Essay: The Great Gatsby

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  • Subject area(s): English Language
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  • Published on: 6th June 2012
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The Great Gatsby

In 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald published his masterpiece, 'The Great Gatsby'. The author made up a town called West Egg, located in Long Island, and he started to create amazing characters with unbelievable interior conflicts and struggles.

The main character is Jay Gatsby ' a millionaire with a specific taste for exuberance and extravagance. He is very much in love with Daisy Buchanan. The circumstances and the social context condemn their feelings for each other, but they still find a way to briefly experience and live with passion their love. Throughout the story, F. Scott Fitzgerald underlines the struggle within Gatsby, in every way possible and with regards to several aspects of life. The novel ends with Daisy leaving her true love to be with her rightful husband and Gatsby finds his peace in death.

The Great Gatsby' brings up themes of idealism, excess, snobbism and decadence by drawing a portrait of the 'Roaring Twenties' and the so called 'Jazz Age'.
In many ways, the novel represents Fitzgerald's attempt to confront his feelings with regards to the Jazz Age. Very similar to Gatsby, Fitzgerald was driven by his love for a woman who symbolized everything he wanted, even if she led him toward everything he hated.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's visits to Long Island's north shore and his vast experience attending parties provided him with inspiration for creation of The Great Gatsby's setting. There are several theories as to which mansion was the inspiration for this precise book. One possibility is Land's End, where Fitzgerald is thought to have attended a party while visiting the location.

In 'The Great Gatsby', F. Scott Fitzegrald's most important novel, the author underlines the fact that the reality will always succeed in finishing and demolishing every dream, including The American Dream.

The plot is simple: Nick Carraway tells us the story of Gatsby and the mystery that surrounds the luxury and power he has access to. In fact, the enigmatic character is just a poor young man, a self-made man that has fought for getting a position that would allow him reach his only true dream. Apparently, Gatsby has accomplished what he needed: he built his prosperity and he is surrounded by rich, powerful people. He is, after all, one of them. However, all this is actually superficial and the truth lies beneath. Neither is Gatsby a truly aristocrat, neither are the decent and rich families noble. The novel depicts the high society, with its beauty, fake paradises, with its fine manners, but also with its hypocrisy, its capacity of using the cruelty, and most of all , its sordid living.

In its essence, the novel limits itself to what happened in the summer of 1922, from Nick Carraway's point of view. Veteran of War and graduate of Yale, Carraway belongs to the middle class and goes to New York with the idea of making a living by selling and buying goods.

Once he gets there, he meets with his cousin Daisy and her husband, Tom Buchanan. These two are having a peaceful living of the American Rich people in the 20's. Tom plays polo. Daisy simply exists, attends to parties and spends her time with her friends. They are, apparently, a memory of a world that the American Dream is thought to have left behind.

It's actually really shocking that, in its trips to find diversity and fun, Tom Buchanan goes to the poor parts of the city, far away from the magical West Egg, to meet with the wife of a mechanic. This thing seems to be the only one real in a static and empty existence, the only thing that gives Tom the feeling of truly being alive. The popular classes are presented once again as an escape for the powerful people that are fueling themselves emotionally, as well as economically.
But Carraway will also get to know other parties and hosts. His neighbor, a mysterious man called Jay Gatsby, organizes the most extravagant parties in New York. By attending them, he could meet all the rich and important people in the city. The ones present at such a party would take over the entire mansion, without even carrying about meeting the true face of the host, being sucked in by their social relations, gossips and appearances.
In the meantime, Gatsby walks along his own party, being ignored by everyone there, in a continuous search. His aspect reminds us of the first time that Carraway describes him, in the solitude of his house, reaching for a green light on the other side of the sea.
F. Scott Fitgerald was 30 years old when he published The Great Gatsby, an incredible fact taking into consideration the maturity he has in approaching all aspects of the narration. His characters are wisely built, with a subtle, poetical language. The novel describes the happiness of the days past, the certainty that those days will never come back, and the hope for the summers to come.
The choosing of the narrator is always important, and the first person voice of this young banker from Minnesota, drives the reader in the fascinating world of Jay Gatsby and his romantic affair with Daisy Buchanan, while Carraway keeps aside. He, like every other American, dreams of money. The economical commodity draws a certain sensitivity and beauty. Money has a special territory, in which the good and the beautiful combine with no financial limitation.
In Long Island, Nick finds himself in front of his youth ideal, and the summer passes by like a dream of immortality. He admires Gatsby seeing in him his pure generosity, the parties he gives and the love he has for Daisy.

Jay Gatsby, born James Gatz, represents the so called American Dream. He was born in a humble family and being a veteran of war, triumphant and entrepreneur in what he wants to do, he always seems to be excluded by those that attend his parties. They appear to be simple parasites that feed on him and the same time they deny his access at his own social position.
We soon understand that his enrichment must be because of his participation in illegal activities, but activities in which at least those involved have real feelings. Gatsby is a character for which we have to feel sympathy, he is the strange man captured in a world that takes advantage of him and that never opens all its doors for him.
Gatsby himself, even if he seems to ignore it most of the time, knows that he is fighting against the destiny each moment. His approach towards Daisy is discreet and careful, in contrast with the attitude of Tom towards his mistress. His parties are nothing but a charade, a way of creating a spider web in which he hopes that his pray will fall.
Once he believes his objective has been reached, once he recovers a Daisy that has only really existed in the past and now she is gone, everything stops to make sense for Gatsby. The parties that used to be a lifestyle, the reason of his existence and of his guests, reveal to be only a mean to attract what his heart really longs for. At that point, when he decides to put the cards on the table and claim what he considered it was rightfully his, the tragedy begins.
Gatsby thinks he has the opportunity to get back the same women he loved, when in reality she doesn't exist anymore. Caught between love and youth, those who still consume the old James Gatz, and her life as the wife of a rich husband, the choice of Daisy was marked by the society in which she was raised. She will not even have the delicacy of saying 'good bye' to her lover before she and Tom move out of the city, deciding to continue with their empty existence.
At the end, there will only be a solitary funeral, with a priest, one friend and an old guest. No one else will dare to enter the American Dream, to burry it under the ground and finish with the one that really believed he had managed to overcome his social position.
Like all the books that speak about youth, The Great Gatsby seems to be touched by a magical halo. All its characters have a little over 30 years old, and they are in that moment of their lives when the perspective they had towards the future starts to become real. The entire book is lyrical, musical, rhythmic and exciting.
We are in the Jazz Era, a word invented by Fitzgerald in such an early age of the 1920's and that is why we can consider it almost a prophecy. The words most used in the book are: eyes, automobile, train, blue, God, money, moon, roses, water, voice and white. The weather is really hot, the summer is with much humidity, everybody drinks more than they should and Daisy is enchanting but also horribly unhappy. Everyone loves the wrong person, there is aggression, adultery, violence. The overall impression is that Gatsby has a magical connection with money and he doesn't truly understand how being rich works.
There was a constant competition between the ones in the high society. The need of showing off their houses, their cars and their lifestyle was bigger than anything else. For them, that was the best way of keeping their status and fame. They invited other people over not to communicate or share a good time, it was a silent war to remain on top of the hierarchy.
Gatsby had a difficult time in interacting with people of his kind. Although everybody wanted to be near him, nobody wanted to be with him. They accepted him at some level, but they were reluctant in considering him part of the circle. People wanted to attend his events just because they had access to decadent habits and customs. They were impressed by the opulence of the events, but never interested in the story of the man that lied beneath that mask of extravagance.
The American Dream was more real than ever. Out of the blue, it appears that the money that was being spent in the past 10 years never really existed and all the luxury has been a fantasy bubble. The bubble exploded and nothing was left. Nobody wanted, nobody could take part at something that was only loosing its value with each day passing by. Was that the capitalism? The society made them believe otherwise. The investors remained poor and cheated.
Nick Carraway never thought he would assist at the burial of the great Gatsby alone. The image of an attractive Gatsby, a man that gave himself to the society, fades away at the end. He never really had friends. The only thing that kept him alive and in the game was his love for Daisy. Money never gave him happiness. He had a dream. And that's what dreams are. They remain dreams.
They are curious, the American myths. Rip Van Winkle, the man that fallas asleep and he wakes up realizing he has been asleep for 100 years, represents the amnesia of the American culture. Abraham Lincoln is the good, simple man that wins because of his virtue. Whitman is the eternal walker. Thoreau, the happy life in the middle of the forest. Jay Gatsby, however, represents the failure. To say that 'it is the failure of the American dream' is the same as saying that is the failure of Jay Gatsby. It is not, though, only the failure of the American dream, with his obsession for success and richness . It is also a universal failure of the youth.
The American dream is generally defined through equal opportunities and liberty that allows every inhabitant of the U.S. to achieve personal objectives in life with mere effort and determination. The prosperity depends only on the ability of one and on his hard work to overcome difficulties and not on a destiny dictated buy the social scale. For some, it is the opportunity of getting rich, for others is the possibility of offering their children a good education , and for most of the people the American dream is represented by living a life with no financial or political restriction, no race, social class of religion hold-backs.
The generic definition of the term appears in a history book written by James Truslow Adams named 'American Epics', in 1931. However, the concept of the American dream goes back to the XVI century. In the XVI as much as in the XVII, English pioneers tried to convince the inhabitants of their country to move near the British colonies in North America. The language and promises about these colonies ended up creating three long living myths that were different but at the same time related: United States as a land of abundance, United States as a land of opportunities, United States as a land of destination.

Throughout the novel, it is clearly shown that the main character is consumed by the idea of being opulent in his actions, parties and social interactions. He believes that this would grant him the respect and admiration of everyone around him, even if he really wants just one person to notice his achievements and high-life way of living ' Daisy.
His way of expression through clothing and social events is perceived at the beginning as a sign of wealth, however at one point Gatsby seems to try a little too much to leave a good impression. He is proud of what he gained with his own efforts and demands recognition among people that were born rich. Jay Gatsby is not satisfied with having it all, he also needs to feel accepted by the society in which he is now a well known gentleman.
The only thing that the main character wanted to obtain was Daisy's affection and appreciation. He didn't know other way of getting her attention other than with money. The insecurity he had felt for years was not to disappear with power and wealth. Being with Daisy was the only way he could really feel like he accomplished his goal in life. That is the reason why he never actually enjoyed the parties he hosted. He was alone even if he had a mansion full of guests. We can see that the parties stop when he gets Daisy back. That is the moment when he realizes that all he had done was merely for love. He only needs her. He doesn't need maids or servants to smile politely and keep his life altogether. He doesn't need to organize shows and surround himself with people he doesn't even know.
Jay Gatsby represents the American dream came true ' for a brief period of time. He is the young man with humble origins that despite the War manages to converts himself in a multimillionaire. He tries to recover his lost love and he actually reaches a point in which he seems to have it all. That girls who was never meant for him because of the social class differences seems to share his ideals and future plans. This is a story about illusions of wealth, grace and power, a romantic ideal. Jay is rich, powerful, he has the means to do whatever he wants ' he is every girl's 'Prince Charming'.
Daisy Buchanan is the perfect girl of that time ' an impetuous young lady, daring, attractive, liberal, rebel, she smokes, she drives fast, she enjoys life. Every girl wants to be her and every man wants to be with her. Daisy appears to be extremely strong and independent, although we learn to understand that she is in fact fragile and weak. She acts bold, but she never has the courage of fighting for something real. Her husband's infidelity makes her even more insecure, therefore she is afraid of leaving behind that sordid way of life. Gatsby offers her unconditional love and respect, yet she chooses superficial feelings and settles for fake smiles and social status. She would never have had the courage to give up the few things she was sure about in her life. That small, pale feeling of control was to disappear if she left her husband to be with Gatsby.
Nick Carraway describes how the life of his neighbor was: he had an amazing house, a wonderful garden, always surrounded by men and women from the high class, the champagne was pouring, the music was playing ' Gatsby had the perfect life in the eyes of anyone else.
The pair Jay ' Daisy is a symbol of an era of liberty in excess: represented the hopes of a generation that has just gotten out of the war ( and didn't know if another one was coming) and that was drowning desperation and fear in parties and luxury. Gatsby managed to obtain a certain reputation and title among rich people, but by getting himself involved in the lives of those people ( Daisy and Tom) he became to lack morals and manners. The reason for his failure were his own actions and choices.
The novel is a portrait of the concept of the American Dream in the 1920's. It shows us how it could be reached and it also shows us how everything can be lost in a matter of seconds. It states the fact that not matter what we have, we always want more. In order to achieve a moment of happiness, there has to be a balance between material and spiritual. As much as we would like to keep to the idea that love grants us joy for the rest of our lives, or that wealth brings us all the rest that we need (including love and affection), the reality is that these two aspects of life are co-dependant.
Reading 'The Great Gatsby' is to submerge to an era where the War marked the existence of the main characters and in which modernism is born in the arms of luxury and sophistication. A novel so simple but so brilliant, that in nine short chapters gathers the spirit of a generation. It's the promise of new starts, that combine with facts of life and accidents. These are the dreams that are followed and that help continue with a rather sad existence, no matter where they lead and even if there is a high price to pay for reaching them.

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