The story is that of Jay Gatsby, a World War I veteran that, before going to war, fell in love with one Daisy Faye, a local debutante. The main problem is that, for the most part, Gatsby (or Gatz, as Gatsby was a name he himself chose) was your everyday farm boy from the midwest, without the wealth that he would need to ever actually wed Daisy. During the war, Daisy gets married, and Gatsby is heartbroken. In an attempt to win her back he creates a life for himself out of a New York bootlegging operation, and uses the money he amasses to buy a fabulous mansion and to throw absurd parties. Fitzgerald tells the story through the mouth piece of Nick, a neighbor of Gatsby's, a cousin of Daisy's, and a college classmate of Daisy's husband, Tom, giving it an eerie, romantic, mysterious feel that builds the character of Gatsby up to that of a legend, before tearing him down to that of a lost little boy.

The novel, called by many sources the greatest american novel, has many themes: new money versus old money, the pain of lost love and the need to move on, the class struggle, reality versus illusion, the evils of materialism, the american dream, maturity, and time.

Quite possibly the best book ever written. The themes of time, class, money, hope, loss of innocence and identity all play strong roles in this literary tour de force.

While the novel's central plot is Gatsby's pursuit of Daisy Buchanan, a much more interesting -- and ignored -- topic of the book is the role of Nick Carraway. Nick, being the narrator, says very little about himself, instead describing the events before him as they unfold. He is not terribly introspective thinking much more about Gatsby than about himself. However, he is quite possibly the most interesting and crucial character in the book.


Optiks: While the book is definitely about the American Dream, the American Dream is a very personal thing in Gatsby. And yes -- there is a hollowness to it, but there is also a beauty which I see. Just because the American Dream can never be realized does not mean that one should not try -- indeed, it is a Dream and not a reality, after all, and almost everyone in their own way has their own Dream. The appelation American simply comes from the land and status tied to this dream of something that came from the percieved social mobility and huge tracts of land that brought so many to this country -- it is a country built on a dream -- just a dream, but a glorious dream.

The real tragedy of Gatsby lies in Gatsby's unwillingness to accept that his dream is just an outward manifestation for his Soul's Yearning for SOMETHING so that, having projected all the meaning of the world to himself onto Daisy, having attained her, he has no way of going on. This is a much older story -- about the dangers of imposing your God onto an earthly form. Gatsby in many ways mirrors Moby Dick, with Gatsby as Ahab, Daisy as the Whale, and Nick as Ishmael -- once again, the main character's obsession with a reflection of his soul in the world is what kills him. For more detail see American Gnosticism.

The Great Gatsby is novel that deals with the theme of remaking one's self. It is about taking your life and making a radical change toward what you perceive as better. In the end Gatsby is destroyed by himself and the grim spectre of Social Stratification.

In the past, the United States was wide open to settlers, and there were limitless possibilities. It is that for which Gatsby yearns. He is trying to regain that past of possibility before his life became stratified. It is the tragedy of our existence that with each passing moment and each decision we make, we kill infinite future possibility. Each thing we do, and each thing that happens to us becomes a part of our definition. And a definition is exactly that: a limit. Every second we are more and more limited. And since America had progressed without him while Gatsby was away during the war, he was thrown back into his life wishing for the past. The sad fact was that he could never regain that past, he could never regain what he wanted. In vain he attempts to reinvent himself, and open up his life by destroying and hiding his past.

But simply destroying who you are cannot affect the world outside of you. And so he fails in his quest to regain the past life, because society exists as a limit to who he can be, and his past still exists as a limit to who he can be. He couldn't destroy his past desire for Daisy, and so he could never truly be happy, because he was never truly reinvented, his past still haunted him.

With the utmost respect to all of you, I must disagree with your views on Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby.

After a careful analysis of the novel, I have discovered that it is really about the pursuit of happiness and an empty and hollow American Dream. The novels symbols help to develop this idea in may ways.

For instance, the Green light at the end of Daisy's dock is one symbol of the unattainable American Dream. Nick observes Gatsby one night with his arms outstretched to the light in the distance, a strong symbol of how unattainable Daisy truly is.

When one takes into context how imporant Daisy is, the idea of an unattainable American Dream begins to become clear. Owl Eyes makes a comment regarding Gatsby's library and how if one book were to be removed, the entire library could colapse. Comparatively, if Gatsby cannot obtain the affection he desires from Daisy, his dream (a dream of self-made success, happiness, wealth and Daisy) will be crushed.

The idea that this dream will ultimately fail and be destroyed is symbolized as Gatsby walks away from Nick when he informs him that he cannot repeat the past. The ground Gatsby walks on is covered in "fruit rinds and discarded favors and crushed flowers," foreshadowing his demise.

The Great Gatsby and the Superficial Frauds of the 1920’s

F. Scott Fitzgerald was a very influential author throughout the 1920s because he expressed the personality of the time. The 1920s were known as the “roaring 20’s”, and they were known for the large amounts of wealth, sophistication, and carefree innocence that were enjoyed by the upper class. The era was also known for prohibition, an idea that was supposed to bring purity and innocence back to America, but prohibition really just encouraged more people to drink. Excessive drinking, carefree innocence, and the shallow idea of sophistication are some of the topics explored throughout The Great Gatsby. In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald expresses how the sophisticated society of his age was actually a superficial fraud when he writes about Nick going to his first Gatsby party.

Nick is introduced to the superficial fraud of society for the first time when he goes over to visit Tom and Daisy Buchanan. Daisy and Tom are a sophisticated couple that lives in East Egg, and their sophistication and wealth instantly impresses Nick. According to Tom, anybody that is important in society lives in the East, and he expresses this when he says, “I’ll stay in the East, don’t you worry. I’d be a… fool to live anywhere else”. Tom and Daisy are at the peak of eastern sophistication, and everyone goes along with their shallow ideas, even though they are not always moral. The immoral actions of Tom are explored when he receives a phone call from his mistress during dinner. Tom’s affair with Myrtle is very public and is accepted by almost everyone, and Jordan enjoys gossiping about the affair. Jordan’s nosy attitude is expressed when Fitzgerald writes, “Miss Baker leaned forward unashamed, trying to hear. The murmur trembled on the verge of coherence, sank down, mounted excitedly, and then ceased altogether” (Does Fitzgerald not have a beautiful way with words?). Jordan has no shame for any of her actions throughout the novel. In fact, she is often proud of them. She enjoys telling Nick about Tom’s affair with Myrtle, and he is completely disgusted. Nick is more moral than Jordan is, and when he hears about the phone call, his first instinct is “to telephone immediately to the police”.

While at the Buchanans’, Nick gets his first lesson in the fraud of sophistication, and he realizes that the East isn’t as picture perfect as it seems. The disillusionment of Nick is just one theme in the novel. There is also the theme of the unreachable goal or Green Light, which I found interesting. However, as I am a great fan of romantic innocence, Nick intrigued me more than the other characters, such as Daisy Bleh!

Corruption of the American Dream

In The Great Gatsby the corruption of the American dream is the main theme. The belief behind the dream was that any person, regardless of national origins, could succeed in life on the sole basis of their own abilities and effort. This idea was central to the theory of the self-made man. The novel is about what happened to the American Dream in the nineteen-twenties when the older values that had given substance to the dream were corrupted by the vulgar and relentless pursuit of wealth. The “Valley of Ashes” quote represents this twisted dream, and depicts metaphorically the lives of Tom, Daisy, and Jordan. They are the “foul dust” in that representation of the twenties.

Tom Buchanan "had been one of the most powerful ends that ever played football at New Haven- a national figure in a way, one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anticlimax." Tom is also very wealthy, as his purchase of a string of polo ponies from Lake Forest demonstrates. This combination of monetary wealth and power, along with his large size, give Tom a sense of superiority and cause him to be arrogant. When Nick first meets Tom, Tom tells him about a book he is reading, titled “The Rise of the Colored Empires.” This book warns that if this uprising is not stopped, the minorities will eventually overwhelm the “superior” whites, which Tom clearly believes. Also, later on in the book Tom takes Nick to meet his mistress, Myrtle Wilson. During this meeting, Tom further demonstrates his feelings of superiority when he casually breaks Myrtle’s nose for calling out Daisy’s name. Tom and Daisy are described as “careless people, who smash things up and retreat into their wealth and let other people clean up their messes.” This is an apt metaphor for Tom, who cannot understand why Nick has animosity towards him after Gatsby’s death. Tom feels that he was merely protecting his wife. Despite Tom’s feeling of justification, when Nick talks about the “foul dust” following in the wake of Gatsby’s dream, he is referring directly to Tom.

Daisy was born Daisy Fay, and her name has meaning. “Fay” means a sprite or fairy, and “Daisy” refers to the flower. The flower is mostly white, which represents purity. However, that is merely superficial. Daisies are also yellow, the color of money and the corruption it can bring. Daisy’s character is best summed up by one of the most famous quotes in the book, from a dialogue between Nick and Gatsby. “’She’s got an indiscreet voice,’ Nick remarked. ‘It’s full of –‘ Nick hesitated. ‘Her voice is full of money,’ Gatsby said suddenly.” Daisy’s voice, like money, seems to promise more than it can give. She seems born to disappoint, and is the kind of woman it is better to dream of having, rather than to actually have. Unlike Tom, Daisy does not use her personality or body size as a tool to control others. Instead, when things do not go her way she cries and hides inside the protection her money provides.

Dishonesty is the most powerful quality of Jordan Baker. She is aggressive and strong, and a golfer who is so hardened that she will do anything to win. When Nick tells of Jordan’s first major golf tournament, he talks of her being accused of moving her ball to cheat. However, while the incident is being investigated, all of the eyewitnesses retract their testimony. This occurrence proves that she is a smart woman, willing to do whatever she must in order to succeed. Jordan symbolizes a new type of woman who evolved in the twenties. She is self-sufficient, and adopts whatever morals suit her. Her name is somewhat masculine and her body is athletic, representative of her strides towards equality. Also, she is very blunt and cynical, as well as being completely cut off from old society due to her almost complete lack of family.

Tom, Daisy, and Jordan, with their hollow, empty lives, are the characters represented as the formless bodies of ashes in the valley of ashes. The ashes themselves are symbols of dead, with new, more arrogant and self-centered people being borne of them, like a phoenix. Each new generation is worse off than the one it sprang from, adding further dementia to the American Dream.

Can true love be attained? Is there any purity or virtue left in the modern world? Can hope and idealism survive the cynical realities of life? F. Scott Fitzgerald's tragic The Great Gatsby examines these uncomfortable questions amid an upper-class milieu of corruption and dashed hopes. Like many other classic works of literature, Fitzgerald's novel produces in the reader a "healthy confusion of pleasure and disquietude." Despite Gatsby's stirring quest for love, he seems doomed by the "extraordinary gift for hope" (page 2) that first seems a blessing to Nick Carraway, the story's narrator. The Great Gatsby questions our most closely held beliefs about the powers of love and honor, of the virtues of success, the certainty of perception, and life itself.

Simply, The Great Gatsby is a story about the search for true love. Unlike other stories of the same nature, however, Fitzgerald's doesn't present an idealized or romantic view of such a venture. Gatsby is a member of the nouveaux riches, The object of Gatsby's love is Daisy Buchanan, an upper-class debutante whom he met in Louisville five years earlier. Daisy's rich status entices Gatsby, but like so many characters in love stories, he knows that his low-class standing can never be compatible with hers. Despite this obstacle, the facetious "sense of security" he gives her in "[letting] her believe that he was a person... from the same social status as herself" (pg. 149) allows the relationship to continue. Gatsby does not at first see their relationship as 'true love-' "he had intended, probably to take what he could and go." (pg. 149) Perhaps ensnared by fate or true love, perhaps just seduced by her wealth, Gatsby finds that he has "committed himself to the following of a grail." (pg. 149) Gatsby's love takes on an aspect of archaic Romanticism, an artifact from some forgotten Arthurian time of chivalry and honor. This honor is tainted from the start, however. It is the "mystery of wealth" and "the freshness of new clothes" (pg. 150) that attracts Gatsby, not purer concepts of beauty, chastity, or virtue. It is his love for Daisy- impure love or impossible- that damns him: "He knew that when he kissed [Daisy], and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God." (pg. 112) He abandons a possibly glorious future, a chance to climb a "ladder" that, "if he climbed alone," would allow him to "suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder." (p. 112) This is a reversal of classic themes-love is no longer the greatest virtue; it has been superceded by something more solitary.

After Gatsby is forced to abandon Daisy for the war, she grows distant, "nervous" and "despairing." (pg. 151) Daisy turns to something more immediate- Tom Buchanan, a rich and eligible young man- financially stable, though domineering, unfaithful, sometimes cruel, and possibly abusive. Upon his return from Europe, Gatsby sets out to rewin Daisy. Here he unknowingly begins an even further corruption of his love for Daisy. Wealth seems to be the key, so Gatsby sets out to procure his own fortune. Thinking only of the past and planning only for the future, he enters the tutelage of Meyer Wolfsheim, a Jewish gambler and con-man. Like Faust, he 'sells his soul' in pursuit of a virtuous goal-like Faust's desire for infinite knowledge, Gatsby desires an impossible 'true love' that faded years ago. Also, like Faust, he meets a tragic end and is abandoned by his mentor.

Eventually, through bootlegging, fraud, and other shady dealings, Gatsby amasses a fortune, purchasing a mansion directly across the bay from Daisy and Tom's New York home. He throws lavish parties, hoping to attract Daisy like she once attracted him. When this fails, he turns to Nick Carraway, his accidental neighbor-and cousin to Daisy. Gatsby encourages Nick to set him up with Daisy, hoping that she will remember her love for him. Unfortunately, Gatsby ignores the moral failings that continue to pollute his love, planning to seduce Daisy and to destroy Tom and Daisy's marriage. Though the reader may sympathize with his plan-after all, Tom is unfaithful-it seems that a perfect love cannot be accomplished at the pain of others. Nick warns Gatsby of the dangers of his actions- "I wouldn't ask too much of her," he says, "You can't repeat the past." Gatsby, not comprehending the futility of his yearning search, replies incredulously, "Can't repeat the past? ...Of course you can!" (pg. 111) His inability to accept such a fundamental truth emphasizes his inability to cope with loss and modern life- he is a relic from a Romantic age, unsuited to reality. Gatsby triumphantly confronts Tom: "Your wife doesn't love you... She's never loved you. She loves me." Despite Gatsby's momentary victory, Daisy wavers and ultimately betrays him. "I did love him once," she says, "-but I loved you too." (pg. 133) Tom regains control, and Gatsby's fate is sealed. Tom allows Gatsby to drive Daisy home, "toward death." (pg. 137) A distraught Daisy pilots Gatsby's car, driving recklessly and killing Tom's mistress Myrtle, who believes that Tom is in Gatsby's car. Gatsby becomes a martyr, refusing to tell anyone that Daisy was driving at the time of the hit-and-run accident. Myrtle's devastated husband Wilson, thinking Tom responsible for her death, goes to Tom's home, where Tom tells him who really owned the car that killed Myrtle. Wilson kills Gatsby and then himself. Gatsby simultaneously loses his love, his hope, and his life, doomed by idealism. Faithfulness to these virtues has paradoxically led to Gatsby's downfall. The reader is made to wonder whether any of these can survive in the corrupt modern world.

The uncertainty of morality that is explored in Gatsby's search for love is coupled with explorations of other philosophical uncertainties. Fitzgerald's writing, oddly enough, seems to reveal a premonition of the existentialist movement in philosophy, which did not fully emerge for another sixteen years. After his rejection by Daisy, Gatsby's life is devoid of meaning- he has "paid a high price for living a single dream." (pg. 162) The existential movement has roots in the concept of a meaningless and absurd existence, one that creates a feeling of 'nausea' and 'existential angst' in human beings. "He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass," (pg. 162) writes Fitzgerald, foreshadowing existential philosopher Jean Paul Sartre's first novel, Nausea. Nausea explores the altered perceptions of a young Frenchman who similarly recognizes the meaninglessness of life. This perception of a meaningless and arbitrary world is frightening to the observer- yet everyone can sympathize with the feeling of listlessness that accompanies a great loss.

The symbolic character of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg in Gatsby explores additional frightening territory. Eckleburg is an advertisement for an ophthalmologist, whose retinas "one yard high" (pg. 23) survey the wasted landscape separating the homes of Gatsby and the Buchanans from New York City. Eckleburg, presiding over "the valley of ashes," seems to symbolize God himself, watching over the sin-poisoned Earth. Wilson seems to recognize this in his agony, seeing the eyes of Eckleburg as he questions his wife about her affair. "You can't fool God!" he says, "God sees everything." Yet God, however omniscient, seems powerless over the world. Amazingly, the corrupted Gatsby himself is compared to God or a messiah, both independently and through the character of Eckleburg. "You resemble the advertisement of the man," says Daisy, "You know the advertisement of the man-" (pg. 119) possibly alluding to Eckleburg. "He was a son of God," muses Carraway, "and he must be about his Father's business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty." (pg. 99) That God can be manifested through a corrupt human- not a sinless one like Jesus- that He is powerless, and that His creation can be described with a term like meretricious: denoting a prostitute, or something tawdrily attractive, is an intensely frightening concept. Gatsby's spiritual dimension is enhanced by his martyr-like assumption of responsibility for Tom and Daisy's "vast carelessness." (pg. 180)

In addition to its sometimes disturbing philosophical and spiritual insights, The Great Gatsby presents a harsh social commentary. Jay Gatsby seems, at first, the epitome of success and the triumph of the 'American Dream-' a poor mid-western farm-boy who went to war, came back to the city, and made good. In this he seems to embody the spirit of the 'roaring twenties-' prosperity, plenty, and partying. Gatsby's life has been driven by a constant striving for perfection. Born Jay Gatz, son of "shiftless and unsuccessful farm people," his current identity is an invention. "Jay Gatsby... sprang from his Platonic conception of himself." (pg. 99) Gatsby's infinite hope that he might attain a perfection that is of its essence unreal and unattainable leads to his doom. The 'American Dream' is a similar quest for perfection that does not lead to fulfilling lives- only to hollow, phony existences like those of the upper-class people in the novel.

The novel's very narration comments on reality, emphasizing its subjectivity. Nick Carraway, although a seemingly superior narrator because he is "inclined to reserve all judgements" (pg. 1) and is a natural confidante, cannot be omniscient or completely unbiased. Rumors fly in the company of the upper-class, and many characters deliberately lie to serve their own purposes. Nick, and thus the reader, never knows the depth of Gatsby's illegal and immoral activities- Tom hints at "something [Gatsby has] on now that [Tom's informant] was afraid to tell [him] about." (pg. 135) Even Gatsby's death is surrounded by mysterious circumstances. His servants are in the employ of Wolfsheim, and they initially ignore the shots that take Gatsby's life. Gatsby constantly receives cryptic phone calls, one of which Nick intercepts. Gatsby is involved in something shady- is his death connected to this? The reader never really knows. Ambiguity pervades the narration, since Nick does not know the motivations of the other characters. At the novel's close, he comments that "after Gatsby's death the East was... distorted beyond my eyes' power of correction." Reality is influenced by perception, which is a subjective and individually relative process. This realization further damages the idea that perfection or absolutes- true love, the Platonic ideal, honor, virtue- exist.

Gatsby's life and death resonate within the reader, while serving as a reminder of mortality and other concepts that threaten to remove the anchors of denial and inattention that sometimes seem to make life possible. His futile striving for perfection is universal. Like Gatsby, "we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." (pg. 182) Gatsby's tragic death, unachieved aspirations, and unattended funeral reveal that human life itself can be a tragic process.

WARNING: Spoiler Alert!
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was published in 1925, and it still is read and revered today. It is a classic of historical fiction, emerging from the time period of the roaring twenties.

It tells the story of a mysterious rich man and his former sweetheart. Narrarated by a young man, the story winds eloquently around the decadence and materialism that faced the affluent-particularly in Upstate New York, in the 1920’s before the Great Depression. All the drama that is illustrated in the novel inspired a film in 1975, and seemingly the invention of the Soap Opera. Along with Ernest Hemingway, Fitzgerald was one of those writers who always had it all in their writings- drama, romance, murder, lust, and other little quirks of fate.

Nick Carraway, who is narrarating the story, is a man who comes from a semi-affluent family, living easy most of his life besides fighting in the War. He knew Tom Buchanan, an "enormously wealthy" (10) young man, in college, and Daisy is Nick’s second cousin.

Daisy Buchanan is a young woman- in her early twenties-who is naïve and submissive- she knows Tom, her husband, is cheating on her and not speaking up for her own good. Myrtle, Tom’s mistress, is a brash and annoying character. She is older than Daisy, yet she is much more immature and stupid. She and Tom cause a main conflict in the story-they fight against all that is good and draw attention to themselves. Nick and Daisy seem to be passive, standing by, yet we root for them.

Jordan Baker is a professional female golf player, a modern woman with a touch of cosmopolitan flair. Jordan is the one who connects Nick and Gatsby, and consequently, Gatsby back to Daisy.

Jay Gatsby, however, is a different story altogether. You never know, until the end, if he’s a "good guy" or a "bad guy." He’s very mysterious- no one seems to know where his wealth comes from, or where he went to school, or even his real name. Mystery shrouds his whole being – even at the end, the picture of Jay Gatsby is not completely painted.

The Great Gatsby begins with Nick condemning judgments and investigating the human psyche. A big surprise, since most books begin with "I’m so-and-so, and this is my story." That’s the great thing about The Great Gatsby- it’s so very unpredictable.

He explains that it was "a matter of chance" (9) that he should end up in the West Egg of upstate New York, 50 yards across the bay from Daisy and Tom, and next to Jay Gatsby, who he did not know at the time. Upon meeting Tom again, his impression of him changes perspective from how he felt about him in college days. Instead of the young, vibrant Tom, he is now gruff and racist. Here, we are introduced to Jordan Baker, who becomes the fancy of Nick later on. Even as this is a flashback, nothing is told as to what will happen ahead.

Tom and Nick quickly renew their friendship, and Nick quickly discovers Myrtle. Tom doesn’t hesitate to introduce Myrtle to Nick as his "girl". It becomes obvious here that Tom is no good. Daisy is very aware of it all. Her prediction for her daughter- "And I hope she'll be a fool-- that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool" (21) sums up her passive and boring feelings about women.

Soon after, Nick is invited to one of Gatsby’s grand parties. There are about three pages just describing the splendor of this get-together, down to the womens' dresses. The host himself never shows up, but rumors abound to what he does, who he is, and why he has so much money. Some say he was a bootlegger, some say he once killed a man. The whole mystery shrouding Gatsby’s existence is so profuse, not even the guests attending his part know the real him. To his surprise, Nick is called into the house for a personal introduction to Jay Gatsby. Looking back on it all, we know this is just Gatsby’s way of

getting to Daisy. Not that he’s using Nick. His whole world was destroyed when he lost Daisy, and he just wants that perfection and love back in his life. Nick, however humbled by his offer of lunch with Gatsby, is still suspicious. He demands to know who he really is.

"He’s just a man named Gatsby." (53) Jordan explains.

Nick begins to know Gatsby better, and finds that “to his disappointment, Gatsby had little to say” (68). No sooner does Nick think these thoughts than Gatsby reveals himself-or so Nick thinks-to him. He explains that he came into money because his relatives were all rich people in the west, and that he was educated at Oxford because it was a family tradition. Nick recognizes Gatsby in an Oxford photograph and subsequently believes in the glories of his past.

Next we meet Meyer Wolfsheim. Though not a huge character, he is Gatsby’s connection to organized crime and general debauchery. He is a close friend of Gatsby’s, which tells us a few things about Gatsby himself…

Flashback to 1918. Daisy’s wedding day, Jordan discovers Daisy drunk in the bath, yelling out that she’s "change’ her mine" (81). Jordan eventually got her back in her senses, and she marries Tom. Daisy has their child, and went to France for a year. One thing always leads to another, and they moved to New York.

"But it wasn’t a coincidence at all." (83) Daisy explains, "Gatsby bought that house so Daisy would be right across the bay."

This becomes evident in the next chapter, when Gatsby, via Nick, invites Daisy over one afternoon. It becomes apparent that they are both still in love, and Nick watches sickeningly as Gatsby tries to impress her with his wealth and pompadour. With his toilet of gold and the incident of throwing his expensive shirts around the room, we see that even the most innocent and sweet sort of love, their real love, cannot be real in their world. It is too poisoned with materialism and greed.

"He hadn't once ceased looking at Daisy, and I think he revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-loved eyes. Sometimes, too, he stared around at his possessions in a dazed way, as though in her actual and astounding presence none of it was any longer real." (96).

Eventually, it all becomes too much for Gatsby. Proclaiming "Your wife doesn’t love you. She’s never loved you. She loves me!" (137) to Tom, explaining that Daisy only married Tom for his money. Tom says that he doesn’t care, and that even though he has his "sprees" (138), he always comes back to Daisy. Gatsby and Daisy leave, and later in the evening, the others head for Long Island.

Coming back, they stumble onto a startling surprise. Myrtle, Tom’s mistress, was struck by a car and killed. After a little deliberation and description of the car, the group figures out that it was Gatsby’s car that did the deed. Gatsby explains to Nick that he was driving, and that Daisy forced him to drive on.

The scene shifts from West Egg to the valley of ashes, where George Wilson (Myrtle’s husband) has sought refuge. Wilson assumes that the driver of the fatal car was Myrtle's lover, and decides to punish this man for his sins.

He seeks out Tom Buchanan, in the hope that Tom will know the driver's identity. Tom tells him that Gatsby was the driver. Wilson drives to Gatsby's mansion; there, he finds Gatsby floating in his pool, staring contemplatively at the sky. Wilson shoots Gatsby, and then turns the gun on himself. It is Nick who finds Gatsby's body. He reflects that Gatsby died utterly disillusioned, having lost, in rapid succession, his lover and his dreams.

After his death, many revelations come of Gatsby. One of them is that he has a father, Henry Gatz, who is now an old man, left helpless and distraught by the death of his son. He, Nick, and Owl Eyes, the mysterious lurker; are the only ones present at Gatsby’s funeral. Tom and Daisy have skipped town, and Meyer Wolfsheim refuses to attend.

Nick and Jordan break up, it is soon revealed that she is a treacherous cheat at her game, and she soon claims to be engaged to another man. Months later, Nick runs into Tom Buchanan on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Tom admits that it was he who sent George Wilson to Gatsby's; he shows no remorse, however, and says that Gatsby deserved to die. Nick reflects that Tom and Daisy are capable only of cruelty and destruction; they are kept safe from the consequences of their actions by their fortress of wealth and privilege.

Nick, sickened and shocked by the whole ordeal, is determined to return to Chicago. He feels that he, Daisy and Tom, Gatsby, and Jordan are all out of place in the East, being Westerners, and that they all possess some sort of insufficiency that makes them incompatible with Eastern life. To Nick, the East; more so after Gatsby’s death, all seems gross and ghostly, while the West is idyllic and pleasurable as a scene on a postcard.


Quotes in italics, from The Great Gatsby: The Authorized Text, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, copyright 1992, Simon and Schuster.
Node your homework, I'm told. OK.

In The Great Gatsby how does Fitzgerald present a vivid picture of America in the year of prohibition and what criticisms of the American Dream is he making through the character of Jay Gatsby?

The Great Gatsby is much more than a mere denunciation of the ‘American Dream.’ Fitzgerald shows the dream to be something that is aesthetically beautiful, and in fact, as a dream, it functions properly. Yet the underlying purpose of the book is, I believe, a warning; just like Moby Dick before it. Jay Gatsby has projected his personal Deity onto a human form; Daisy Buchanan, yet once he has placed all meaning in life upon an earthly object, when he finally attains Daisy his dream collapses. He realises that there is nothing more to life than abstractions, and human life is a process of seeking these abstractions.

His house, cars and wealth are all outwards manifestations of his dream but these will never replace the dreams themselves, and thus he will always be unhappy. Fitzgerald is almost telling us to take a long, hard look at Gnosticism, just as Melville did when he showed Ahab as a character whose existence was sapped of all meaning when he places all meaning on a human, attainable entity. Don;t put your faith in a doll! Don;t put something on a pedestal! Shakespeare warned of this is Twelfth Night, as did Tennyson when he wrote Mariana.

To the user Optiks (and it's interesting to note that that is his only writeup - did he rush to E2 depserate to express his disgust for a writeup on "The Great Gatsby"?), I say think about it: the book isn't about one thing. Its about lots of things, and never forget that, as Philip Larkin said, "the poet can only warn." Literature isn't, as far as I can see, about casting moral judgement. I don't really now any classics where the author pours scron upon a particular idea.

The Great Gatsby is not Fitgerald spitting at the American Dream. In fact, he's almost opening our eyes to the fact that it's a dream and it's beautiful but hey, be careful, it is just a dream!

Just as Carraway is about to talk to Gatsby, ‘he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone – he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away.’

Although the symbolism is thrust upon the reader a little obviously (it's almost patronising), Fitzgerald looks at Gatsby’s attempt to capture his soul’s abstractions with a mixture of pity and disgust. The ‘trembling’ of Gatsby’s hands suggests Fitzgerald is drawing parallels with Gatsby’s fixation and some sort of mental or temporary body disorder, and the analogy is, perhaps, apt considering the book is set during prohibition.

The restriction of alcohol is used by Fitzgerald as a metaphor to show the manner in which people are forced to live in reality, and thus all success can only be material.

Gatsby aspires to transcend this limited reality, and, as Melville says, ‘grasp the ungraspable phantom of life.’ The fact that Gatsby reaches out to this light next to the sea is also significant, in that it symbolises false gnosis: Gatsby sees his own reflection in the water and, like Narcissus before him, must impose this onto the external world.

Nick Carraway, however, realises that to achieve this ultimate goal one must only look inside oneself. He expresses disgust at the unnecessary ‘aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired,’ and thus makes an important point. I do not believe (and judging by the other writeups, neither do E2 noders) Fitzgerald is condemning the American Dream. It is a dream and thus separated from reality. Nor is Fitzgerald claiming that material success will invariably lead to destruction. The failing, I believe, lies with human desire to believe that the ultimate goal is in the external world; it is not, and any search for it there is futile. Fitzgerald’s setting is American in the 1920s, during prohibition and this provides the Romanticism that Gatsby desires; however, his attempts at chivalry are laced with irony because the purity he sees in Daisy is nothing more than a reflection of his own soul, and furthermore, he sees precisely what he wants to see.

The purity and innocence that are present in Daisy’s very name are collapsing, and even if they are present, what meaning do they have in the modernist world that Fitzgerald presents? When Carraway tells him otherwise, Gatsby says, “Can't repeat the past? ...Of course you can!" Grappling with his fading dreams, Gatsby sets out to recreate archaic concepts of true love and purity in the ‘valley of ashes.’ The valley itself is also symbolic, in that it suggests the characters are already dead. Physically, their bodies function but Fitzgerald suggests that they live for the past or the future, never in the present.

The cities that Fitzgerald presents are similar, in fact, to Eliot’sunreal city,’ where the lavish parties that Gatsby throws are merely bizarre shows of wealth; charades that the characters put on to assert their normality and to suppress the mental anguish they suffer. Indeed, the absence of a God or an ethical compass results in a haunting guilt that pervades each and very character and manifests itself as ‘the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg.’

These eyes are not only moral guardians however; they function as an ironic symbol of the lack of self-awareness. Gatsby, like the giant eyes, looks everywhere for his ultimate goal; everywhere except inside himself.

The Great Gatsby is one of our set texts for A2, along with Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Straight from the off I’ve preferred Gatsby. Although Tess is a nice story, I prefer novels with less lengthy pontifications about fate and all that. At least Gatsby gets to the point and leaves you with a lasting impression.

So today in class we were going over the novel for the first time after most of the class read it. I have read it twice now. But my teacher was reading the last page of the book today with us,and the last paragraph just hit me like it hasn’t before.

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning - So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

— F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 9”

So this is the final paragraph in the book. If you haven’t read it, it is essentially a love story of Jay Gatsby attempting to revive his teenage romance with the now rich and snobbish Daisy, set amongst the moral vacuum of 1920s America. But in the end, Gatsby’s dream is ruined as Daisy is unable to escape the purposeless and unfulfilling life she now leads.

This quote really struck me for some reason. I think what Fitzgerald is trying to say that,despite the sadness of the last part of the book, is that what Gatsby believed in was good and true, and therefore encouraging us to do the same. The dream was impossible to achieve as time went on (“that year by year recedes before us”), as it sometimes feels like when you are trying to do something but it just keeps getting further away. But the thing is that you should always keep trying harder (“run faster,stretch our arms out further”) until it something stops you.

The last part of the quote is the bit I like the most. As a novel set on two islands, the boat metaphor is good,especially the current thing. That whole feeling of a force against you. And “borne back ceaselessly into the past” is such a beautiful line. However much anyone tries to move into the future, you often find things from the past hinder what you try to reach. Constantly being moved back into the past, yet pushing against it. Gatsby wanted to recreate his youth but it’s impossible (“Can’t repeat the past?…Why of course you can!”),which I think is a hard thing for most of us to accept, even after nearly 100 years since the book was set.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.