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.
 
 
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