In The Great Gatsby, By F. Scott Fitzgerald, Many Themes Essay

are enclosed; the most salient of these themes is related
to the American Dream. The American Dream is based on the
idea that any person, no matter what they are, can become
successful in life by his or her hard work. The dream also
embodies the idea of a self-sufficient person, an
entrepreneur making it successful for themselves. The Great
Gatsby is about what happened to the American Dream during
the 1920s, an era when the dream had been corrupted by the
relentless pursuit of wealth. In this novel, the pursuit of
the American Dream and the pursuit of a romantic dream are
the ultimate causes of the downfall of the book’s title
character, Jay Gatsby.

Throughout the story, Jay Gatsby avoids telling the
truth of his hard, unglamorous childhood. He does this to
keep his superficial image of himself and to save himself
from the embarrassment of being in a state of poverty during
his youth. His parents were lazy and unsuccessful people
who worked on the farm, and because of this Gatsby never
really accepted them as his parents. Jay Gatsby’s real name
is James Gatz and he is from the very unexciting North
Dakota. He changed his name to Jay Gatsby when he was
seventeen years old, which was the beginning of his version
of the American Dream. In all realities Gatsby arose from
his Platonic view of himself, the idealistic self-view that
a seventeen year old boy has of himself (Fitzgerald 104).

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Though concealed for most of the story, Gatsby’s
embarrassing childhood is a major source of determination in
his attempt to achieve the American Dream.

During Gatsby’s early adulthood, he joined the army. He
first met Daisy when he was at Camp Taylor and he and some
other officers stopped by her house. He initially loved
Daisy because of her extraordinary house and because many
other men had been with her already. One evening in
October, during 1917, Gatsby fell in love with Daisy Fay,
and in turn she fell in love with Gatsby. “Daisy was the
first ?nice’ girl that he had ever known” (Fitzgerald 155).

Their love was an uneasy one at first for Gatsby to
comprehend because he wasn’t rich by any standards and he
felt that he wasn’t worthy of Daisy’s affection, but his
uneasiness was uplifted when he and Daisy fell in love and
when he found out that Daisy knew a lot because he knew a
variety of things that she didn’t. Their month of love was
physically ended when Gatsby had to go to war, but their
emotional love never ended. As Gatsby performed brilliantly
throughout the war, they wrote each other frequently. Daisy
couldn’t understand why Gatsby couldn’t come home. She
wanted her love to be their with her, she needed some
assurance that she was doing the right thing. It didn’t
take long for Daisy to get over Jay because in the Spring of
1918 she fell in love with a rich, former All-American
college football player named Tom Buchanon. This broke Jay
Gatsby’s heart. His love for Daisy was a strong one and he
was determined to get her back. This first love with Daisy
had a great impact on his idea of one of the aspects of
achieving the American Dream.

Throughout the novel, the reader is mislead about how
Gatsby became wealthy. Gatsby claims on several different
occasions that he inherited his parents’ immense fortune.

This is a story that Gatsby made up in order to keep his
self-image up by not letting people know about his
childhood. The truth is that Gatsby got rich by illegal
measures. He was friends with the notorious Meyer
Wolfsheim. Meyer Wolfsheim was the racketeer who supposedly
fixed the World Series of 1919. He was Gatsby’s connection
to organized crime, in which Gatsby became rich. Gatsby’s
true sources to richness were selling bootleg liquor in his
chain of drug stores and creating a giant business to get
rid of and sell stolen Liberty bonds (Mizener 188).

Gatsby’s methods of gaining wealth corrupt the morality of
the American Dream although they help him to achieve it.

It did not take long for Gatsby to attempt to win Daisy
back after he returned from the army. Jay Gatsby had this
romantic view of Daisy and himself together and happy
forever. He felt the best way to achieve this idea would be
for him to become at least as rich as Daisy’s husband Tom
Buchanon. He knows that the best ways for him to pry
Daisy’s affection away from Tom are gaining wealth and
gaining material possessions. Daisy is a shallow woman who
is easily overwhelmed by material items. Gatsby’s main way
to show off his wealth and material possessions were to
throw lavish parties. His parties featured the finest
drinks and live jazz bands. The parties were so huge that
Nick Carraway, Gatsby’s best friend and the narrator of the
book, alluded to them as the World’s Fair. Not only did the
parties fulfill Gatsby’s reasons for having them, but they
also showed his grand sense of pride that stemmed from his

Gatsby and Daisy are finally reunited by Nick at
Gatsby’s request. This is Gatsby’s second chance for him to
show off his wealth and to win Daisy back. Gatsby uses this
meeting to show Daisy what he has become through his
possessions (Way 103). Daisy is amazed when she experiences
the extravagance of Gatsby’s house. When Gatsby throws his
imported shirts all around the room, she begins to cry
because she realizes that she has missed out on so much of
Gatsby’s life. It is at this moment, when the dream that he
has strived for is right in front of him, that he realizes
that Daisy isn’t as perfect as he imagined her to be. This
is clearly evident to Nick who thinks that: “There must have
been moments even that afternoon when Daisy fell short of
his dream- nor through her own fault, but because of the
colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her,
beyond everything.” (Fitzgerald Chapter 5) This is the
first point in the novel which shows that Gatsby’s dream can
never be fully achieved, yet it is also his dream being
achieved because he is finally back with Daisy again even
though she is still with Tom.

The beginning of the downfall of Gatsby’s dream occurs
when Tom suspects that Daisy is cheating on him with Gatsby.

His hypothesis is proven correct when he, Gatsby, Daisy,
Nick, and Jordan Baker, are at a hotel in New York holding a
conversation which breaks out into an argument. It is
during this argument that Tom finds out that Jay Gatsby and
Daisy have been in love for five years and that they have
never stopped loving each other. As Tom and Gatsby argue it
becomes evident that Daisy does not know which man she wants
to be with because she is in love with both of them because
both of them are rich. All Gatsby wanted was for Daisy to
tell Tom that she never loved him, but she could not do
that. She knew that it would be a lie if she said that so
she simply said to Gatsby, “I did love him once- but I loved
you too.” This statement opens the well into which Gatsby’s
dream will eventually fall because it shows that Daisy is
not Gatsby’s woman alone
Tom begins the undermining of Gatsby’s idealist concept
of himself by making Gatsby realize that he isn’t what he
has made himself out to be. He makes Gatsby see that he
does not appear to people in the way that he thinks of
himself. Tom describes Gatsby as a “bootlegger, cheap
swindler, and a crook.” These few comments shattered
Gatsby’s self-identity because of it’s fragileness (Way 99).

Tom washed all of the effort and determination that Gatsby
had put into becoming what he was and earning what he
received, even though his methods were illegal, with a few
minutes worth of speaking.

After the argument, Gatsby can feel a minor sense of
victory because Daisy refuses to speak to Tom and when they
are leaving, Daisy leaves with him. On the way back to the
suburbs, Gatsby allows Daisy to drive his car. While
driving, Daisy hits and kills Myrtle Wilson, the lady Tom is
having an affair with. Gatsby and Daisy keep on driving and
they act like nothing ever happened. Later that evening,
Nick learned from Gatsby that Daisy had been driving when
Myrtle was killed in the hit-and-run accident. Gatsby’s
love for Daisy causes him to be willing to take the blame if
the blame if the death was traced back to his car. If
Daisy’s love for Gatsby was based on true love, instead of
wealth and material items, then she would have stepped up
and confessed to her crime especially since she was riding
in Gatsby’s car and it could easily be assumed that he was
the killer. Daisy was not concerned with the well- being of
Gatsby and this is shown when she is back at home conversing
with her husband, over cold chicken and ale, instead of
worrying about what might happen to Gatsby. Gatsby, on the
other hand, worries that whole night about Daisy. He
worries that Tom might beat on Daisy when he gets home.

These things never happen but it is the fact that Gatsby was
concerned about her well- being and Daisy was not concerned
with Gatsby’s well- being that is important. She is just a
shallow person who does not know the meaning of the word
love. She is caught up in the times and in living the
moraless and careless lifestyle that she leads. She could
care less about what happens to anyone except for herself.

This whole situation proves that she is definitely not
deserving of the high pedestal that Gatsby has placed her on
(Internet 1). This is the greatest blow to his romantic
dream of him and Daisy being together forever because she
chooses Tom over Gatsby in a time of crisis. It shows that
the man that she truly wants to be with the most is the man
she is living with now. Gatsby realizes this and his life
begins to be pointless. This is his dream brought to
reality. The dream is completely dissipated and will knows
it will never be achieved.

It did not take long for George Wilson, Myrtle’s
husband, to trace the yellow car which killed his wife back
to Jay Gatsby. Because George Wilson wants revenge for his
wife’s death, and he believes it is Gatsby who killed his
wife, he goes to Gatsby’s estate and kills Gatsby and then
himself. This is the tragic end of Gatsby’s life. All of
his heroism, his rapid rise to the top, all brought to a
calamitous end because Daisy did not love him as much as he
loved her. Although Gatsby’s romantic dream was already
dead, his version of the American Dream was still alive and
beaming. He still had everything going for him; his youth,
money, and personality. Gatsby is morally superior to his
fellow East Eggers and Nick acknowledges this when he tells
Gatsby, “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.

(Fitzgerald 162).” To have it all taken away for something
he had not even done was the greatest misfortune of the
entire novel.

Gatsby’s death is made even more saddening at his
funeral. Nick tried to make Gatsby’s funeral respectable
but only he, Gatsby’s father, and one of Gatsby’s
acquaintances attended the funeral. None of Gatsby’s
racketeering friends came, nor did the “love” of his life,
Daisy. Nick truly cared about Jay Gatsby although nobody
else did. He exemplified what a true friend is and did what
only a friend would do for another friend. Daisy did not
seem to feel a tiny bit of sadness over Gatsby’s death.

This is shown in her not attending his funeral and instead
going away with Tom on a vacation.

“In the end, the most that can be said is that The Great
Gatsby is a dramatic affirmation in fictional terms of the
American spirit in the midst of an American world that
denies the soul (Bewley 46).” Gatsby’s strong desire for
wealth and Daisy, the American and romantic dream
respectively, prove to be the greatest reasons for his grave
downfall at the hands of a ruthless society.

Works Cited
Bewley, Marius. “Scott Fitzgerald and the Collapse of the
American Dream.” Modern Critical Views: F. Scott
Fitzgerald. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House
Publishers, 1985: 32-45.

Mizener, Arthur. “F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby.”
The American Novel: From James Fenimore Cooper to
William Faulkner. Ed. Wallace Stegner. New York:
Basic Books, Inc., Publishers, 1965: 180-191.

Scott Fitzgerald, Frances. The Great Gatsby. New York:
Macmillan Publishing Company, 1925.

“The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.” Online: School
Papers, Microsoft Network, November 19,1997.

Way, Brian. “The Great Gatsby.” Modern Critical
Interpretations. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea
House Publishers, 1986: 87-105.


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