The Great Gatsby – Summary | Major English Grade XII

F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby – Summary | Major English Grade XII

The Great Gatsby

The American dream is the false lesson taught by the American society that money can buy happiness, satisfaction and everything a man desires. It is the belief that it is possible for anyone in America, however poor, to win success and wealth by their own effort. The American dream was originally about discovery, individualism, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s written in the American Constitution that every individual has the right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. This right soon took a twisted turn in the early 1920s which is clearly shown in The Great Gatsby. The pursuit of happiness soon turned into the pursuit of wealth and ultimately to greed. Corruption of values decreased the spirituality of life. Meaningful goals of life were deleted by material achievements. Liberty advanced collapse of family and social bonds and introduced sexual freedom. Money brought social rifts and hatred between the different classes.

Throughout The Great Gatsby, it is shown how social rift came between the love of two individuals, Daisy and Gatsby. This led to the eventual corruption of Gatsby himself, the pursuit of wealth, greed, and illegal deeds. Settlers first came to America with one ambition, a better life– a life in pursuit of opportunity, freedom, love, equality, and wealth. These dreams soon diminished as materialistic values seemed to be above all else. The family values collapsed. Tom is not faithful to his wife Daisy. Similarly, Daisy keeps an extramarital relationship with Gatsby. Myrtle Wilson makes illicit love affair with Tom. Gatsby does not show sympathy for his poor father. These materialistic values consequently led to the decay of the American Dream. The new American Dream described in this novel portrays a world where greed, the pursuit of money and pleasure are above all else. In the 1920s depicted in the novel, easy money and relaxed social values have corrupted the American dream, especially on the East Egg. Gatsby’s dream of loving Daisy is ruined by the difference in their respective social statuses, so he leads a life of crime and earns enough money to impress her. But even billions of money cannot provide him true love.

The Great Gatsby is a highly symbolic meditation on 1920s America as a whole, an era of unparallel prosperity and material excess. Fitzgerald portrays the 1920s as an era of decayed social and moral values, shown in its distrust, greed, and empty pursuit of pleasure. Gatsby gives magnificent parties every Saturday night in order to win Daisy’s love, not for noble cause. This shows the irresponsibility of youths. The lofty rise of the stock market in the aftermath of the war led to a sudden, sustained increase in the national wealth and newfound materialism, but at the same time created hollow, selfish, irresponsible youths. Additionally, the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919, which banned the sale of alcohol, created a thriving underworld designed to satisfy the massive demand for bootleg liquor among rich and poor alike.

The various social climbers and ambitious opportunists who attend Gatsby’s parties show the greedy rush for wealth. In The Great Gatsby, its characters are representatives of people in the Jazz Age in which there is the expansion of business enterprise and the rapid growth of material interests. The collapse of social values can be seen as the outcome of corrupt American Dream. The relationship between money and sex (pleasure) is seen through Daisy and Tom’s married life, Daisy’s relationship with Gatsby and Myrtle’s relationship with Tom. Marriage contract serves to Daisy as a different form of the exchange of her body for financial support from Tom Buchanan. She gives Tom her body and Tom gives her a comfortable upper-class life. Tom is a representative of the established rich class. He entertains his guests by showing off his possessions, including his mistress. Daisy has to be silent when she knows about his affair with Myrtle.

The connection between money and sex is obviously seen in Tom and Myrtle’s affair, as well. Myrtle enjoys material comfort that Tom can offer to her and like other men; Tom exploits this desire in Myrtle to use his money to buy her. Trying to grasp youth, beauty, and love by means of riches is a corruption of the once idealistic promise of the newly discovered America.

Gatsby thinks that if he has money he can recreate his past, can buy happiness, can achieve prestige in his society and can win Daisy. But he is unable to achieve all of these though he is enormously rich. Gatsby believed that once he achieved his financial goal, he would live a better life. Even Gatsby dresses in a white flannel suit, silver shirt and gold colored tie. Silver and gold are the colors of wealth. Gatsby’s every item are lavish with the smell of wealth. In the end, this wealth can not rescue and save his life. Thus this novel can be seen as the tragedy of the American dream.

Important Questions:

  • The Great Gatsby is a satire on American society. Discuss.
  • Comment on ‘The Great Gatsby’ as a comment on the American dream.
  • The decline of the American Dream in the 1920’s.
  • Role of money and wealth in The Great Gatsby.
  • The main theme of The Great Gatsby.
  • How does The Great Gatsby represent its age?
  • Discuss the novel “The Great Gatsby” as an American Dream.
  • How is ‘The Great Gatsby’ a story on the American Dream? Comment.
  • Comment on the elements of satire in the novel “The Great Gatsby”.
  • “The Great Gatsby” is a comment on the American Dream. Explain briefly.
  • “The Great Gatsby assumes that the idea of the American dream rooted in the concept of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is far from reality.” Discuss
  • What is Fitzgerald’s view of the American dream?
  • Discuss “The Great Gatsby” as a tragedy of the American dream.
  • Discuss Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” as the projection of the American Dream.
  • Discuss the novel “The Great Gatsby” as an American Dream.

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