The Great Gatsby, Book Review Example

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Book Review

The theme on the surface of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is that it’s a book about the relationship between a man and a woman in the 1920’s, but in reality the conflict is much deeper. The issue of class and how it relates to the relationship of old money and new money, or the new rich and those who were born into high society, is the core concept of the book. Most importantly, because the setting of the book is in New York during the 1920’s and the characters are involved in banking and investing, the topical issue of The Great Depression makes the story a commentary on the decline of the American Dream.

The story opens up following the narrator Nick Carraway, who moves from Minnesota to New York in the summer of 1992. He moves to a wealthy area in Long Island, where there are many people who have made a fast fortune in the bond industry. They are so new to wealth that they have a habit of showing off. Nick ends up living next door to a man by the name of Jay Gatsby who throws extravagant parties.  Nick attended Yale University with many members of high society, including a man by the name of Tom and his wife Daisy.  When talking about Tom and Daisy Nick says, “They moved with a fast crowd, all of them young and rich and wild, but she came out with an absolutely perfect reputation. Perhaps because she doesn’t drink. It’s a great advantage not to drink among hard-drinking people (Fitzgerald, p77).” While Nick was taught to be humble by his father, he is considered a member of this select group, but Gatsby is not, due to his poor upbringing. Nick gets invited to one of Gatsby’s parties and they strike up a friendship. Gatsby reveals to Nick that he once had a relationship with Daisy in Louisville, and he is still in love with her and wants Nick to help them get back together. This is where the conflict of the plot arises and drives the rest of the story.

An in-depth analysis of the book reveals the main theme of the novel is the belief that the dream one can become wealthy and buy their way into high society in America is a myth. Gatsby’s success in life is driven entirely by his infatuation with Daisy and his desire to reclaim her as his own. About Gatsby’s appreciation of Daisy Nick says, “He hadn’t once ceased looking at Daisy, and I think he revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-loved eyes (Fitzgerald, p91).” This shows Gatsby bases the value of all his possessions, including the value of his new wealthy persona, on how Daisy perceives them. When Gatsby finally achieves what he wants, and he is able to reclaim Daisy as his own, it is not completely. Ultimately, Daisy does not really view him as equal to her and Tom.  Gatsby is too blind to understand the real conflict of limitations keeping him from his dream.

Gatsby’s passionate desire to win Daisy back comes to a head when he confronts Tom about him and Daisy’s affair, he says, “She never loved you, do you hear? She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me. It was a terrible mistake, but in her heart she never loved anyone except me (Fitzgerald, p130)!” This confirms Gatsby’s real motives. The problem is Gatsby is a virtuous person due to his poor upbringing and Daisy and Tom are immoral creatures. When describing Daisy and Tom Nick says, “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashedup things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made (Fitzgerald, p179).” This early observation by Tom ultimately predicts Gatsby’s death, when he is killed in a hit and run trying to escape with Daisy, and she fleas the scene with Tom to leave Gatbsy alone to die.

In sum, The Great Gatsby is as much a love story as it is a story about the decline of the American Dream in the 1920’s. Gatby is a man who on the surface appears to have attained the American Dream. He has achieved almost everything one could want in a lifetime. The problem is he did it all through a focused desire to win back the woman he loved and lost when he was poor. The fact that Gatsby doesn’t attain Daisy is a message to the reader from Fitzgerald that you can never truly change your identity. Since the American Dream is that one can completely reshape themselves to be whoever they seek out to be and have all of the benefits that come with that newfound identity, this means the American Dream is a myth.

Work Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner Book Company, 1996.

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