The Great Gatsby, a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, takes place in Long Island, NY around the roaring twenties during the prohibition era. The novel is narrated by the fictional character Nick Carraway. Nick is a young man from Minnesota who received an education from Yale and after fighting in World War I, decided to head East towards New York City to learn and succeed in the bond business.
Nick quickly becomes close friends with his next-door neighbor, Jay Gatsby. Gatsby is an extremely wealthy man who is known for his grand parties but little is known about his background. Gatsby earned his wealth from bootlegging alcohol but he did not start out so wealthy. He grew up in a poor family but his life changed after meeting a man named Dan Cody. It is Cody who teaches him everything he knows about how to dress and live the affluent life. Fitzgerald uses the first chapter of the novel to reveal to the reader some of the major themes found throughout the work. He analyzes the idea that America is a society where anyone can rise to the top with enough hard work and live what they believe is The American Dream. The American Dream is one of the most important themes in the book.
Gatsby is introduced by the narrator as a character seeking hopeful dreams or understood as the American Dream. This dream represents the belief that anyone can attain their own version of success in society. It’s achieved through hard work and sacrifice. People abandoned their lifestyles in the 1920s to move East in search for fortune as a way of building better lives for themselves and finding their own American Dream. In addition, Gatsby is seen to the reader reaching towards something in sight but definitely out of reach. It is this green light he sees that represents his hopes and dreams of his future with Daisy and his image of The American Dream. Fitzgerald uses this symbol that people are always reaching towards something greater than themselves but that is just out of reach. He portrays Gatsby as a dreamer which is different than the characters of Tom or Daisy.
Since they came from money there is nothing for them to strive for. However, the reader learns that despite Daisy’s feelings for Gatsby, he does not win her over thus he fails to achieve his version of the American Dream.Another one of Fitzgerald’s theme in the book is that of money and wealth. It is shown when Nick’s arrives in New York. He decides to live in a small rental house in West Egg, rather than East Egg, adjacent to Gatsby’s mansion. Money and wealth is what represents their social status and how they are perceived by others. Even though both Eggs have beautiful mansions, East Egg was known to be “old money.” Money has been in the families for many generations.
West Egg, also home to the rich, was home to “new money,” people whose wealth was recently earned, as well as to working class people such as Nick. Tom comes from “old money” and acts like someone accustomed to privilege and prestige. In contrast, the residents of West Egg, including Gatsby, are members of a class of people who have only recently earned their money. They do not have to rely on their family’s old money.
East and West Egg represent the divide between the old money and the new and represent the social classes present in New York City in that time period.Fitzgerald also uses the theme of money to show that although it does have value it doesn’t necessarily make people happy in life. For example, Gatsby spends a lot of money to hold parties but really doesn’t enjoy them. His “new money” view is that he just wants to let everyone know how rich he is and more importantly to gain Daisy’s attention. But in the end, his money and wealth could not buy Daisy’s love or the happiness he desired. The Great Gatsby is a novel which portrays important themes that are related to the American society in the 1920’s.
This was an era of economic boom where people achieved their goals. They sought social mobility and economic success in their lives. Through his characters, he shows the difference between the new rich and the traditional families. Finally, Fitzgerald depicts Jay Gatsby as someone who despite his success is never able to capture his elusive dreams.