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
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.
5.1 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
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
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.
7.1 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
8.1 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
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
10.1 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.