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The Great Gatsby Themes
Transcript of The Great Gatsby Themes
The American aristocracy is expected to behave with an appropriate noblesse oblige; Nick notes of Gatsby (who is trying to appear of a higher class than he is) that, "We were always thanking him for [his hospitality]" (Fitzgerald 162). But even Gatsby's pretensions don't satisfy the old-money East Eggers, who seem disgusted by his parties.
Gatsby seems to buy in (literally) to the idea that Daisy's wealthy background has made her more than human. He remarks that "Her voice is full of money", and idolizes her for her high birth; this ties back into the former concept (Fitzgerald 127).
Barriers Between Economics & Social Distinctions
Gatsby Climbs social and economic ladders. American Dream?
Buchanan looks down on Gatsby
New Money not as powerful as old Money
Gatsby's shame for being "penniless"
Cannot be in relationship with Daisy
Daisy marries wealthy iconic man
Gatsby's need to surround himself with people
Throws big parties to fit in and to satisfy newly discovered wealth
Old money spends wealth selfishly yet wisely
New Money spends wealth selflessly yet foolishly
New money lives in West Egg
Old money lives in East Egg
Apparel / Stereotypes / Class
What is the American Dream, and can it be fully achieved?
The American Dream is portrayed throughout
The Great Gatsby
constantly as it is what each character is seeking in some form or another.
Jay Gatsby lives out the american dream in all its splendor. He works hard to get rich and have power all in order to lure the girl of his dreams. As usual the never fully satisfied American Dream is not reached by Gatsby as his efforts to fully captivate Daisy, his lover, fail. Many other characters in the novel unsuccessfully fill their crave for the American Dream. Daisy is in constant pursuit of attention by being so wish washy between Tom and Gatsby. Myrtle feels she deserves more than her lowly conditions and enters into an affair with Tom seeking her escape. Tom looking to add to his power and prestige takes on Myrtle to have two women in his life.
The American Dream's true nature is revealed through The Great Gatsby as no one ever truly reaches it.
The American Dream
Past and Future
Tom strikes myrtle
Foreshadowing conversation between Nick and Gatsby about violence in cars
Handgun kills Gatsby
Love life over business life killed him
Innocence vs. Corruption
Daisy mentions that she hopes her daughter will be a "beautiful little fool" (Fitzgerald 21). Living surrounded by corruption and with an unfaithful husband, Daisy craves innocence so much that she values it more than intellect.
Gatsby symbolizes both the corrupted Dream and the uncorrupted Dream. He sees wealth as the solution to his problems, and reinvents himself so much that he becomes hollow. Yet Gatsby's corrupt dream of wealth is motivated by an incorruptible love for Daisy. Gatsby's failure does not prove the folly of the American Dream rather it proves the folly of short-cutting that dream by allowing corruption and materialism to prevail over hard work, integrity, and real love.
"The Great Gatsby." LitCharts. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2014.
"THEMES In THE GREAT GATSBY." The Twentieth Century Novel. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2014.
"The Great Gatsby Themes." Study Guides & Essay Editing. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 May 2014
Appearance vs. Reality
In the issue of money, Fitzgerald reveals a world in which wealth creates closets for wrongful doing. The beautiful mansions of the people of West and East Egg hide an ugliness inside.
Jay Gatsby is prime example of appearance/reality. His upper class act is a front for his criminal operations.
Daisy Buchanan is beautiful, friendly and elegant. She comes across to the reader as being a positive and an attractive person. But as the novel progresses, Daisy manifests her carelessness, selfishness and lack of interest.
Other Possible Themes
Past haunts Gatsby
Gatsby is "overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves"
Mixes up "youth and mystery" with history
Believes he can change the past
Daisy's experience with Buchanan is easily overturned by a "single glorious month of love with Daisy"
Future weighs Nick down
Thinks of decade ahead of him "portentous menacing road"
Awareness of future class destruction
People have no deep or meaningful thoughts, emotions, or beliefs.
Materialism over idealism.
Relentless pursuit of money
No values; all that matters is status.