п‚— They were not happy with their spouses but could not find
happiness with their lovers.
п‚— Happiness cannot be found or bought.
п‚— Gatsby bought a house in West Egg, in the hopes that he would
win Daisy back.
п‚— He did this so that he could look across the bay to the green light at
the end of Daisy's dock.
п‚— He expected her to turn up at one of his parties, and when she
didn't, he asked Jordan to ask Nick to ask Daisy.
п‚— Fitzgerald stresses the need for hope and dreams to give meaning
and purpose to man's efforts.
п‚— Fitzgerald goes on to state that the failure of hopes and dreams,
the failure of the American dream itself, is unavoidable, not only
because reality cannot keep up with ideals, but also because the
ideals are in any case usually too fantastic to be realized.
п‚— Gatsby is naive, impractical and over-sentimental. It is this which
makes him attempt the impossible, to repeat the past.
Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices
that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes
п‚— Throughout the novel, places and settings epitomize the various
aspects of the 1920s American society that Fitzgerald depicts.
п‚— East Egg represents the old aristocracy
п‚— West Egg the newly rich
п‚— The valley of ashes the moral and social decay of America
п‚— New York City the uninhibited, amoral quest for money and pleasure
п‚— The East is connected to the moral decay and social cynicism of
New York
п‚— The West (including Midwestern and northern areas) is
connected to more traditional social values and ideals
 Nick’s analysis in Chapter 9 of the story he has related reveals his sensitivity
to this dichotomy: though it is set in the East, the story is really one of the
West, as it tells how people originally from west of the Appalachians (as all
of the main characters are) react to the pace and style of life on the East
п‚— The weather in The Great Gatsby unfailingly matches the
emotional and narrative tone of the story.
 Gatsby and Daisy’s reunion begins amid a pouring rain,
proving awkward and melancholy; their love reawakens just
as the sun begins to come out.
 Gatsby’s climactic confrontation with Tom occurs on the
hottest day of the summer, under the scorching sun.
п‚— Wilson kills Gatsby on the first day of autumn, as Gatsby
floats in his pool despite a palpable chill in the air—a
symbolic attempt to stop time and restore his relationship
with Daisy to the way it was five years before, in 1917
Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to
represent abstract ideas or concepts
The Green Light
 Situated at the end of Daisy’s East Egg dock and barely
visible from Gatsby’s West Egg lawn
 Represents Gatsby’s hopes and dreams for the future.
п‚— Gatsby associates it with Daisy
п‚— Chapter 1 Gatsby reaches toward it in the darkness as a
guiding light to lead him to his goal.
 Because Gatsby’s quest for Daisy is broadly associated with
the American dream, the green light also symbolizes that
more generalized ideal.
п‚— Chapter 9, Nick compares the green light to how America,
rising out of the ocean, must have looked to early settlers
of the new nation.
The Valley of Ashes
п‚— The valley of ashes between West Egg and New
York City consists of a long stretch of desolate
land created by the dumping of industrial ashes.
п‚— Represents the moral and social decay that
results from the uninhibited pursuit of wealth,
as the rich indulge themselves with regard for
nothing but their own pleasure.
п‚— Symbolizes the plight of the poor, like George
Wilson, who live among the dirty ashes and lose
their vitality as a result.
The Eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg
п‚— The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are a pair of fading, bespectacled
eyes painted on an old advertising billboard over the valley of ashes.
They may represent God staring down upon and judging American
society as a moral wasteland, though the novel never makes this point
Throughout the novel, Fitzgerald suggests that symbols only have
meaning because characters instill them with meaning.
The connection between the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg and God
exists only in George Wilson’s grief-stricken mind.
This lack of concrete significance contributes to the unsettling nature
of the image.
The eyes also come to represent the essential meaninglessness of the
world and the arbitrariness of the mental process by which people
invest objects with meaning.
Gatsby’s "books"
п‚— An owl-eyed man at a Gatsby party sits in awe in the library,
murmuring with amazement that all the books on Gatsby’s
shelves are "real books.”
п‚— The image works to suggest that much of what Gatsby presents
to the world is a façade; for example, he wants people to believe
that he’s a well-educated man, an Oxford man, but in fact he
only spent a short time there after the war.
 The books may represent the fact that Gatsby is a fraud – that he
has built up an image of himself that is not consistent with the
facts of his life.
п‚— But, you could also argue that the unopened, unread books
represent Gatsby himself: though there are many rumors about
who he is and how he earned his money, the facts remain
unexamined, unopened.
The Owl-Eyed Man
п‚— Owls are a symbol of wisdom, but can also be an omen of
death. Then there’s the glasses bit; a man with large eyes and
spectacles would be expected to be more perceptive than those
around him.
п‚— He is the only guest who, in doubting Gatsby, is also wise
enough to investigate further.
п‚— Moving right along to the portent of death part, did you notice
that it was the owl-eyed man who had the car accident outside
of Gatsby’s house? And that, shortly after he got out of the car,
he revealed that someone else was driving? Does any of this
sound familiar?
 The scene at the end he’s the only former guest to come to
Gatsby’s funeral. Why would that be? Exactly.
Yellow and Gold: Money, Money, Money. Oh, and Death
п‚— Gold = old money
 "yellow cocktail music" playing at Gatsby’s party where the turkeys are "bewitched to dark gold" and Jordan and Nick sit
with "two girls in yellow."
п‚— It seems clear, then, that Gatsby is using these parties to try to fit in with the "old money" crowd.
 While Gatsby buys a yellow car to further promote his facade, he’s really not fooling anyone.
 Lastly, we’ve got Daisy, who is only called "the golden girl" once Gatsby realizes that her voice, her main feature, is "full of
п‚— Yellow is not just the color of money, but also of destruction. Yellow is the color of the car that runs down Myrtle. The
glasses of Eckleburg, looking over the wasteland of America, are yellow. This dual symbolism clearly associates money
with destruction; the ash heaps are the filthy result of the decadent lifestyle led by the rich.
White: Innocence and Femininity
 Daisy’s car (back before she was married) was white. So are her clothes, the rooms of her house, and about half the
adjectives used to describe her (her "white neck," "white girlhood," the king’s daughter "high in a white palace").
п‚— At the end of the novel, she is described as selfish, careless, and destructive. Does this make the point that even the
purest characters in Gatsby have been corrupted? Did Daisy start off all innocent and fall along the way, or was there no
such purity to begin with? Or, in some way, does Daisy’s decision to remain with Tom allow her to keep her innocence?
Blue: Gatsby’s Illusions – his deeply romantic dreams of unreality
п‚— His gardens are blue, his chauffeur wears blue, the water separating him from Daisy is his "blue lawn," mingled with the
"blue smoke of brittle leaves" in his yard.
 His transformation into Jay Gatsby is sparked by Cody, who buys him, among other things, a "blue coat.”
Grey and a General Lack of Color: Lifelessness
п‚— Then there is the lack of color presented in the grey ash heaps. If the ash heaps are associated with lifelessness and
barrenness, and grey is associated with the ash heaps, anyone described as grey is going to be connected to barren
 Wilson: "When anyone spoke to him he invariably laughed in an agreeable colorless way." Wilson’s face is "ashen." His
eyes are described as "pale" and "glazed." It is then no coincidence that Wilson is the bearer of lifelessness, killing
Gatsby among yellow leaved trees.
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful?
Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Cynical & Ironic
п‚— Nick is one cynical little cookie. Even though Nick reserves explicit judgment on the
characters, Fitzgerald still manages to implicitly criticize through his narrator's tone. (Think
about how ludicrous Myrtle seems when, although she isn't upper class, she still tries to look
down on her husband.) The characters are sometimes slighted by the ironic tone, and we the
readers are forced to read with the same cynicism that Fitzgerald writes.
 Nick is all too aware of the ridiculousness of certain social circumstances; he’s also aware of the
seductive quality of the upper class, even though he feels it’s somewhat empty.
п‚— Nick also has a good grip on what he thinks is righteous or reproachable, and he hands that to
his audience as the absolute true judgment of a person or an act. For instance, take a look at
this excerpt from the last few pages of the novel, when Nick has become disillusioned with his
former acquaintances:
I couldn’t forgive [Tom] or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely
justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they
smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast
carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess
they had made....
I shook hands with him; it seemed silly not to, for I felt suddenly as though I were talking to a
Character Clues: How does the author let us know who’s good,
who’s bad, and who’s ugly? By the time you’re through with
Character Clues, you’ll be a regular Sherlock Holmes.
Social Status or Societal Position
п‚— Because social status is considered a defining quality by
the characters in the book, it naturally becomes a means
by which the reader comes to define the characters.
 That Gatsby isn’t socially in the upper class (even if he is
economically) becomes the dividing line between him and
Daisy, and arguably the blockade on the way to realizing
his dreams.
п‚— Tom is in part defined by his money.
п‚— Daisy is summed up by Gatsby when he simply says, "Her
voice is full of money."
п‚— Gatsby lives in West Egg, but Daisy resides in East Egg.
п‚— The difference in location highlights the differences
between Jay and Daisy’s societal rank.
 It’s also worth noting that Jordan, Nick, and Daisy are
all in East Egg together, while Nick and Gatsby reside
together in West Egg.
п‚— This division makes sense toward the end of the novel,
when Nick takes Gatsby’s side against the others – the
"rotten crowd."
 Gatsby ends up largely defined by his occupation –
п‚— It is because of the stigma carried by this profession that he
tries so hard to conceal it.
п‚— The illegal nature of his job is a constant reminder that
Gatsby got to where he is unnaturally; that he doesn’t really
belong in New York’s high society.
п‚— Nick, on the other hand, is "a bond man," a job that, like
Nick, is straightforward and clean.
п‚— Gatsby insists on introducing Tom as "the polo player;"
because Jay defines Tom by his physicality, Jay expresses
his impression of the man by suggesting that Tom’s work
is of a physical nature.
Speech and Dialogue
п‚— For the most part, characters in The Great Gatsby are well-
educated. Their speech and dialogue reflect this
education, which in turn reflects their wealth and social
 Gatsby’s effort to sound well-educated – Nick contends
Gatsby practices his speech
п‚— Mr. Wolfsheim speaks in a dialect that indicates his lack of
education, lack of class, and general lack of what wealthy,
snobby people in the 1920s might have called "good
п‚— The use of different dialects works to reveal the differences
between the working class and the upper class.
Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored
in a literary work
The Decline of the American Dream in the 1920s
п‚— Fitzgerald portrays the 1920s as an era of decayed social and moral values, evidenced in its overarching
cynicism, greed, and empty pursuit of pleasure. The reckless jubilance that led to decadent parties and
wild jazz music—epitomized in The Great Gatsby by the opulent parties that Gatsby throws every
Saturday night—resulted ultimately in the corruption of the American dream, as the unrestrained desire
for money and pleasure surpassed more noble goals.
п‚— When World War I ended in 1918, the generation of young Americans who had fought the war became
intensely disillusioned, as the brutal carnage that they had just faced made the Victorian social morality
of early-twentieth-century America seem like stuffy, empty hypocrisy. The dizzying rise of the stock
market in the aftermath of the war led to a sudden, sustained increase in the national wealth and a
newfound materialism, as people began to spend and consume at unprecedented levels.
 A person from any social background could, potentially, make a fortune, but the American aristocracy—
families with old wealth—scorned the newly rich industrialists and speculators. Additionally, the
passage of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919, which banned the sale of alcohol, created a thriving
underworld designed to satisfy the massive demand for bootleg liquor among rich and poor alike.
 Nick compares the green bulk of America rising from the ocean to the green light at the end of Daisy’s
dock. Just as Americans have given America meaning through their dreams for their own lives, Gatsby
instills Daisy with a kind of idealized perfection that she neither deserves nor possesses. Gatsby’s dream
is ruined by the unworthiness of its object, just as the American dream in the 1920s is ruined by the
unworthiness of its object—money and pleasure. Like 1920s Americans in general, fruitlessly seeking a
bygone era in which their dreams had value, Gatsby longs to re-create a vanished past—his time in
Louisville with Daisy—but is incapable of doing so. When his dream crumbles, all that is left for Gatsby
to do is die; all Nick can do is move back to Minnesota, where American values have not decayed.
The Hollowness of the Upper Class
п‚— One of the major topics explored in The Great Gatsby is the sociology of wealth, specifically, how
the newly minted millionaires of the 1920s differ from and relate to the old aristocracy of the
country’s richest families. In the novel, West Egg and its denizens represent the newly rich, while
East Egg and its denizens, especially Daisy and Tom, represent the old aristocracy. Fitzgerald
portrays the newly rich as being vulgar, gaudy, ostentatious, and lacking in social graces and taste.
Gatsby, for example, lives in a monstrously ornate mansion, wears a pink suit, drives a RollsRoyce, and does not pick up on subtle social signals, such as the insincerity of the Sloanes’
invitation to lunch. In contrast, the old aristocracy possesses grace, taste, subtlety, and elegance,
epitomized by the Buchanans’ tasteful home and the flowing white dresses of Daisy and Jordan
п‚— What the old aristocracy possesses in taste, however, it seems to lack in heart, as the East Eggers
prove themselves careless, inconsiderate bullies who are so used to money’s ability to ease their
minds that they never worry about hurting others. The Buchanans exemplify this stereotype
when, at the end of the novel, they simply move to a new house far away rather than condescend
to attend Gatsby’s funeral. Gatsby, on the other hand, whose recent wealth derives from criminal
activity, has a sincere and loyal heart, remaining outside Daisy’s window until four in the morning
in Chapter 7 simply to make sure that Tom does not hurt her. Ironically, Gatsby’s good qualities
(loyalty and love) lead to his death, as he takes the blame for killing Myrtle rather than letting
Daisy be punished, and the Buchanans’ bad qualities (fickleness and selfishness) allow them to
remove themselves from the tragedy not only physically but psychologically.
File Size
1 498 KB
Report inappropriate content