The Great Gatsby

Themes

Sarah Churchwell sees The Great Gatsby as a "cautionary tale of the decadent downside of the American dream." The story deals with human aspiration to start over again, social politics and its brutality and also betrayal, of one's own ideals and of people. According to the story's narrator, Nick Carraway, "...a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth." [58] Using elements of irony and tragic ending, it also delves into themes of excesses of the rich, and recklessness of youth.[59][60] Others, like journalist Nick Gillespie, see The Great Gatsby as a story "about the breakdown of class differences in the face of a modern economy based not on status and inherited position but on innovation and an ability to meet ever-changing consumer needs."[61] This interpretation asserts that The Great Gatsby captures the American experience because it is a story about change and those who resist it; whether the change comes in the form of a new wave of immigrants (Southern Europeans in the early 20th century, Latin Americans today), the nouveau riche, or successful minorities, Americans from the 1920s to modern day have plenty of experience with changing economic and social circumstances. As Gillespie states, "While the specific terms of the equation are always changing, it's easy to see echoes of Gatsby's basic conflict between established sources of economic and cultural power and upstarts in virtually all aspects of American society."[61] Because this concept is particularly American and can be seen throughout American history, readers are able to relate to The Great Gatsby (which has lent the novel an enduring popularity).[61]

Later critical writings on of The Great Gatsby following the novel's revival focus in particular on Fitzgerald's disillusionment with the American Dream — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – in the context of the hedonistic Jazz Age, a name for the era which Fitzgerald claimed to have coined. In 1970, Roger Pearson published the article Gatsby: False prophet of the American Dream, in which he states that Fitzgerald "has come to be associated with this concept of the AMERICAN Dream more than any other writer of the twentieth century".[62] Pearson goes on to suggest that Gatsby's failure to realize the American dream demonstrates that it no longer exists except in the minds of those as materialistic as Gatsby. He concludes that the American dream pursued by Gatsby "is, in reality, a nightmare", bringing nothing but discontent and disillusionment to those who chase it as they realize its unsustainability and ultimately its unattainability.

In addition to exploring the trials and tribulations of achieving the great American dream during the Jazz Age, The Great Gatsby explores societal gender expectations as a theme, exemplifying in Daisy Buchanan's character the marginalization of women in the East Egg social class that Fitzgerald depicts. As an upper-class, white woman living in East Egg during this time period in America, Daisy must adhere to certain societal expectations, including but certainly not limited to actively filling the role of dutiful wife, mother, keeper of the house, and charming socialite. As the reader finds in the novel, many of Daisy's choices, ultimately culminating in the tragedy of the plot and misery for all those involved, can be at least partly attributed to her prescribed role as a "beautiful little fool" who is completely reliant on her husband for financial and societal security. For instance, one could argue that Daisy's ultimate decision to remain with her husband despite her feelings for Gatsby can be attributed to the status, security, and comfort that her marriage to Tom Buchanan provides. Additionally, the theme of the female familial role within The Great Gatsby goes hand in hand with that of the ideal family unit associated with the great American dream- a dream that goes unrealized for Gatsby and Daisy in Fitzgerald's prose.[63]


This content is from Wikipedia. GradeSaver is providing this content as a courtesy until we can offer a professionally written study guide by one of our staff editors. We do not consider this content professional or citable. Please use your discretion when relying on it.