F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous work, “The Great Gatsby,” is a meditation on the promise and fragility of the American Dream. Any essay written on the book must explore this theme with crisp essay editing that sharpens the point.
Background to the Novel
Fitzgerald was born in the American Midwest and but was educated on the East Coast. While still a young man, he was pushed by the love of his life, Zelda, to find fame and financial success. Once he did, she married him. From there, the couple became the epitome of the excesses of the Jazz Age of the 1920s. While Fitzgerald indulged in all his new-found money and celebrity afforded him, he was also keenly aware of the underlying emptiness of such an existence. It’s widely believed that this personal experience was the inspiration for “The Great Gatsby,” which was published in 1925.
Meet the Characters
There are a number of key characters in the book, each of whom represents a critical aspect of the book’s main theme. In the course of essay editing, explicitly tying each character to the role they play in presenting the decay of the American Dream will enhance the discussion of that theme.
Jay Gatsby: The title character, he is the character than can be said to represent Fitzgerald. Born in the Midwest, but coming to the East Coast to chase his dreams, Gatsby seems to want to become someone he isn’t. He is the picture of the American ideal of personal transformation.
Nick Carraway: The narrator of the novel, Nick is another Midwesterner, but one with social ties on the East Coast. As the character that seems to straddle both middle America and upper class America, he is particularly well-suited to act as the insightful observer.
Daisy Buchanan: Nick’s socialite cousin and wife of upper class Tom Buchanan, she is also the object of Gatsby’s love and his motivating force. She is a symbol of the life Gatsby wants, but encompasses both its beauty and shallowness.
Tom Buchanan: Daisy’s husband was born wealthy, but isn’t native to the East Coast, which has left him a bit insecure about his social position there. He is a selfish, physically imposing man who represents the aggressive, entitled sensibilities of the upper class.
Myrtle Wilson: Myrtle, a working class woman, is Tom’s mistress. She’s married to a working class man, but like Gatsby, she also wants to improve her situation. Just as Gatsby’s pursuit of Daisy, his personification of the American Dream ends in his ruin, Myrtle’s relationship with Tom ends in hers.
Nick moves to Long Island, New York in 1922. He moves to West Egg, an area populated by arrivistes whose money is too new to make them socially elite. In contrast, the nearby area of East Egg is home to the old money and socially established classes.
Gatsby, who lives in West Egg, throws legendary parties each week. He and his parties are wildly popular among the newly rich. He shrouds himself in mystery, keeping his origins and the source of his money to himself. He also affects an English accent and mannerisms. His real motivation for all he does is to impress socialite Daisy, who lives across the lake in East Egg.
Gatsby and Daisy had met years earlier and fell in love. She eventually married Tom Buchanan, her social equal. Since losing her, everything Gatsby has done has been part of his effort to win her back. Gatsby wants Nick, as Daisy’s cousin, to arrange a reunion between Daisy and him. Gatsby is too insecure to approach her directly.
Nick has them both over for tea where they fall in love again. Daisy and Gatsby begin an affair and it seems that Gatsby may achieve all he dreamed. While they are having an affair, Tom is having an affair with Myrtle. Tom becomes suspicious of Gatsby’s relationship with his wife and confronts Gatsby in New York City. Tom uses the differences in their backgrounds as a weapon against Gatsby. Daisy ultimately decides to stay with Tom, an act that symbolizes the ultimate rejection of Gatsby’s attempts to live his American Dream.
After the confrontation, Tom has Gatsby drive Daisy back to Long Island. This act symbolizes not just Tom’s complete dominance of his wife as he’s certain now of her fidelity, but also his contempt for Gatsby who’s reduced to the role of servant.
However, Daisy takes the wheel and accidentally hits Tom’s mistress Myrtle with the car. Myrtle is killed. Despite being rejected, Gatsby tries to take the blame for the accident. Tom tells Myrtle’s husband George that Gatsby was driving. George assumes that Gatsby was Myrtle’s lover. George shoots and kills Gatsby at his West Egg mansion.
Both Gatsby and Myrtle are dead. Tom and Daisy have been able to insulate themselves from the consequences of their actions. Nick now sees the upper class world that was the emblem of the American Dream for Gatsby and Myrtle as an empty, callous world. Nick leaves the East Coast and returns to middle America in the Midwest.
While Gatsby is great for his focus and ability to create himself out of nothing, his journey and ending in “The Great Gatsby” indicates that Fitzgerald saw the American Dream as illusory.
John Grant is a professional book reviewer for several websites and UK papers.