The Great Gatsby is a novel authored by an American known as F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was first published in 1925 followed by other republishing in 1945 and 1953. This book marked a departure from Scott Fitzgerald’s former work which entailed play writing. His immediate work was a play known as The Vegetable. This book was written in what is known as “the Jazz Age”. This was the period after the World War I when America experienced high economic growth. War veterans had greatly acquired wealth and decided to spend it on lavish living. During this period, selling and consuming alcohol had been banned by the constitutional amendment act. This led to many of the people becoming millionaires through bootlegging; illegal smuggling of the banned substance. This is what leads to the moral decadency in this novel where infidelity is the order of the day. The author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, brings forth the pursuit for happiness and individualism by the Americans of this time, something that has led to more pursuit of ill-gotten wealth.
The novel starts with the narrator, Nick Carraway, a Yale graduate and World War I veteran returning home to embark on a career related to selling. In New York, he rents a house in West Egg, Long Island, near Jay Gatsby’s mansion. Gatsby lives lavishly and occasionally hosts parties in his home. Nick later realizes that Gatsby bought this house because of his cousin Daisy who lives with the husband Tom in the East Egg section. They had been in love some years back but, when Gatsby was sent oversees by the army, Daisy could not wait for him any longer and decided to marry Tom. Gatsby, therefore, buys the mansion and hosts the parties with expectation that one Daisy would attend to give opportunity to win her lost love.
Nick visits Tom and Daisy in their house for dinner and, in this meeting, he meets Jordan Baker whom Daisy wants to date. Jordan later reveals to him that Tom has a mistress known as Myrtle Wilson. Tom later takes Nick to visit the Wilson at her rented apartment. This party, however, does not end well as Tom breaks her nose for shouting Daisy’s name. A later meeting between Nick and Gatsby ends up in a plan to arrange a meeting of Gatsby and Daisy. A breakthrough is realized when Daisy agrees to meet her former lover for the first time in five years. Gatsby takes this opportunity to show her around his mansion implying how wealthy he is, something that drives her with emotion. She later agrees to start the relationship once again.
A later meeting of Nick, Tom, Daisy, Gatsby, and Jordan at Plaza Hotel’s suit culminates in Tom confronting Gatsby on his relationship with Daisy. A heated exchange ensures where Gatsby is accused by Tom of bootlegging and other prohibited activities. Eventually, Daisy decides to show her love for Tom. On their way home, Daisy and Gatsby in their car knock down and kill Myrtle. Wilson thinks that it was Gatsby who was driving the car at the moment. He, therefore, invades his home and shoots him by the pool before killing himself.
Nick finds himself alone in trying to arrange for Gatsby’s funeral. Tom and Daisy have already reconciled and are on a vacation. Very few people are willing to attend the funeral, in fact, Gatsby’s father, and oak-eyed friend, a few servants, and Nick are the only people available. Nick ends his relationship with Jordan and decides to move to the western coast due to the moral decadency of those in the east coast. He is not happy because of the dishonesty that is shown by the wealthy. He loses respect for Tom and Daisy for what they have done (Bruccoli, 2000).
This novel has been written to show what materialism can do. The American society has been depicted more materialistic where the wealthy are adored and the have-nots are despised. Everyone grows up dreaming that of gaining wealth that will hopefully later make everything available. F. Scott Fitzgerald wants to show happens to those who decide to go this path of life and their eventual end. He writes this novel as a narration of the one of the major characters, Nick Carraway, who plays a major role in directing the moral teachings of the novel. He directs the audience to think the way he thinks. F. Scott Fitzgerald also bases the novel on two settings. The initial major setting is in NorthShore in Long Island. The second setting is in New York City with both of them taking place within the year 1922 between spring and autumn. The book therefore exposes the audience to the kind of life in these cities.
There is a number of themes that F. Scott Fitzgerald brings forth. These can be summed up by position. The position one holds in the society plays a major role in directing different characters in the novel. The author effectively uses these themes to explain and bring a conclusion to the thesis. Some of these themes include class, social standing, love, wealth, and gender. The American society that is shown in the novel is a socially wealthy one. Everyone is recognized on the account of what he has. This is the reason for the setting of the novel. The East Egg looks down on the West Egg due to the fact that they are of a socially high class society. This, according to the author, is the reason for the illegal business in this place. It is evident that Gatsby goes to great lengths of using any methods of acquiring wealth for the sole reason of establishing a position in the society which would help him win Daisy’s love.
Gender issues are very much used in the plot. Women are constantly used, and they seem not to have much voice. This is seen in Tom and Daisy’ family, where Tom feels he has a right and is in a position of having an affair outside marriage. He exercises much control over both his wife and his mistress. This is evident when he slaps the mistress in her rented apartment. They both feel they are in a superior position due to their wealth. This is shown when the narrator talks of Daisy as having joined a “…distinguished secret society in which she and Tom belong” (Bruccoli, 2000). Daisy also runs away after knocking down Myrtle. Nick describes them as careless people who use their money and wealth to escape after smashing up things. They are easily seen escaping any kind of trouble they make due to the vast wealth they own. Nick fails to find them for Gatsby’s burial because they have already gone for a vacation.
Most of the characters F. Scott Fitzgerald uses in this novel show carelessness in different capacities. They only think of their own satisfaction and are not ready to account for their actions. This has also affected the family life in the novel. Tom openly has a relationship with Myrtle Wilson while Daisy also goes with Gatsby with no regard for her marriage. Adultery seems to be the order of the day in this society. As much as Gatsby seems to show love to Daisy, he seems to take love as a prize. This is why he acquires the wealth to win her back. The difference between the higher class and the lower class in this society cannot be unnoticed. The higher class, the wealthy, is shown to acquire their money through illegal means. They are lazy easy-going people who lavishly spent their wealth for selfish gain. The lower class, which the Wilsons belong to, is a working class. The Wilsons have a garage where they work every day to earn their living (Shmoop Editorial Team).
The author has also used symbolism in the book. The big advertising billboard over the valley of ashes means that God’s eyes are starring down at the moral decadency of the American society, and he is ready to judge. The valley of ashes is a place where wastes are dumped. This represents the decay and filthiness of the wealthy who continue to use unscrupulous ways to attain wealth at the expense of the people like George Wilson.
F. Scott Fitzgerald has been able to effectively show how the American dream of being happy has been eroded by more pursuit of wealth at the expense of the morality in the society. He effectively uses Nick as a narrator to give the authenticity to the whole story. He narrates what he experiences and, therefore, does not depend on other sources of information. He clearly proves that the American dream is really dead going by what is happening.