The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald portrays American society in the 1920’s after WWI has just ended, a decade of unprecedented economic prosperity. In the book, Fitzgerald critiques the loss of moral values and the degradation of American society, symbolizing it as a “valley of ashes—a fantastic farm where . . . ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke” (Fitzgerald 23). Through the characters of the book, Fitzgerald exposes the American dream from behind its dazzling veil of happiness and success, and characterizes its true form: a mad, desperate and hopeless chase towards something unattainable, turning a once innocent dream, into a shattered nightmare, destroying everything in its wake.
The book is set in Long Island, New York. During the 1920’s, New York was especially prosperous, attracting many wealthy people and people whom wished to become prosperous. Nick Carraway was one of them. Originally from Minnesota, he moved to New York to learn the bond business. Through Nick, a self-proclaimed “honest man” who is “inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to [him]” (Fitzgerald 1), Fitzgerald narrates the book and introduces the readers to his opinions about money and society. At first, Fitzgerald deceives the reader to believe the illusion of the American dream only to shred it to pieces later.
In the beginning of the book, shortly after moving to New York, Nick meets his neighbor, Jay Gatsby, whom he will gradually get to know more intimately. Gatsby epitomizes the American dream. Once a poor boy from North Dakota, he slowly rises up in society and becomes stupendously wealthy. On weekends, he throws lavish parties where “the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions [are] forgotten on the spot” (Fitzgerald 40). His life is splendidly grandiose and he is in love.
The readers are also introduced to Nick’s second cousin and her husband, Daisy and Tom Buchanan. Daisy and Tom represent the wealthy: rich and glamorous but also shallow and selfish. They both come from affluent families and live a life of luxury, living in “the white palaces of fashionable East Egg” (Fitzgerad 5). Tom “had been one of the most powerful ends that ever played football at New Haven” and “his family were enormously wealthy” (Fitzgerald 6). Daisy has a “low, thrilling voice . . . the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down” (Fitzgerald 9). Together, they lead a carefree, excessive and transient lifestyle, moving from place to place restlessly.
However, just like the American dream and society, Tom and Daisy and Gatsby’s envious lives are not what they seem to be. Throughout the book, Fitzgerald reveals many cracks in the lives and characters of Tom, Daisy and Gatsby. The woman Gatsby is in love with is tragically, Daisy Buchanan. Daisy, and not the massive fortune Gatsby has accumulated, is Gatsby’s “American dream”, his ever-elusive goal. Having already...