The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
In this book, F. Scott Fitzgerald has created
a social satire of America in the 1920’s in which he exposes the American
Dream as being inherently flawed and merely an illusion produced by idealism.
This American Dream has been traditionally associated with the pursuit
of freedom and equality. It offered the fulfilment of human desire for
spiritual and material improvement. However, what became quickly apparent
was that the materialistic side of the dream was achieved to quickly and
easily and left behind the spiritualistic development. A state of materialistic
well being emerged, but lacking in purpose. Although the dream has
established progress, prosperity and democratic principles, there is still
evident class conflicts, corruption and exploitation.
Jay Gatsby, the main character, is undoubtedly
the most prominent example of both the successes and the failures of this
dream. The exhibition of material wealth which Gatsby’s mansion represents
also forms the location for a series of lavish parties, a feature of the
novel which helps to add to our perception of the era - a post war
period of gaiety and wild enjoyment. Whilst the parties are attended by
all manner of people from both East and West Egg, this is not supposed
to be seen as any reflection of Gatsby’s popularity amidst society, in
fact few people who were in attendance at the parties with Nick Carraway,
his curious neighbor, had even met their host.
As conveyed to us through the aspect of Nick
Carraway, the parties serve as a device to expose the values and attitudes
of society outside the limited focus of the principal characters. Through
the variety of society in attendance at the parties, a common element becomes
apparant - the artificial, insincere and hollow nature of the guests themselves.
We have already touched upon the sheer disrespect which is shown towards
Gatsby as the host of the parties, only Nick shows a genuine desire to
meet Gatsby out of courtesy. In a sense, Gatsby’s idealism was ultimately
the cause of the parties and the parties are the cause of the deceit, fraud
and self absorption which thrives there.
Gatsby’s success in achieveing material wealth
however has not achieved it’s initial goal, in that Gatsby’s wealth has
not been able to buy back Daisy. The pursuit of wealth, we discover has
been fired by Gatsby’s idealism and unquenchable hope that Daisy would
return to him if he were to match the wealth of the man she married, irrespective
of the fact that she is married. Similarly in the case of Myrtle Wilson
whose affair with Tom Buchanan shows similar disregard for their respective
marriages, shows the values of that period.
Myrtles affair and eventual tragic death
are also directly linked with societal constraints. In establishing an
affair with Tom Buchanan she has also made an attempt to cross the class
barrier - such an attempt is desitined to failure with the emphashis which
is placed upon class in society at that time. Myrtle’s death
at the hands of Gatsby, the American Dream personified, can only
be seen as Ironic and esssentially tragic.
In the end, all of their character's were
doomed by the illusions of wealth and short fallings of society.
Idealism destroyed realism afterall. In their vain attempts to grasp
at life, they ended up dying at the feet of what they viewed as happiness.
I would definately reccommend this book for the emotions it brings forth
and the societal statements it makes.
A word about the author:
F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in Minnesota on September 24, 1896.
He later married a woman named Zelda. He published The Great Gatsby
in 1925. He wrote several short stories and novels in his lifetime.
He had one daughter, Frances, whom he sent to barding school at age 14
as he could no longer afford to house her. His wife had a nervous
breakdown and lived out the rest of her life in a mental institute.
Fitzgerald died an ill, impoverished, and seemingly unsuccessful alcoholic.