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Analysis of the Main Theme From The Great Gatsby

Updated on March 23, 2015

Love Story?

At first glance, The Great Gatsby might be perceived as another unfortunate love story, but the real meaning of the book goes past the façade of luxury, idealism and success. The true theme of the story diverges from the fairytale description of extravagant parties and the indulgence of the Jazz Age. The actual message conveyed by F. Scott Fitzgerald was the grim truth of the American Dream.

Fitzgerald Sets the Scene...

The main character, Nick Carroway, lives contentedly in his common house with his ordinary paycheck – making him the minority of West Egg, which is traditionally a well-off neighborhood. Drawn to New York in the first place by the overgrown stock industry, he finds himself accidentally corralled into the upper class scene through his connection with Daisy Buchanan. Daisy is Nick’s cousin, and he admires Daisy for her striking personality and demeanor that, to him, represents someone who was raised on money and continues to enjoy its benefits. After he befriends his neighbor, Jay Gatsby, he becomes acquainted with several high ranking officials of New York City’s elite who proceed to rope him into their senseless drama. He comes to realize that all these people who capture the envy of the majority of America’s working class, along with the same lifestyle that is the aspiration of the superfluous Bond Men – were not worth his time.

The Death of the American Dream

Because Nick had learned the truth. He learned that the American dream was dead, that maybe it had never even existed. He knew that East Egg would always be a home to people like Daisy, people who had always had money. And he knew West Egg would be home to people like Gatsby; people who were hard workers, entrepreneurs and achievers. The green light on the end of Daisy’s dock in East Egg served as a beacon to Gatsby, reminding him of where he wanted to be. Not just because he was in love with Daisy, but also because he longed to be recognized by the inhabitants of East Egg. He now knew that they would always be separated by the bay. And that was the way Daisy, her husband, and all the other people in East Egg liked it.

What Nick Carroway Learned in Long Island

The American Dream wasn’t real. The false pretense of “you can be anything you want to be” wasn’t simply not true, it wasn’t allowed. Sure, you could play a donkey wearing a horse’s harness, and you can be born in the working class and make something of yourself – but you would always be a donkey. And the people who lived in East Egg would know that you weren’t born with money. Nick Carroway left New York because he was disgusted. Ambition had brought him to the big apple, but Jay Gatsby had proved that ambition, and even success, wasn’t enough. Nick was a chaser of the dream. He knew that American children everywhere and the immigrants pouring into the country were chasing it too. Except the bay would keep them all from East Egg. The main idea of The Great Gatsby is that none of them would truly make it.


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