Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Question Five: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby: on theme

Themes are the overall ideas, sometimes morals, that a novel is shaped around. A few themes here are perhaps the shallowness of America's wealthy in the 1920's, the American Dream (and its decline), the issue of one's identity, and love and relationships. 
Choose one of these themes or pick one of your own. 
This response will be two-fold: first (after identifying the theme you'll be discussing), briefly tell me where you see this theme in the novel. Second, what does the novel tell us about that theme? What lesson/moral do we learn from this novel? What message was Fitzgerald trying to communicate to us?

This response should be at least 350 words.

You will respond to this question by leaving a comment on this post. 
Remember: you must respond to at least 4 questions per novel. 
Extra credit will be awarded if you respond to more than 4 questions.

*and remember, this is a blog--write with good English and use your inner intellectual, but speak casually!


  1. Before the Great Depression, many were living the American Dream. Money was everywhere. People had large mansions, luxurious cars, and fancy clothing. The stock market was booming with investors and flowing with money. This was when the setting of the Great Gatsby was set. Gatsby was one of these wealthy men who were popular only because of their generosity and the massive parties that they would throw frequently. This was the American Dream. It is what everyone wanted. People wanted to always have nicer things than their friends or neighbors and they would always try to outdo each other when it came to shopping. Unfortunately, in this sense, society is still just as greedy as it was in the nineteen twenties if not greedier. We can see this theme in The Great Gatsby in many places but especially when Gatsby shows Daisy his large collection of expensive shirts in his closet. As he goes through them one by one, she starts to cry but F. Scott Fitzgerald does not state why. However the reader can easily understand that she is crying because of the wealth that many in America had at the time and that the rich take pride in their wealth because others do not have a lot of money. One of the most basic lessons that we can learn from this novel is that money is not as important as everyone thinks. Gatsby was one of the wealthiest men on Long Island but he was still never satisfied because he was not with Daisy. Gatsby thought that if he showed her his collection of shirts that she would be impressed, but in reality she was not. With this theme, Fitzgerald was trying to communicate to his readers the importance of love and that nothing material could be more valuable than true love. You can be the richest man in the world but still be the most miserable. Everything material will pass away. We can see this because just a few years after The Great Gatsby took place, the Great Depression hit the United States and millions of Americans were put out of work and many lost all that they had.

  2. The theme of The Great Gatsby is the American dream. It is obvious that this was Fitzgerald’s intention when writing the novel. Gatsby has everything money can buy and it is not enough for him. Just like us as Americans we can never have enough, we are never satisfied. The theme can be seen everywhere from Gatsby’s lavish parties to his huge mansion and luxury cars. The novel shows us that there is no such thing as the American dream it is something that will last only a short time before human nature takes over and we ruin it for ourselves. Fitzgerald is trying to tell us to be content with what we have because we can ruin everything we have in an instant. In the 1920’s everyone was supposedly living the American dream but just as Fitzgerald shows us it quickly came to an end with the great depression. Everyone who had anything lost everything and ended up just like the people they thought so lowly of. The end to Gatsby’s American Dream was his death he gave up everything for Daisy and eventually paid the ultimate price. This shows us that the American dream is all a hoax something that will never happen for most of us but for the few that reach that point it is fast and fleeting before they are back to where they started. Fitzgerald paints a vivid portrait warning us against the American dream, telling us all the unwanted trouble and heartache it can bring. One of the biggest symbols of the fleetingness of the American dream is Doctor T.J. Eckleburg’s billboard the book says he was a prominent eye doctor in queens before he “set out to fatten his pockets” and built the billboard and now that he has move away the billboard still stands all but invisible with all anyone can see is the eyes watching and warning about going too far and trying too hard to come out on top. The Great Gatsby is an American classic and it deals heavily with the rise and fall of the American dream.

  3. I’d say one of the most obvious themes in The Great Gatsby is the American Dream. In his own life, the author F. Scott Fitzgerald had an interesting experience with his own American Dream. The girl he loved, Zelda Sayre, was overly fond of wealth and only agreed to marry Fitzgerald after he had successfully shed his less than wealthy past for the life of a rich celebrity. When the Depression hit, Zelda fell apart and Fitzgerald turned to alcoholism. The result of this experience is a negative, almost a bit cynical or disapproving attitude toward what we call the American Dream. In the novel, Jay Gatsby is an ambitious young man who believes he can conquer the world. He works himself up from a poor, common worker, to a ridiculous rich socialite. On the surface, it would seem that Fitzgerald is promoting the American Dream and its attainability. However, we later find that Gatsby earned his wealth through organized crime. This seems to suggest that the American Dream is false or can only be achieved by compromising morals. This can, I think, also be looked at as a critique of the American culture during the 1920s and the type of economic system that contributed to it. Everyone was expected to be rich, and therefore many people had to resort to underhanded methods of business or shortsighted economic strategies, like the reliance on credit that led to the Great Depression. Fitzgerald’s own experience in the 1920s and the Great Depression can be seen in his depiction of the American Dream.
    Fitzgerald goes on in the book to further critique the American Dream through Gatsby and Daisy’s strange relationship. Gatsby cannot let Daisy go. When he was a poor man, he was able to attract the pretty and rich Daisy, but lost her when he went to war. Upon returning, he achieves the financial side of the American Dream; he becomes incredibly rich. However, he cannot be satisfied. In his mind, he has not achieved his Dream until the rich young lady that first introduced him to the world of the wealthy is his as well. It seems as though Fitzgerald is saying that the American Dream can lead to an inability to be content or even a sense of entitlement.

  4. Extra Credit:
    I would argue that a major theme that encompasses the work as a whole would be the corruption of the wealthy. Firstly, the concept of corruption has long been a theme in the history of literature, and many a time it is associated with wealth. The reason that wealth brings about a change in people is due to the fact that with wealth comes power, and unfortunately for humans any kind of power corrupts. However cliché it may sound the truth of the matter is that, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Take Gatsby for example, a man who has everything and yet he is so egocentric that his desires for the one thing he couldn’t have led to his death, at the hands of George Wilson Myrtle’s husband who thought Gatsby was responsible for the death of his wife. Also you can see the corrupting of Nick Carroway, the story’s protagonist, who refuses to believe or make Daisy responsible for the death of Myrtle in his telling of the story. Arguably, it’s apparent that corruption in many ways is “contagious”. Nick Carroway, however not a rich man or wealthy, was becoming corrupt by being around the wealthy. The way the story is told, Nick in ways refuses to assume the guilt of Daisy and portrays her as a honorable character. This denial can be equated with corruption, and reasonably this desire for wealth seemed to take hold of the majority of the characters in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

  5. The theme of The Great Gatsby is money and love. The 1920's was one of the most prosperous times in American history. Business was booming and the standard of living was better than it had ever been. People in the 1920's started to believe that money was everything, that every person and feeling and thing had a price tag. Throughout the novel the reader becomes more and more aware that, even with fancy things and luxurious houses, love cannot be purchased. Even with the super modern conveniences and technology of the 1920's, people were still battling with the same down to earth emotions and feelings that had been around for thousands of years. The rich people, accustomed to being handed over what they wanted, were sometimes socially awkward and had difficulties with the tasks and troubles encountered when striving for love with a person. It also becomes apparent that money, unlike love, can't produce happiness. Gatsby had everything he ever wanted except for mutual love with Daisy, and he found out that everything he ever wanted was nothing without her. Gatsby, in stead of confronting his feelings head on and chancing a blow to his inflated pride, went about his feelings in an odd manner, hoping to someday stumble upon the girl that he loved. In the end Gatsby lost the girl. This seems to be a recurring theme even today. Rich people are often full of themselves and can't bring themselves down to the level of the person that they love, or when they do get that person they assume that they own them, rather than share something with them. Just look at the movie stars. They have every possession they could ever want or need, yet they can't hold a marriage for more than a year. I'm not saying that all rich people are this way. I have known plenty of down to earth, generous, and selfless rich people! There is just more of a tendency of corruption in people who have unending amounts of money.

  6. One overwhelming theme in this novel is the skewed view of the American dream. Fitzgerals uses the 1920`s to express his feeling towards this theme, however I do not believe he restricts this problem to this specific time period. There were skewed views of the American dream before then, and the same views are undoubtedly prevalent now. Fitzgerald`s idea of the American dream can be understood by examining his attitude towards the materialistic values held in his novel. Fitzgerald displays for us Gatsby`s belief that money can buy happiness in the form of being accepted, looked up to, and even desired by the opposite sex.As many readers believe the sub-themes of love and money are separated, relaying two different messages, I believe they go hand in hand to support Fitzgerald`s commentary on the FALSE American dream. Jay Gatsby USES money to attempt to PURCHASE love, which he succeeds in doing (as well as a bullet through the noodles). Fitzgerald does not condone this materialistic belief by any meanns. Fitzgerald (kin to the popular Francis Scott Key) loves his country, and believes the greatest things in it are not brought on by money, but rather by love: by loving what you do, loving others, and loving who you are, whether you are popular or not. One moral to be learned by this novel (as much as i hate to say there even IS such a thing) is to achieve the REAL American dream: loving your own place in this world whether it be rich, poor, loved or hated.

  7. While many argue that the theme is of the American Dream (and it partially is), the most prominent theme which the book revolves around is the issue of one's identity IN the American Dream. The American Dream, in and of itself, is not what causes the downfall of citizens. It is the idea that one finds one's identity WITHIN the American Dream that is dangerous and deadly. Take, for instance, Tom. Tom is rich, owns a large and luxurious house, has travelled the world, married a beautiful woman, and has a lovely daughter. This is the epiphany of the American Dream, and one would logically think that Tom should be satisfied and feel fulfilled. But is that what Fitzgerald shows? Absolutely not! Tom begins to get sucked into the idea of the American Dream so much so that his morals are lost in it. He seeks after MORE women (his mistress) and is jealous of people who have even more money than him. He is never satisfied, even though he is clearly an extremely wealthy man. But Tom will never feel satisfied, because he only finds his identity and purpose for living in the fleeting feeling of joy that the American Dream supplies. Tom has sold his soul to the American Dream. Fitzgerald wisely shows though, that this lifestyle will always crumble in the end. Tom's mistress dies a tragic death. Through this, Fitzgerald forces Tom to realize that family, predominantly Daisy, should be his main focus in life. A mistress will never satisfy his soul. The moral to be learned from this is that your identity is not found in a dream, rather, your moral side shows its colors when you chase foolish dreams.

  8. There are several themes to this book, and the most obvious is the American Dream. But, another big part of the story is the relationships, love, and hatred between the characters. This theme is shown from the very first chapter. Nick walks into Tom's house and sees Jordan there and is interested in her. You think from the beginning that Daisy and Tom are the dream couple. You know what I am talking about. They have the house, they have the money, they have a child, and everything a couple would want. But as you read that chapter, you discover the affair that Tom is having and that shows that the one thing missing from this "dream relationship" between Tom and Daisy is that the two aren't really in love. You learn of Gatsby's love for Daisy and it is like Gatsby is in grade school. He asks Nick to arrange something so that they just HAPPEN to end up at the same place. So cliche... The Wilsons have an odd relationship. She cheats on her husband and he is too dumb to notice anything is going on. With the theme of love shows the lies and deceitfulness between the characters. It makes you wonder why these people stay with their spouses if they don't love them. Why does Tom get so mad with Gatsby for having a relationship with Daisy if he is doing practically the SAME EXACT THING with another woman. Even Jordan whom you think is pretty much innocent, is having an affair on the side and splits up with Nick by telling him that she is engaged! Bad things happen because of these people and their crazy relationships. Myrtle is killed off and because SHE is killed, it causes Gatsby and Mr Wilson to be killed. There is another lie, where Tom told Mr. Wilson that it was Gatsby in the car, which was true, but he knew it would get himself off the hook from the accusation of being the person Myrtle cheated with. I didn't like Tom. He just lies, cheats, and beats women (breaking the girl's nose). What is being communicated is that your relationships won't be perfect, but that doesn't mean that you need to lie and cheat to get out of a relationship. Bad things will happen. Just be honest.

  9. Fitzgerald tries to communicate the message of the decline of the American Dream. Everyone knows about the “American Dream”, most commonly pictured as a house with a white picket fence and a family with two kids and average cars. In the 1920’s however, it was as simple as being rich. Everyone needs to be rich, and if you aren’t then you are not welcome. This is what seemed to be the message which led to the Great Depression. Fitzgerald wrote based on his own personal experience of needing money to get what he wanted in life and it leaving him in worse shape when he thought the money would give him happiness. Many people believe that money equals happiness, and that is what leads to the downfall of the American Dream. Gatsby was the sole example of the average American with no money that ends up filthy rich. Gatsby was pulled into the world of the wealthy through his love for Daisy Buchanan who is already rich. After coming back from the war, we are told that he makes his money through a respectable manner, when in reality he is a crook. He seems to have the “American Dream” with his big house, his wild parties, and his lavish lifestyle. In actuality, he is longing more and more for what he cannot have: Daisy Buchanan. She is so close yet so far. His madness and need to be approved of is what gets him killed in the end. This symbolism shows to us how motive is so important and that just because we may have money, that does not imply or ensure us happiness. Daisy had been rich her entire life yet she still felt lonely and was being cheated on by her husband. Wealth does not automatically make a person better or make their lives any more joyful. Fitzgerald wanted the world to see how the American Dream was declining and needed to be pure instead of everyone just trying to get rich quick. The American way was no longer working and there needed to be a drastic change in the way people were socially accepted.

  10. The theme that was brought most to my attention by Fitzgerald would be that of the “American Dream” and money cannot buy happiness. This theme is seen from the very beginning of the book, where young Jay Gatsby meets the wealthy Daisy. At this point in time American’s were beginning to be accustomed to their wealth and the luxuries that walked hand in hand with it such as big mansions, luxury cars, high priced items of clothing, and anything money could buy. This wealth was shown off in various ways, such as what I’ve already listed, but the most popular way to ensure everyone could see someone else’s wealth was hosting lavish parties and inviting only the upper class to attend. These parties were a way for America’s wealthiest to show off their finest “feathers” and climb up even higher on the social ladder. America was very shallow and materialistic at this point. Throughout this novel, Fitzgerald manages to show the behind the scenes life of the wealthy and how money surely cannot buy everything. Money could not buy the item Gatsby so clearly longed for. His happiness was not measured in the amount of money he spent on his lavish parties, the luxury cars he drove, or the mansion he established as his home. Fitzgerald manages to capture the theme that “money cannot buy happiness”, Tom and Daisy’s marriage is ripped apart by Tom’s infidelity, as well as Gatsby’s and Daisy’s unrequited love.