Essay, Research Paper: Great Gatsby

Literature: The Great Gatsby

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a universal and timeless literary
masterpiece. Fitzgerald writes the novel during his time, about his time, and
showing the bitter deterioration of his time. A combination of the 1920s high
society lifestyle and the desperate attempts to reach its illusionary goals
through wealth and power creates the essence behind The Great Gatsby. Nick
Carraway, the narrator, moves to a quaint neighborhood outside of New York City
called West Egg; his distant cousin and his former colleague, Daisy and Tom,
live in a physically identical district across the bay called East Egg. The
affluent couple quickly exposes Nick to the corrupting effect of wealth and
materialism. He often serves as a sophisticated observer at several fashionable
parties, yet he remains uninvolved in the hedonistic lifestyle. Jay Gatsby, the
man who gives his name to the book, lives in an extraordinary estate adjacent to
Nick, where he incessantly welcomes guests to sumptuous parties. Nick develops a
fixation and a selfless devotion to Gatsby. Gatsby is a dreamer, absorbed by the
past, and Nick reluctantly aids him in attempts to fulfill his ideal. The
impractical illusions, in the end, destroy Gatsby and lead Nick to see the
ultimate manifestation of corrupt American society. In The Great Gatsby, greed
and corruption centralize the theme. Fitzgerald uses the contemporary public as
a core of life for his characters. Gatsby’s intent to win a love from his past
by the display of lavish possessions results in annihilation. He was doomed from
the beginning by his avaricious wishful thinking. Gatsby’s approach to attain
his goal was encumbered by immoral manners. The way he made money, tried to find
love, and lived his life were all completely selfless, yet unjust. His
bootlegging business earned him millions but also repelled everyone from his
funeral. The countless years Gatsby worked to earn his fortune to win back his
beloved abruptly ended with a decisive close. And the lavish parties with
caterers, bartenders, and orchestras never drew his “golden girl” to the
scene. The characters of The Great Gatsby are in constant search of their own
identities—a second theme. They think that the only ingredient to happiness is
wealth and possession. At the beginning of the novel, certain images of the
characters are embedded in the reader’s mind, but as each one approaches a
goal, he or she becomes more absorbed in desire and shows a shocking change in
temperament. When Nick went to Tom and Daisy’s house for dinner one evening at
the beginning of the novel, Daisy attempted to make plans with Nick. She said,
“What’ll we plan? What do people plan? (p.25).” She acts naïve and
innocent with no sense of independence. Contradicting this episode, she kills a
woman in a car accident and goes home to, literally, eat cold chicken. She is in
constant dispute with herself; she truly has no idea of what to do, and her
husband, Tom, has the same dilemma. Tom believes that his exterior belongings
make him the “brute of a man (p.25)” Daisy says he is. After Tom read the
book The Rise of the Coloured Empires, he became violently angered by the threat
of another race submerging the whites. This shows that even though Tom felt
superior, he had inner self-doubt that he could be defeated which caused him to
react with rage. Both Tom and Daisy eventually discover the shameful history
they have so carefully amassed yet are still unable to overcome their deceit and
allow themselves to retreat back into their money and vast carelessness. A
corrupting effect of wealth can easily be found among both the established rich
people of East Egg and the newly rich residents of West Egg. The people of East
Egg, such as Tom and Daisy Buchanan, have developed in a world of money and hold
an empty future of purposelessness encompassed by assets. On the other hand, the
inhabitants of West Egg have worked their way up into the world of fortune, many
dishonestly, but still hold the vulgarity they garner from their origin. The
events that take place in East Egg promote conservatism and power; they are
moderately low-key and quiet. Parties and lack of refinement, on the contrary,
consume West Egg. When the plot is occurring in West Egg, the story is generally
fast-paced; when the plot is occurring in East Egg, the tempo slows. The Great
Gatsby takes place in the decade of the “Roarin’ Twenties”. Fitzgerald
splendidly incorporates the truth behind the 1920s into his writing. Looking
back upon the decade, a spirited vision of dancing and merriment emerges. The
high-class American society was in a state of celebration; World War I had
finally came to closure. When asked about the purpose of life, Daisy replied,
“I don’t know, but it has to do with money and lots of it (p.96).” The men
and women of the 1920s were acting impulsively and foolishly. Regardless of how
conceited one may seem, he or she secretly had no idea of what he or she was
doing. The corrupt, immoral things the characters in The Great Gatsby do
directly represent the high-society lifestyle of the 20’s. The three main
homes of the characters also greatly correspond with their place in society. Jay
Gatsby lives in an enormous mansion, which housed a large Gothic library. Nick
once observed the irrelevant quantity of books and how they had seemed never
opened. Gatsby’s house was full of expensive, luxury items rarely used as
anything more than opulent trimming. His house operated merely for parties—a
characteristic of the newly rich. Tom’s estate, on the other hand, was a
ravishing colonial manor. The furnishings were tasteful and pleasant. It suited
the Buchanan established rich demeanor. Nick lived in a middle-class house
surrounded by mansions of the elite just as his ordinary lifestyle was
intertwined with upper society. “There was a sharp line where my ragged lawn
ended and the darker, well-kept expanse of his began (p.78).” Nick knew that
he did not belong to the aristocratic community that he mingled with daily.
People enjoyed Nick, and he enjoyed scrutinizing them. Eventually, Nick even
grew weary of trying to understand the motives of others. The symbolism in The
Great Gatsby plays an immense role in plot. It binds the true significance of
the story to the text. “…wedging his tense arm imperatively under mine Tom
Buchanan compelled me from the room as though he were moving a checker to
another square (p.24).” Nick often makes reference to Tom physically
controlling people. Here, and in many other illustrations, Fitzgerald uses
symbolism for characterization purposes. More importantly, symbolism is used to
further the understanding of the theme. In order to get in and out of the city,
a train must be boarded; the train passes through an area referred to as the
“valley of ashes”. Towering over the waste-land is a billboard with T.J.
Eckleburg looking over the land. George Wilson, the owner of a shabby garage
shop in the valley of ashes, refers to the eyes on the billboard as the eyes of
God. The valley of ashes symbolizes that the world has become an isolated desert
consumed by the manufacture of wealth. God looks down aimlessly over this
grotesque land, seeing his subjects worship money, and He no longer able to
care. Nick, Gatsby, Tom, Daisy, and Jordan were all born in the west and moved
east. This goes against the usual metaphorical move from east to west, as
practiced by the first explorers of our country. The east to west movement is
often in search of serenity and utopia, while enduring the lack of luxury items.
In The Great Gatsby, the movement to the east provokes an opposite affect. Life
is generally thriving with possession, but omitting tranquility and morals.
Fitzgerald’s ingenious concept of this now obvious truth is superbly
incorporated into the text. Gatsby’s car ultimately connects the plot and
theme together symbolically. It shows Gatsby’s material wealth and how
glorious a life he must be living. Gatsby’s main initiative for wealth is to
dazzle the woman with whom he has forever been in love. As the conclusion draws
closer, the vehicle becomes more significant. When Tom demands to drive
Gatsby’s car leaving Gatsby to drive Tom’s vehicle, they switch personas.
The affair becomes evident to Tom, and he reacts with vulgarity and
irrationality. This is the behavior one would expect from new money. Acting as
one from an established background, Gatsby remains calm, yet forcibly declares
his righteousness. The primary symbolism of the car comes at the end. The car,
of wealth and power, causes brutal devastation to each character in different
ways. In conclusion, The Great Gatsby is a morally and historically enlightening
classic about the moral decline in the 1920s. F. Scott Fitzgerald fabricated
brilliant symbolic allusions in every line of writing. The book never loses
meaning, for it comes from an unforgettable, real time period in American
society. It is recommended for a person of any age, race, or gender who is
interested in understanding a peculiar part of what the modern world has become.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby truly captures the essence of American
literature.

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