The Great Gatsby

12 December 2016

The American dream has increasingly focused on materialistic items as a sign of attaining success. In The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby is a self-made man who started out with no money only planned for achieving his dream. He is so blinded by his luxurious possessions that he does not see that money cannot buy love or happiness. Fitzgerald demonstrates how a dream can become corrupted by one’s focus on acquiring wealth, power, and expensive things. Gatsby’s dream can be said to be a naive dream based on the mistaken belief that material possessions are identical with happiness, harmony, and beauty.

His American dream has become rather corrupted by the background of wealth that surrounds him in his everyday life. His romantic view of wealth has not prepared him for the self-interested, snobbish, corrupt group of people that also surround him. He throws lavish parties for countless people, yet he has no real friends. Gatsby buys expensive things and entertains large groups of society because of his inexpressible desire for something greater. Nick Carraway realizes that although Gatsby is involved in underhanded business dealings, he is a good man at heart.

The Great Gatsby Essay Example

The last time Nick sees Gatsby alive, he tells him, “They’re a rotten crowd…. You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together” (Fitzgerald 162). Gatsby’s romantic view of life may partly be to blame for his inability to achieve his dream. Although he has made his fortune through conducting suspicious business deals, his heart seems untouched by the honest evil that is around him. He has lived not for himself, but for his dream, instead. His vision of the good life inspired by the beauty of a lovely rich girl is what mainly steers him into the wrong aspect of reality.

Gatsby’s inspiration comes from the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, whom he knew when he was in the military. Daisy’s parents considered Gatsby to be an unsuitable match, because he did not come from a good background and had little money. Nick Carraway, the narrator, sees Daisy as the golden girl, the typical rich beauty. Daisy can be seen as the symbol of all that Gatsby strives for; her voice is full of money, as Gatsby describes it. Her voice was “full of money—that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song in it” (Fitzgerald 127).

Gatsby became so captivated by her voice that he based all of his actions on winning Daisy over, kind of like being a prize to be won or a reward to be earned. However, Gatsby is too late to realize that money is the only thing her voice promises. There is no compassion in Daisy, just as there is none in cold, hard cash. Daisy is careless with people’s lives; she lets Gatsby take the blame for her unintentional manslaughter of Myrtle Wilson. Her careless actions eventually result in Gatsby’s death, of which she shows no concern. She commits adultery, but she had no real intentions of leaving her husband.

After she learns of Gatsby’s shady background, she quickly runs back into the arms of her equally self-absorbed, corrupt husband. The Buchanans live in the wealthy and highly exclusive East Egg of Long Island, which is the location that Gatsby probably desires. The green light at the end of the Buchanans’ dock symbolizes Gatsby’s yearning for wealth and power, and it also embodies Daisy as the object? of Gatsby’s desire. An obvious interpretation of the light is that the green represents money. The green color can also represent envy, the “green- eyed monster” because Gatsby longs to be a part of the East Egg society.

The fact that the green light can be seen across the bay, “minute and far away” from Gatsby’s mansion, symbolizes that Daisy or wealth is out of his reach, even though he can still see a glimpse of it. Daisy and Tom’s marriage is further proof of the collapse of the American dream. Although they belong to the snobbish West Egg social group and have extreme wealth, they are unhappy. Tom is first described as “one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterwards savors of anti-climax” (Fitzgerald 11).

Tom and Daisy are both in unsatisfied with life and are searching for something better. They have traveled to France and drifted “here and there unrestfully wherever people were rich and played polo together” (Fitzgerald 11). They are unhappy and bored with life. Tom seems to be searching for the excitement that he found in playing football in college, and he finds an outlet for his dissatisfaction by cheating on his wife with Myrtle. Once again, Gatsby does not see that attaining wealth and power does not equal happiness.

The Buchanans’ marriage is full of lies and infidelities, yet they are united through their corruption. After Tom has discovered Daisy’s infidelity and Myrtle has been killed, their callous selfishness is revealed when they are reunited over fried chicken and two bottles of ale. After Myrtle and Gatsby are both killed, neither one of the Buchanans sends their regards or seem remorseful. In fact, they go on a short vacation, which is an indication of the lack of compassion they have toward others. Nick perceives Tom and Daisy as they really are, heartless and careless. They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made” (Fitzgerald 188). Tom and Daisy’s actions are an indication of the detrimental and emotionally numbing effects that wealth can have on someone. They focus too much on appearance and things of monetary value, while ignoring people’s feelings and lives. Jordan Baker’s plans are also negatively impacted by the corruptive qualities of wealth.

Although Nick is attracted to Jordan’s bored, jaunty, careless air at first, he finally understands that it conveys her profound disregard for other people’s feelings. Jordan supports Daisy having an affair, because “Daisy ought to have something in her life” (Fitzgerald 85). She sees Gatsby as something, not someone. Jordan also has a reputation for being dishonest and for being a gossip. She was involved in a golf tournament scandal in which she was accused of moving her golf ball to her advantage. Jordan belongs to the elitist East Egg social group because of her careless, dishonest ways.

She serves as a hint as to the true nature of the people from East Egg. Jordan may also be an indication of the? types of people that Gatsby entertains, since she attends his parties. She is similar to many of his partygoers in that she exploits his hospitality yet never shows any genuine kindness toward him. Nick is a typical attendee of Gatsby’s parties, because he is the only one who shows compassion for Gatsby. Nick knows the truth about Gatsby, his humble background, his dishonest business dealings, and his aspirations for success.

Nevertheless, Nick recognizes that although Gatsby has become absorbed in a world of materialism and corruption, he is still a good man. Perhaps because he and Gatsby both come from the Midwest, they do not truly belong with the shallow company of East Egg and West Egg. On the surface, Fitzgerald’s novel may appear to be just a shallow novel about the jazz, parties, and glitz that he experienced in the early twentieth century. After closer examination, however, it is apparent that The Great Gatsby is a profound social commentary on the corrupt materialism that can have on members of society.

The have-nots yearn to be like the haves, yet those who already have wealth and status are unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives. On the whole, the superior group in the novel displays characteristics of being bored, disenchanted, and unmotivated. For example, the Buchanans drift from one place to the next, with no real plan or goal in mind. Jordan Baker has a constant bored, unaffected look upon her face. Gatsby has devoted his life to belonging to this exclusive group, but it becomes obvious that he never will belong because of his disreputable background.

Also, Gatsby’s romantic idealism does not fit in with this group; no matter how far up the social ladder he climbed, he would never really fit in. The great irony seems to be that the people who have the means, monetary or socially, to grasp their dreams do not have the motivation or the will. Gatsby is surrounded by this materialism and discontent, which serves to tarnish his dream of success. His rags-to- riches dream turns into a dark nightmare that leads to his untimely downfall.

His romantic idealism has not prepared him for the corrupt world in which he enters. Gatsby is surrounded by proof of the unhappiness that “success” can bring, as seen especially through Tom and Daisy. Their marriage is full of lies and deceit, and they are both searching for something greater than what they already have. Gatsby is so blinded by his dream that he does not see that money cannot buy love or happiness. Fitzgerald effectively offers a powerful critique of a materialistic society and the effects it can have on one’s hopes and dreams.

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The Great Gatsby. (2016, Dec 25). Retrieved December 3, 2021, from
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