According to The American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, American society operates on the principle that an individual’s achievements can be rewarded by upward social mobility. What a simple concept! Work hard, be honest, strive for success, and you will be rewarded by fame, fortune, and movement up the social ladder of life. But, as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book, The Great Gatsby, demonstrates it’s really not that elementary. Being a member of the ‘elite, upper class’ can find you with a greed for money, which many times is achieved through unethical ways.
In his book, Fitzgerald illustrates social values and social class differences, as well as depicts the mistaken excitement of the American Dream by using a variety of themes and symbols. Throughout this book, we can see the social class values and differences and the connection to their geographic location. For example, East Egg was the area that represented the “old” aristocracy, and the place that Tom and Daisy Buchanan lived.
The East Egg wealthy had grace, class, and elegance, which was seen in the exceptionally tasteful home of the Buchanan’s, as well as with the beautiful white dress that Daisy wore.
However, these ‘born rich’ individuals were careless and inconsiderate, as was seen at the end of the book, when the Buchanans did not attend Gatsby’s funeral. West Egg, on the other hand, was the place of the ‘self-made, newly rich’. Jay Gatsby lived in West Egg and his wealth was a result of his involvement with organized crime and bootlegging. The West Egg wealthy were portrayed as gaudy, vulgar individuals who lacked taste and social skills. For example, Jay Gatsby has a pink suit, drives a Rolls-Royce, and lives in a showy, humongous, mansion.
The Valley of the Ashes, which lies between West Egg and New York City, symbolizes the poor, like George Wilson, who lives among dirty ashes that were a result of the dumping of industrial waste. Fitzgerald uses many symbols to portray different ideas throughout the novel. For example, color symbols are frequently seen. Green, the color of money, is used when Gatsby says that Daisy’s “voice is full of money” (127). In Chapter One, at the end of Daisy’s dock, there is a green light which represents Gatsby’s hopes and dreams.
Gatsby, barely able to even see the light, reaches toward it, as if he is reaching toward his goals in the future, which he never reaches. The color grey represents hopelessness and lack of life, as everything in the Valley of Ashes is colored with grey dust and ashes. Usually, the color white symbolizes purity, the classic color worn by ‘first time’ brides. However, in The Great Gatsby, it represents false purity. For example, Daisy and Jordan often wear white, yet they are definitely immoral characters.
In addition, Gatsby wears white when he meets Daisy for the first time in five years, yet his life has been far from pure with his involvement of organized crime and bootlegging. In addition to color, ‘eyes’ are a dominant symbol. “The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic – their retinas are one yard high. ” (27). It is very apparent that Fitzgerald is referring to not only the eyes of God looking over the world, but also those of Nick, who really knows what is going on. | | Fitzgerald tries to give you a feel of the wealthy life style in the twenties.
Fitzgerald shows examples of this by portraying Gatsby’s parties. At Gatsby’s parties, no one is ever to find Gatsby. These parties are always very elegant. Men are dressed in black tux while women are wearing extravagant dresses. The guests usually drink champagne and eat elegant foods. In the Great Gatsby, Tom cheats on Daisy and Myrtle cheats on Mr. Wilson. The only true relationship Fitzgerald writes about is Nick and Jordan. Nick meets Jordan and instantly feels physically attracted to her.
This relationship lasts through most of the story until Jordan tells nick she is engaged, nick then immediately leaves her. Near the end of the story daisy sees Myrtle in the street and runs her over. Myrtle ends up dying and Mr. Wilson blames it on Gatsby. When Mr. Wilson sees Myrtle, Tom tells him that it was Gatsby’s car. Mr. Wilson furiously travels to Gatsby’s house and finds him in the pool. Mr. Wilson then pulls out a gun, shoots Gatsby and then shoots himself. In every story you can find themes. In the Great Gatsby, as you read, you think the main theme is love between a man and woman.
When you look deeper into the story there is a much larger them. The major theme of the story is living the American Dream, but for the people of West Egg the American Dream is prosperity and an excess of material. Why does Fitzgerald portray the twenties as deteriorated social morals? Another theme Fitzgerald uses is the emblems of social trends. Nick and Gatsby both fought in the first World War, this shows new problems brought by war. Fitzgerald originally saw the American Dream discovery and the pursuit of happiness.
However as you read on you see that money and materialism has tainted the original American Dream Fitzgerald saw. The final theme is violence, throughout the story Fitzgerald uses the world violent or violently. I think this portrays the conflict that he experienced through his life. Life during the ‘Gatsby era’ was much different than the life we live today. In 1920, the war is finally over and it is now time to look forward not backward. The twenties were a time of prosperity and innovation. During the twenties the new woman was born, the flapper.
The flapper was a woman steeping outside the norm, she worn different clothes, ate different foods, had different haircuts, and participated in different activities. The 1920’s were also a time of reform. The sale of alcoholic beverages was now illegal. This brought what I feel summarizes the twenties bootleggers. Bootleggers were like our current day drug dealers; these were the men that illegally transported and sale of alcohol. During this time there was also birth. Jazz, was the style of music that everyone moved and listened to.
The stock market grew and the birth of ‘materialism’ was fundamental to the ‘tainted’ American Dream. And at the end, Gatsby is dead; Myrtle and George Wilson are dead; Tom and Daisy headed back West, and all that’s left is Nick. Nick is standing on Gatsby’s beach, “brooding on the old unknown world” (189). As he’s standing there, he’s thinking that we all chase after our “mistaken” American dream, believe that one day we’ll achieve it—but in reality, we’re just “boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into our past” (189).
Cite this Literary Analysis of Great Gatsby
Literary Analysis of Great Gatsby. (2016, Nov 24). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/literary-analysis-of-great-gatsby/