The Great Gatsby

The Eulogy of a Dream

The central theme of <I>The Great Gatsby</I> is the decay of the American Dream. Through his incisive analysis and condemnation of 1920s high society, Fitzgerald (in the person of the novels narrator, Nick Carraway) argues that the American Dream no longer signifies the noble pursuit of progress; instead, it has become grossly materialistic and corrupt. Fitzgeralds novel is structured as an allegory (a story that conceals another story): the terrible death of Jay Gatsby is, by extension, the death of the American Dream.

For Fitzgerald, the true American Dream is characterized by a spirit of perseverance and hope; through these, one can succeed against all odds. This ideal is embodied by the young Gatsby (then James Gatz): he meticulously plans the path by which he will become a great man in his "Hopalong Cassidy" journal and then follows it, to the letter. When Mr Gatz shows the tattered book to Nick, he declares, "'Jimmy was bound to get ahead. He always had some resolves like this or something. Do you notice what he's got about improving his mind? He was always great for that'." The journal exemplifies the continual struggle for self-improvement that once represented the American...

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