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Posted on October 11th, 2012, by

In this paper we are going to analyze the well known novel by Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby. For understanding the author’s message of the novel it is first of all necessary to study the context of the novel, its main characters, themes and symbols and to investigate the role of the money in the lives of the main heroes of the novel, as having a lot of money seems to be good, but it might turn out to be ruining at the same time.

The theme of money was so thoroughly studied by the author, as he himself had to face the financial influence upon his love and happiness. Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born in 1896, he was an intelligent child but his marks at school were not that good. However he managed to became the student of Princeton in 1913. (Bruccoli, 11). At college he was not doing well either and he was taken to military service in 1917 at the same time when the First World War was ending. When he became a second lieutenant, he was sent to Alabama, where he met his love a young girl of 17 Zelda Sayre. At first she agreed to marry him, but then cancelled their wedding because of her wish for money and fun.  By the year 1920 Fitzgerald had a great literary success after the publication of This Side of Paradise. Now he had enough money to make another attempt to become Zelda’s husband. Most of these events are related to those from his novel The Great Gatsby. The narrator of the story Nick Carraway received an education and moved to New York after the war the same as the writer. The love story of Gatsby is very close to the love story of Fitzgerald himself. Being at the height of his success Fitzgerald plunged into the world of parties and fun and at the same time into writing more in order to earn money and please Zelda as much as he could. His hero Gatsby was also throwing away money when organizing crazy parties with one single aim to attract Daisy’s attention to him.

It is important to mention, that The Great Gatsby was not simply a novel, this was a real historical chronicle of the time called the Jazz Age in America, it highlights the times when because of alcohol prohibition, bootleggers earned a lot of money; chaos and violence ruled the people in America, when underground culture harshly developed and the whole America was at the state of shock after the first World War.

The value of money was mostly exaggerated at that time. With the help of the main heroes Jay Gatsby and his beloved Daisy, Fitzgerald makes the readers aware of the fact, that not love, sympathy or obsession could decide the destinies of people, but presence or absence of money was the major criteria. Daisy seems to have no romantic feelings towards her husband Tom Buchanan, however the simple fact, that he is much richer, than the person whom she loved, defines her choice in favor of Tom.  In reality Tom and Daisy are very much alike in their perception of money all their values were related to wealth and Tom strongly believed, that the fact, that he was rich, made him stand over other people. That is why he likes to boast of his money: I’ve got a nice place here. It belonged to the Demaine oil man (Fitzgerald, 12). However Tom had little respect for the new money, earned with the help of breaking alcohol or drugs prohibition. He likes not only money, but also all the beautiful and expensive things, which could be bought for money, including ponies, jewelries and even his wife. He is proud of himself, that he managed to get the girl, whom everybody would like to marry, but not because he loved her, but because this was another proof of his superiority over others.

Jay Gatsby also quickly realized, that he needed money first of all in order to be with his beloved woman, he was just too late with his wealth.

Finally the best way to show that he was rich for Gatsby was to throw money for various parties, where he didn’t even know all the guests.

This was done of the pure hope to prove to Daisy one day, that he is rich enough. This was evident to the readers, but not to the hero, that his Daisy was too much interested in presence of money and not in deep and romantic feelings, which is obvious from her reaction to the expensive things she saw in the house of Gatsby. Also her explanation, why she couldn’t wait for him was so simple rich girls can’t marry poor boys.  (Fitzgerald, 113).

The author uses the characters of Daisy, Gatsby, Tom to show what happens, when people have very strong desires to get something: on the one hand this serves as stimulus for their growth, on the other hand if these goals are fake and worthless in reality, this brings nothing more but destruction to their bearers. Another bright example of this was Dan Cody, for whom Gatsby worked for a rather long time and who had a very strong impact upon him. Cody was very rich, but at the same time naïve and light minded. As a result women used him and his money, he drank a lot and in fact his wealth brought nothing but destruction to him.

The brightest disillusionment might be traced by the main hero Jay Gatsby. He had a dream to win the heart of the woman, who he loved, and he concentrated so much on becoming a member of upper class. He became however blind to unworthiness of his aims and to real image of Daisy, who was so much idealized by him. His dream of her disintegrates, revealing the corruption that wealth causes and the unworthiness of the goal, much in the way Fitzgerald sees the American dream crumbling in the 1920s, as America’s powerful optimism, vitality, and individualism become subordinated to the amoral pursuit of wealth. (Fussel, 12).

Thus the decline of American Dream of the 1920s along with power of money over the human lives are the main themes of The Great Gatsby. There are no doubts that this is a romantic story about a man and a woman, but in reality there are deeper ideas in the novel. The setting of the story is some area of Long Island in New York and the setting plays an important role for the message of the author. The Great Gatsby is a highly symbolic meditation on 1920s America as a whole, in particular the disintegration of the American dream in an era of unprecedented prosperity and material excess (Bewley, 282). The way how American Dream is corrupted is presented with the help of crazy parties organized by Gatsby every Saturday. At those times a person from middle social background in America could make a good fortune whereas American aristocracy scorned the new rich speculators. The correlation of the old money and new money is presented in geographical symbols of the novel: East Egg is the place where the established aristocracy lived and West Egg the self-made rich.

Using his narrator Nick, the author told about his views of American Dream – it was originally about discovery, individualism, and the pursuit of happiness (Bewley, 282). The correlation of the old money and new money is presented in geographical symbols of the novel: East Egg is the place where the established aristocracy lived and West Egg the self-made rich.  Using his narrator Nick, the author told about his views of American Dream – it was originally about discovery, individualism, and the pursuit of happiness (Bewley, 284). This dream was corrupted by easy money and lowered social values, the same situation is with Gatsby’s dream bout his love with Daisy, his pure wish to deserve her love and her materialism. As a result his dream is ruined as his object- Daisy is not actually worth it in reality and Gatsby was overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves, of the freshness of many clothes and of Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor. (Fitzgerald, 182); the same happened to the American Dream and its objects of money and fun. The Americans in 1920s were looking for the old times when their dreams were worth something and want to return these times, Gatsby is also trying to return past: Can’t repeat the past?’ he cried incredulously. Why of course you can! (Fitzgerald, 141).

Another important theme of the novel, related to the theme of money influence, is comparison of the two rich classes of old aristocracy and of new rich people. Daisy and Tom both belong to the first group, they are presented like people with taste, grace and elegance, whereas the people from West Egg are vulgar and lacking social taste. Gatsby in his pink coat and ignorance towards Sloanes’ invitation is the bright example of this. But the fact is that those people from East Egg seem to be absolutely cold and heartless natures, not paying much attention to the people they hurt and this is well shown at the end of the novel when Tom and Daisy simply leave for a new house. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness They can use their wealth and position to escape whatever they choose. (Fitzgerald, 213). The word  – careless – is important for the ideas of the novel, the heroes of Fitzgerald  – Tom and Daisy – are careless towards other people, towards each other, it is because of the ease of their lives and mindless and irresponsible style of life.

Not only East Egg and West Egg are important geographical symbols of the novel, the valley of ashes represents the amoral wish for money and pleasures.

The weather described in the story passes to the whole mood of it as well. When Gatsby and Daisy are reunited it started to rain, this rain contributed to creating an atmosphere of melancholy; as soon as sun appears their love seems to be awaken. During one of the hottest days of that summer we are the witnesses of the dramatic quarrel between Gatsby and Tom.

A very important symbol if the novel is the green light. Gatsby says to Daisy: You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock. (Fitzgerald, 137). This green light is connected with Gatsby’s dreams and hope for good future, he considers Daisy to be this light in the darkness for him when he was looking for his goal. In Chapter IX, Nick compares the green light to how America, rising out of the ocean, must have looked to early settlers of the new nation  (Fussel, 52).

The valley of ashes was already mentioned, in this valley there is an old billboard with painted eyes on it. There is an opinion that these eyes represent God himself looking at the American people and judging them, but this association comes only to the mind of George Wilson. In a way these eyes also represent meaninglessness of the world and emptiness of its objects. Actually all the crimes of the story are unpunished and the only judges condemning the guilty heroes are these eyes.

Overall the central tragedy of this story lies not simply in the tragic love of Gatsby, not only in his death, but in the whole state of society at the time described in the novel. As it was already said, the author created not simply a perfect and appealing love story, he created a kind of historical chronic of the life in America in 1920s and he paid much attention to the so-called American Dream and its presentation and the role of money and its influence, it had on the people’s lives at that time. The best it is expressed in the following lines of the novel: He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night (Fitzgerald, 119). The idea of American dream can not be simply associated with easy money and a lot of fun. And the author consciously simplifies its vision in the eyes of his main heroes in order to underline the destructive power of money, if it is seen as the only aim in life.

Due to some historical facts the First World War, and to the social trends of those times in America, the notion of American Dream was severely simplified and simplified only till material wealth as the main goal. This novel can be called distinctively American, as it is about American people, about their history, about their lives and their minds, about the American society and notions of wealth and happiness.

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