The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby is more than just a love story gone wrong. The novel is set in New York during the 1920s after World War I, in a time where the American Dream is falling apart due to unmatched fortune and success. Jay Gatsby is exceedingly wealthy, desiring to impress Daisy Buchanan with his extravagance. The theme of the decay of the American Dream is seen throughout the novel in the geography and the characters’ relationships to that geography.

The geographical locations depicted in the novel represent new and old wealth in America. Before the war, wealthy society earned their money from family businesses or family inheritance – they were the really wealthy. After the war, it became possible for a regular American to earn money through the stock market. Thus, two classes developed: old money (East Egg) and new money (West Egg). This led to living life in excess and extravagance, ultimately leading to the decline of the American Dream. The new way of earning money and living life destroyed the Americans’ original dreams of success and happiness.

The analogy between the wealthy and the geography in the novel continues with the characters. Daisy and Tom live in East Egg, representing Old Money, while Gatsby lives in West Egg, representing New Money. The lifestyles of each are proof that Fitzgerald preferred Old Money. Daisy and Tom’s lifestyle is simple and Daisy possesses a certain elegance in her dress and manner. Gatsby, however, lives in complete opulence and is almost vulgar in his spending. In the end, Gatsby dies and Tom and Daisy move away to be happy somewhere else. It is obvious that Fitzgerald views the New Money as distasteful and in opposition to the American Dream.

The split between the two groups made it impossible for Gatsby and Daisy to live their love story. The greedy spending of the new wealth led to corruption which in turn shattered the original American Dream of success and happiness. Gatsby sought to impress Daisy with his new money, but his original dream of simple love and happiness was lost among the wealth and extravagance of the new ideals and therefore could not be. Fitzgerald is showing his readers that the new way of life in the 1920s could never achieve what the Old Money had achieved – real success and happiness. If one is to live according to the lifestyle of New Money, all he will get in the end is loneliness, emptiness, and death. Gatsby’s dream, distorted by greed, could never be realized.

As a novel, The Great Gatsby delves into the lifestyles of Americans in the 1920s, reprimanding the turn of society after the war. Fitzgerald places his characters in direct opposition to each other and gives his readers an impossible happy ending. The New Money, represented by the characters living in West Egg and by Gatsby himself, is proven to be empty and futile by the death of Gatsby and his failure to achieve his dream. The Old Money, however, is glorified by the East Egg residents and the Buchanans; they survive and move on to continue living their successful life. In this impossible love story, Fitzgerald shows that the extravagant, material lifestyle corrupts and destroys the original American Dream and cannot lead to success.

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