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The Great Gastby

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Running head: THE GREAT GATSBY ESSAY #2 1

The Great Gatsby Essay #2
Logan Daniel Laabs
Madonna University
English 3020: Major American Writers (Tuesdays)

THE GREAT GATSBY ESSAY #2 2
The Great Gatsby Essay #2 The Great Gatsby takes place over the summer of 1922 and is set in the area around Long Island, New York. At first glance Fitzgerald makes a superficial statement about romanticism; Gatsby’s love for Daisy and how that love was destroyed in 1919 when Gatsby left for the war and instead married Tom Buchanan. The better part of the story shows Fitzgerald’s real theme, the decline of the American Dream in the 1920s during a time when prosperity and material excess was at an all high. Fitzgerald renders the 1920s as a time for low social and moral values which is demonstrated by the greed, pessimism, and need to ascend to power. An example of this is the large parties that Gatsby throws every Saturday night in order to impress others. The American dream seems to fade away with the need for wealth and pleasure dominating more moral objectives. This seemed to only intensify after World War I when young Americans came back home after witnessing brutal carnage. Another factor that lead Americans to desire wealth was the rise in stock market, which could have lead many people to easily acquire a small fortune themselves. Furthermore, crime was at an all-time high due to the flourishing underworld were bootleg liquor was in massive demand by the rich and the poor because of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919, which banned the sale of alcohol. Fitzgerald represents all of these examples by the use of his characters. Nick and Gatsby both represent the pessimism that follows after World War I, where they had both served. The attendants of Gatsby’s parties were the ambitious that were seeking fame and fortune themselves. Meyer Wolfshiem, Gatsby’s partner, and Gatsby himself both signify the organized crime that took place in 1920s since both sold bootleg liquor. Also stated within the first chapter of the book is the loathing between West
THE GREAT GATSBY ESSAY #2 3
Egg and East Egg, where West Egg is where the “new money” lived while East Egg belonged to the “old money”. Daisy represents the low social and moral values perfectly when cheats on her husband, shows little concern of her daughter, and otherwise can be classified as unfaithful and unable to have sustained care for others. In chapter 7 she lets Gatsby take the blame for killing Myrtle which shows just how honest she can really be. Nick classifies her as a carless person who smashes things up and then retreats behind her money. In Chapter 9 Nick reflects what has happened two years later and shares his thoughts about the American dream. Nick leaves the East due to its empty values and instead moves back to Minnesota where he’s trying to relieve the past. Originally Nick believes that the American dream was about discovery, individualism, and the pursuit of happiness, but because of the low moral compass that the people of the 1920s demonstrated, the American dream faded away. An example of this would be the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy. Daisy only seemed to the really love money and power, which is why she married Tom instead of waiting for Gatsby. Gatsby then dedicated his whole life to fulfill what Daisy desired, not realizing what he had accomplished. Even though Gatsby became rich and famous off of crime and bootlegging, showing here low moral standards, he was still a very wealthy man. Fitzgerald makes a very bold statement about what the American dream was like in the 1920s. Due to social and moral decay the American dream was no longer about individualism but instead about greed and pleasure. In my opinion, Fitzgerald has a large pessimistic view on future American society by showing that life can either be simple and therefore moral and just, or it can be complex and filled with
THE GREAT GATSBY ESSAY #2 4 self-indulgence and sinful. Through Nick, Fitzgerald exhibits that even through hard work and achievement people will continue to yearn for something they do not have; Nick eventually changing his mind about aristocracy and instead longing for simplicity. Self-destruction seems to be the most satisfying ending to The Great Gatsby. Gatsby could not see what he had done with his life and instead continued to waste money on extravagant parties only to impress a women who may have been charming and charismatic at first sight, but was instead moral bankrupt and incapable of affection on a long term basis. Gatsby threw his life away for something that was not worth what he thought it was worth. Tom Buchanan does whatever he desires because of his immense wealth and does not worry that Daisy will leave him due to the fact that he can shield both of them with his money. Myrtle exhibits how far a person would go in order to improve her financial standings, cheating on her husband for Tom whom she believes will help her out. George, Myrtles husband, is consumed with grief after Myrtle is killed and seeks out revenge by killing Gatsby, what he believes is her other lover then kills himself. Fitzgerald seems to have a tragic ending for every character in the book, which leads me to believe that self-destruction seems to be case for anyone, rich or poor. Ultimately the 1920s was a time where moral decay takes place in due to World War I, larger financial success due to the increase in stock market, peoples hunger to spend and consume materials at a dizzying rate, and large-scale organized crime as a result of the Eighteenth Amendment that banned the sale of alcohol. The characters that Fitzgerald represents show the deterioration of American values. Fitzgerald shows the reader the decline of the American dream, and very pessimistic about future generations.

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