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Great Gatsby Themes Essay, Research Paper

In The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, many themes are enclosed; the most

salient of these themes is related to the American Dream. The American Dream is

based on the idea that any person, no matter what they are, can become

successful in life by his or her hard work. The dream also embodies the idea of

a self-sufficient person, an entrepreneur making it successful for themselves.

The Great Gatsby is about what happened to the American Dream during the 1920s,

an era when the dream had been corrupted by the relentless pursuit of wealth. In

this novel, the pursuit of the American Dream and the pursuit of a romantic

dream are the ultimate causes of the downfall of the book?s title character,

Jay Gatsby. Throughout the story, Jay Gatsby avoids telling the truth of his

hard, unglamorous childhood. He does this to keep his superficial image of

himself and to save himself from the embarrassment of being in a state of

poverty during his youth. His parents were lazy and unsuccessful people who

worked on the farm, and because of this Gatsby never really accepted them as his

parents. Jay Gatsby?s real name is James Gatz and he is from the very

unexciting North Dakota. He changed his name to Jay Gatsby when he was seventeen

years old, which was the beginning of his version of the American Dream. In all

realities Gatsby arose from his Platonic view of himself, the idealistic

self-view that a seventeen year old boy has of himself (Fitzgerald 104). Though

concealed for most of the story, Gatsby?s embarrassing childhood is a major

source of determination in his attempt to achieve the American Dream. During

Gatsby?s early adulthood, he joined the army. He first met Daisy when he was

at Camp Taylor and he and some other officers stopped by her house. He initially

loved Daisy because of her extraordinary house and because many other men had

been with her already. One evening in October, during 1917, Gatsby fell in love

with Daisy Fay, and in turn she fell in love with Gatsby. ?Daisy was the first

?nice? girl that he had ever known? (Fitzgerald 155). Their love was an

uneasy one at first for Gatsby to comprehend because he wasn?t rich by any

standards and he felt that he wasn?t worthy of Daisy?s affection, but his

uneasiness was uplifted when he and Daisy fell in love and when he found out

that Daisy knew a lot because he knew a variety of things that she didn?t.

Their month of love was physically ended when Gatsby had to go to war, but their

emotional love never ended. As Gatsby performed brilliantly throughout the war,

they wrote each other frequently. Daisy couldn?t understand why Gatsby

couldn?t come home. She wanted her love to be their with her, she needed some

assurance that she was doing the right thing. It didn?t take long for Daisy to

get over Jay because in the Spring of 1918 she fell in love with a rich, former

All-American college football player named Tom Buchanon. This broke Jay

Gatsby?s heart. His love for Daisy was a strong one and he was determined to

get her back. This first love with Daisy had a great impact on his idea of one

of the aspects of achieving the American Dream. Throughout the novel, the reader

is mislead about how Gatsby became wealthy. Gatsby claims on several different

occasions that he inherited his parents? immense fortune. This is a story that

Gatsby made up in order to keep his self-image up by not letting people know

about his childhood. The truth is that Gatsby got rich by illegal measures. He

was friends with the notorious Meyer Wolfsheim. Meyer Wolfsheim was the

racketeer who supposedly fixed the World Series of 1919. He was Gatsby?s

connection to organized crime, in which Gatsby became rich. Gatsby?s true

sources to richness were selling bootleg liquor in his chain of drug stores and

creating a giant business to get rid of and sell stolen Liberty bonds (Mizener

188). Gatsby?s methods of gaining wealth corrupt the morality of the American

Dream although they help him to achieve it. It did not take long for Gatsby to

attempt to win Daisy back after he returned from the army. Jay Gatsby had this

romantic view of Daisy and himself together and happy forever. He felt the best

way to achieve this idea would be for him to become at least as rich as

Daisy?s husband Tom Buchanon. He knows that the best ways for him to pry

Daisy?s affection away from Tom are gaining wealth and gaining material

possessions. Daisy is a shallow woman who is easily overwhelmed by material

items. Gatsby?s main way to show off his wealth and material possessions were

to throw lavish parties. His parties featured the finest drinks and live jazz

bands. The parties were so huge that Nick Carraway, Gatsby?s best friend and

the narrator of the book, alluded to them as the World?s Fair. Not only did

the parties fulfill Gatsby?s reasons for having them, but they also showed his

grand sense of pride that stemmed from his richness. Gatsby and Daisy are

finally reunited by Nick at Gatsby?s request. This is Gatsby?s second chance

for him to show off his wealth and to win Daisy back. Gatsby uses this meeting

to show Daisy what he has become through his possessions (Way 103). Daisy is

amazed when she experiences the extravagance of Gatsby?s house. When Gatsby

throws his imported shirts all around the room, she begins to cry because she

realizes that she has missed out on so much of Gatsby?s life. It is at this

moment, when the dream that he has strived for is right in front of him, that he

realizes that Daisy isn?t as perfect as he imagined her to be. This is clearly

evident to Nick who thinks that: ?There must have been moments even that

afternoon when Daisy fell short of his dream- nor through her own fault, but

because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond

everything.? (Fitzgerald Chapter 5) This is the first point in the novel which

shows that Gatsby?s dream can never be fully achieved, yet it is also his

dream being achieved because he is finally back with Daisy again even though she

is still with Tom. The beginning of the downfall of Gatsby?s dream occurs when

Tom suspects that Daisy is cheating on him with Gatsby. His hypothesis is proven

correct when he, Gatsby, Daisy, Nick, and Jordan Baker, are at a hotel in New

York holding a conversation which breaks out into an argument. It is during this

argument that Tom finds out that Jay Gatsby and Daisy have been in love for five

years and that they have never stopped loving each other. As Tom and Gatsby

argue it becomes evident that Daisy does not know which man she wants to be with

because she is in love with both of them because both of them are rich. All

Gatsby wanted was for Daisy to tell Tom that she never loved him, but she could

not do that. She knew that it would be a lie if she said that so she simply said

to Gatsby, ?I did love him once- but I loved you too.? This statement opens

the well into which Gatsby?s dream will eventually fall because it shows that

Daisy is not Gatsby?s woman alone Tom begins the undermining of Gatsby?s

idealist concept of himself by making Gatsby realize that he isn?t what he has

made himself out to be. He makes Gatsby see that he does not appear to people in

the way that he thinks of himself. Tom describes Gatsby as a ?bootlegger,

cheap swindler, and a crook.? These few comments shattered Gatsby?s

self-identity because of it?s fragileness (Way 99). Tom washed all of the

effort and determination that Gatsby had put into becoming what he was and

earning what he received, even though his methods were illegal, with a few

minutes worth of speaking. After the argument, Gatsby can feel a minor sense of

victory because Daisy refuses to speak to Tom and when they are leaving, Daisy

leaves with him. On the way back to the suburbs, Gatsby allows Daisy to drive

his car. While driving, Daisy hits and kills Myrtle Wilson, the lady Tom is

having an affair with. Gatsby and Daisy keep on driving and they act like

nothing ever happened. Later that evening, Nick learned from Gatsby that Daisy

had been driving when Myrtle was killed in the hit-and-run accident. Gatsby?s

love for Daisy causes him to be willing to take the blame if the blame if the

death was traced back to his car. If Daisy?s love for Gatsby was based on true

love, instead of wealth and material items, then she would have stepped up and

confessed to her crime especially since she was riding in Gatsby?s car and it

could easily be assumed that he was the killer. Daisy was not concerned with the

well- being of Gatsby and this is shown when she is back at home conversing with

her husband, over cold chicken and ale, instead of worrying about what might

happen to Gatsby. Gatsby, on the other hand, worries that whole night about

Daisy. He worries that Tom might beat on Daisy when he gets home. These things

never happen but it is the fact that Gatsby was concerned about her well- being

and Daisy was not concerned with Gatsby?s well- being that is important. She

is just a shallow person who does not know the meaning of the word love. She is

caught up in the times and in living the moraless and careless lifestyle that

she leads. She could care less about what happens to anyone except for herself.

This whole situation proves that she is definitely not deserving of the high

pedestal that Gatsby has placed her on (Internet 1). This is the greatest blow

to his romantic dream of him and Daisy being together forever because she

chooses Tom over Gatsby in a time of crisis. It shows that the man that she

truly wants to be with the most is the man she is living with now. Gatsby

realizes this and his life begins to be pointless. This is his dream brought to

reality. The dream is completely dissipated and will knows it will never be

achieved. It did not take long for George Wilson, Myrtle?s husband, to trace

the yellow car which killed his wife back to Jay Gatsby. Because George Wilson

wants revenge for his wife?s death, and he believes it is Gatsby who killed

his wife, he goes to Gatsby?s estate and kills Gatsby and then himself. This

is the tragic end of Gatsby?s life. All of his heroism, his rapid rise to the

top, all brought to a calamitous end because Daisy did not love him as much as

he loved her. Although Gatsby?s romantic dream was already dead, his version

of the American Dream was still alive and beaming. He still had everything going

for him; his youth, money, and personality. Gatsby is morally superior to his

fellow East Eggers and Nick acknowledges this when he tells Gatsby, ?You?re

worth the whole damn bunch put together. (Fitzgerald 162).? To have it all

taken away for something he had not even done was the greatest misfortune of the

entire novel. Gatsby?s death is made even more saddening at his funeral. Nick

tried to make Gatsby?s funeral respectable but only he, Gatsby?s father, and

one of Gatsby?s acquaintances attended the funeral. None of Gatsby?s

racketeering friends came, nor did the ?love? of his life, Daisy. Nick truly

cared about Jay Gatsby although nobody else did. He exemplified what a true

friend is and did what only a friend would do for another friend. Daisy did not

seem to feel a tiny bit of sadness over Gatsby?s death. This is shown in her

not attending his funeral and instead going away with Tom on a vacation. ?In

the end, the most that can be said is that The Great Gatsby is a dramatic

affirmation in fictional terms of the American spirit in the midst of an

American world that denies the soul (Bewley 46).? Gatsby?s strong desire for

wealth and Daisy, the American and romantic dream respectively, prove to be the

greatest reasons for his grave downfall at the hands of a ruthless


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Dream.? Modern Critical Views: F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ed. Harold Bloom. New

York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1985: 32-45. Mizener, Arthur. ?F. Scott

Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby.? The American Novel: From James Fenimore Cooper

to William Faulkner. Ed. Wallace Stegner. New York: Basic Books, Inc.,

Publishers, 1965: 180-191. Scott Fitzgerald, Frances. The Great Gatsby. New

York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1925. ?The Great Gatsby by F. Scott

Fitzgerald.? Online: School Papers, Microsoft Network, November 19,1997. Way,

Brian. ?The Great Gatsby.? Modern Critical Interpretations. Ed. Harold

Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986: 87-105.