The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

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I. Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, born in St. Paul, Minnesota, grew up in an upper-middle class family where he enjoyed the traditions of the upper classes, but not the financial ability to uphold those practices. Fitzgerald acquired his fame, almost overnight, with the publication of his first book, This Side of Paradise, in 1920. His extensive career began with the writing of stories for mass-circulation magazines, such as The Saturday Evening Post. That same year, he married Zelda Sayre, who later became one his major influences on his writing, along with literature, Princeton, and alcohol. In the summer of 1924, Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby, a novel about the American dream. This novel was written in Fitzgerald's own time. The reader is able to see his insight and artistic integrity in the way that which the novel is composed. He brings forth the values that he embraced at least partially in his own life, such as materialism and the magic of wealth, which are clearly placed in the characters of The Great Gatsby. The novel is almost a paradox of his own biography: a unique materialism in which men attempt to create happiness from material achievement. The novel received the most striking critical
appraisal, just as predicted by Fitzgerald. This honorary event marked the climax of his fame, however, his reputation faded from then on. With the illness of his wife, he reflected his experiences in his further work, such as Tender Is the Night. Some other examples of his work include The Beautiful and Damned and The Love of the Last Tycoon. At the age of forty-four, Fitzgerald dies of a heart attack. Since his death, critics have come to see his work as a reflection of the American culture and of "The Twenties", a noteworthy representation of his people that is saturated with meaning today.

II. The story of Gatsby takes place in the 1920's, a time that began with the closing of the bloodiest conflict the world had ever witnessed. The European society had suffered spiritually from the effects of World War I, yet life in America became a time of material demand. The twenties are best known as a decade when American business was riding high and increases in productivity brought hundreds of new products within the reach of the average consumer. The widespread impact of the stock market downturn heightened the popular view of the importance of the economy during the 1920's.

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Americans perceived business as the source of this new good life; thus, materialism grew. The fact that The Great Gatsby takes place during the actual life of Scott Fitzgerald is very significant to the story because in his world, the setting reveals the nature of the characters. Much of the story is described about the West Egg and East Egg, two distinct locations of Long Island. Tom and Daisy Buchanan, the primary examples of the stable upper class, live in the wealthiest area of Long Island: East Egg. They are satisfied with their inherited traditions and long-term financial situation. Tom and Daisy lack the tastelessness that Gatsby is characteristic of. Jay Gatsby and Nick are residents of West Egg; both have acquired wealth in their lives yet do not have the sheer intelligence associated with prosperity. If looked at from a moral perspective, East Egg and West Egg both carry a kind of individual fault, whether it is rudeness or emptiness. New York City, home of the apartment of Tom's mistress and the Plaza Hotel, is where money is made and where pleasure is gained. Parties and social events take place there. The story also occurs in the home of Gatsby, a place that circulates a cycle of guests. The house is both meaningless and bland, almost an illusion created by money. In general, the setting is directly related to the main theme of the story: the American dream, in the sense that each character, based on their residence, tries to prevail themselves greatly into the faux realm of riches.

III. The Great Gatsby is a story that depicts the American dream while, at the same time,
criticizes its values. Nick Carraway, the narrator, is introduced as a functioning character of the book. He has moved form the Midwest to New York to learn the bond business. He learns that Gatsby, his next-door neighbor, held a past relationship with his cousin Daisy that eventually broke due to his shortfall of money. Daisy and Tom invite Nick for dinner where he learns of Tom's affair with Myrtle. A short time after, Nick meets Gatsby at one of his parties where they become friends. In a while, Nick finds out that Gatsby is in need of a favor: Gatsby wishes to see Daisy to revive their relationship from the past. Since Gatsby's main thrill in life was to ultimately impress Daisy with his startling wealth, he was both terrified and eager to meet her at Nick's place. They fall in love; oddly, Daisy is swayed by the amount of shirts he owns. Tom develops a suspicion, and Gatsby realizes his relationship with Daisy is not the same. The affair between Daisy and Gatsby comes out into the open during lunch at the Buchanan's. Tom's jealousy is let loose when he initiates a fight with Gatsby, and he forces Daisy to make a decision. Although she wishes to continue to enjoy both Tom and Gatsby, she chooses Tom, and Gatsby's dream is over. At this time, Wilson discovers his wife has been unfaithful, and Myrtle escapes. A car, of which Daisy was the driver, kills her; Gatsby feels he must accept the blame for her. The crazed husband of Myrtle kills Gatsby, assuming he was the driver, and then kills himself. Seemingly, the only person who prepares a funeral for Gatsby is Nick. The others leave without any notice. Disgusted by what he has seen, Nick realizes than a belief based on materialism shames the American dream more than fulfills it. He moves back to the Middle West.

The conflict between the traditional rich and the newly rich shows the horrific effects of wealth. Each character bases his life around petty means, and is in conflict with each other's illusions. Tom's wealth and Daisy's love for it surmount Gatsby's enduring dream, the American dream: the misconception that happiness can be recaptured if only one can make enough money. The practicality of it all is highly unlikely. When one bases his life to the acquisition of money, all morals and realities are reduced to a realm of shallow thoughts. This is clearly seen in Gatsby's failure to regain Daisy. Outside forces, such fortune, money, and greed, interfere with the characters' goals. The outcome of the story was fitting to the plot. Since the purpose of the novel is to demonstrate the failure of a life based on materialism, the characters end up failing in becoming true beings of their own will and power; money becomes their driving force. This scenario serves a universal appeal to those whose only objective is money.

IV. Perhaps the best example of the superficial attitudes involved in materialism is Daisy. She is lovely, delicate, and at the same time, arrogant. Daisy was born into her wealth and knows no other life. Money is her main concern, just as Gatsby said "her voice rings with money." Both Tom and Gatsby want her in their lives. However, Tom does not envision at her as a woman, but rather as a child. Hence, he has a mistress Myrtle who is Daisy's complete opposite. Daisy possesses a cold heart with little concern for those around her, especially Gatsby. She was very much in love with him in their early stages of their past relationship, however she chose Tom, who has more money. Her attitude toward Gatsby revolves around the superficial illusion of what he represents, not what he truly is. As for Tom, he and Daisy are more partners in a world of wealth than husband and wife. For that reason, she can never leave him for Gatsby, a West Egger. She wanders off every so often when her emotions seep through the cracks of her soul, yet her narrow-mindedness is brought back at the reminder of her husband. She is pulled away from Gatsby as the pressure of Tom, for she will never appreciate a life without wealth. Her perception of life lacks real moral values, as demonstrated by her superficial actions to numb herself to her husband's infidelity. In the outcome, Daisy destroys Gatsby's goal, for she herself stands for the corrupted vision of distorted goals. Unfortunately, Daisy never realizes her problem of shallowness. Still married
to Tom, she flees to New York at the death of Gatsby, living her life as an "obedient" wife. Being put in the setting of the story, I would have not acted as Daisy. The story has taught me how insignificant a life based on improper morals is. I would have followed my true initial feelings, in this case, love for Gatsby. A life based on materialistic aspects is a waste of time; the person is not drawn to the qualities of the other person, but rather his possessions.

V. Certainly the most central theme of The Great Gatsby is the American dream, or even
further, its failure. The genuine American dream is a romantic expectation, a belief in the possibility of achieving goals and pleasure with hard work and dedication. However, this dream corrupts itself in the person of Gatsby. Fitzgerald's purpose in writing this novel was to demonstrate the path of this perception, and how it was overcome by the vulgar interest in wealth. Fame, money, reputation, and excitement are symbolic of the life of the characters. Fitzgerald criticizes the fact that the power of society was solely dedicated to gain excesses of capital. The theme of the corruption of value is a main concern. The lives of the Buchanans, filled with material comforts and luxuries, and empty of purpose, represents this condition. Another theme that is closely related with materialism is the discovery of oneself. The Great Gatsby is a paradox. Gatsby was neither great nor Gatsby; his real name was Gatz. This invention of a new soul is purely to obtain his dream: Daisy. He never discovered the real Gatz and the capabilities of his true spirit. "Gatsby" was clearly driven by money, and he was led to failure. Ultimately, his dream lives on, and even at the time of his death, Gatsby holds on to his faith. His dream is so strong that it can uphold itself in any case. Hence, a third theme develops: the need for hope and dreams to give meaning to man's efforts. Striving towards some ideal is the way by which man can feel a sense of his own identity. The reader is able to grasp these concepts easily, and is left with one concern: Is it possible to love Gatsby and be critical of his dream at the same time? It is possible to love Gatsby for his strength and unselfish nature, yet still criticize him for his self-delusion. The disappointing mood of the book is constantly being maintained with the blindness of the characters. Even Gatsby never truly sees Daisy or himself, so blinded is he by his dream. Tom's affair along with Daisy and Wilson's shows how unreal the material world is without necessary humane elements.

VI. Scott Fitzgerald uses an amazing style to compliment his superb work. The use of Nick
Carraway as a narrator to the story is a clever way of rationalizing the action. Coming from a slightly judgmental point of view, Nick becomes a part of the action in a way that unifies and controls the novel. The usage of flashbacks to tell the story of Gatsby's history contributes to the overall dramatic effect. His past unravels itself slowly, which provides for the novel's mysterious feeling. Fitzgerald's descriptions are full of color and sound. His use of color symbolism is extremely significant as well. For example, the "green light at the end of Daisy's dock" symbolizes Gatsby's hope, dream, desire and even greed. It can also be interpreted as his love for money (due to the green color). That green light was his "enchanted object", his fantasy, and his stimuli. Overall, I found his writing to be extremely entertaining. The descriptions were beautiful and vivid, however not too lengthy. The novel was kept in great moderation, such as its length as a whole and the density of the plot. I would recommend this piece of literature for anyone seeking pleasure in reading. Much useful information concerning life, morals, and success are contained within the novel's fine boundaries. This is one book I would not mind reading again and again.
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