The Great Gatsby - Themes

Chelsey Swann
Mind Map by Chelsey Swann, updated more than 1 year ago
Chelsey Swann
Created by Chelsey Swann almost 4 years ago


AS - Level English literature (The Great Gatsby) Mind Map on The Great Gatsby - Themes, created by Chelsey Swann on 04/20/2016.

Resource summary

The Great Gatsby - Themes
1 Society/Class
1.1 America is a classless society. True or false? You'll have good support no matter which way you answer, but The Great Gatsby has a pretty clear answer: no. There's no such thing as the American Dream or the up-from-the-bootstraps self-made man. You are who you're born, and attempting to change classes just leads to tragedy. It's a pretty grim picture of American society—and life, to those who lived through World War I, could feel pretty grim indeed.
2 Visions Of America
2.1 In The Great Gatsby, the American Dream is supposed to stand for independence and the ability to make something of one's self with hard work, but it ends up being more about materialism and selfish pursuit of pleasure. No amount of hard work can change where Gatsby came from, and old money knows it. Merit and hard work aren't enough, and so the American Dream collapses—just like the ballooning dresses of Jordan and Daisy when Nick first sees them.
3 Love
3.1 Only fools fall in love, and the biggest fool in The Great Gatsby is, well, Gatsby. Tom and Daisy may have some kind of affection and loyalty for each other, but we're pretty sure it's not actually love. Jordan and Nick are happy enough to do some summer lovin' together, but they're not exactly in it 4EVA. It's Gatsby who falls in love, but is he in love with Daisy, or with a dream of Daisy, or with the idea of being in love? And does true love always come with destruction and violence?
4 Memory Of The Past
4.1 In The Great Gatsby, living in the past is a lot direr than being boring. Characters pursue visions of the future that are determined by their pasts, which—in the memorable phrase that ends the book—makes us all into little boats beating against the current. And, unfortunately, some of those boats are doomed to sink.
4.2 Gatsby ends up dead because he can't live in the present—so he can't live at all. Daisy, unlike Gatsby, is ultimately able to face reality and live in the present.
5 wealth
5.1 In The Great Gatsby, money makes the world go 'round—or at least gets you moving in the right direction. It can buy you yellow Rolls-Royces, "gas blue" dresses, and really nice shirts, but in the end it can't buy you happiness. Or class. It does, however, buy you the privilege of living in the world without consequences, leaving a trail of bodies halfway from Chicago to New York. But being poor isn't exactly the moral choice, either. So, where does that leave us? In the middle class?
5.2 Although Fitzgerald shows rich people as careless and selfish, ultimately all of the characters in the book show themselves to be disloyal. Bad character spans all classes. The Great Gatsby demonstrates the emptiness and moral vacuum created by the decadence and wealth of capitalism.
6 Disstatisification
6.1 You have a handsome, wealthy husband; a string of polo ponies; and a closetful of really nice white dresses. What more could you want? Apparently, a lot. None of the characters in The Great Gatsby are happy: they're dissatisfied with marriage, with love, with life, and most of all with themselves. But they're not satisfied with just being dissatisfied. Instead, they wreak havoc trying to make themselves happy.
6.2 Although the wealthy characters in The Great Gatsby appear to have it all, not a single one of them seems happy. According to The Great Gatsby, wealth doesn't satisfy your desires; it just gives you an avenue for always craving more.
7 Isolation
7.1 There's a reason they called it the Lost Generation: the world Fitzgerald lived in, and the world his characters inhabit, is one without connections, friends, or family. People may come together in The Great Gatsby, but they always end up falling apart in the end. Only Daisy and Tom stay together in the end - Because of their child
8 Mortality
8.1 Even though death affects all the characters in The Great Gatsby, only Nick Carraway is willing to confront the reality of death and its meaning for his own life. In the end, Nick is just as afraid of his own mortality as everyone else is. The story he tells in The Great Gatsby is proof of that.
8.1.1 The Great Gatsby is also interested in metaphorical kinds of death: the kind where Gatsby kills the James-Gatz version of himself in order to take a new life, or the kind where the narrator feels himself constantly getting older, or the kind where the various characters' obsession with the past becomes a stand-in for the universal fear of our own mortality.
9 Marriage
9.1 The only marriages we see are marked by adultery, deception, and dissatisfaction. Gatsby thinks that his life (and Daisy's) would have been better if she'd chosen him instead of Tom, but we're not so sure. Fitzgerald seems to take a dim view of marriage in general
10 Gender
10.1 The word 'women' isn't used very often, only when referring to 'Lower class Women'. Upper class women are "girls," like the "men and girls" who wander around Gatsby's garden (3.1). That doesn't quite tell you all you need to know about gender in The Great Gatsby, but it tells you a lot: Fitzgerald is no feminist, and neither, apparently, is Nick.
10.2 In The Great Gatsby, men and women don't make each other better; they just make each other worse. So much for chivalry. Women in The Great Gatsby are mostly there to entice and subvert men. Without women messing things up, life would be a lot better.
11 Lies And Deceit
11.1 In The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway presents himself as the voice of reason and reliability, yet ultimately he proves to be an unreliable narrator. Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby are two sides of the same coin: each has built a successful façade to fool others, yet they can now no longer distinguish their true selves from the one they have created for the world.
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