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The Main Themes in The Great Gatsby

By Trent Lorcher

Understanding these Great Gatsby themes will help you understand and discuss the novel more intelligently.

The American Dream

A study of The Great Gatsby must include a look at The American Dream.

  1. A look at The Great Gatsby and the American Dream shows that the quality of the dream had diminished, according to Fitzgerald, and had therefore corrupted American society in the 20's.
  2. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness established the foundation of the American Dream. The ability of common people to own property and grow wealthy through hard work constituted another important aspect of the dream. For Jay Gatsby, all these things are embodied in Daisy Buchanan.
  3. The dream, according to Fitzgerald, however, had become corrupted by the desire for ease and comfort. Gatsby's dream is not realized, not due to a lack of trying, but because the dream itself was not worth achieving, much in the same way the object of the American Dream in the 1920s--ease and material objects--was also not worth achieving.
  4. Gatsby's quest for the American Dream is also symbolized by his longing to repeat the past, to relive greatness from another era, much in the same way that the American Dream as established by the founding fathers could not be revitalized in the hearts of Americans.
  5. Fitzgerald's cynicism and negative views of his society are representative of modernist writers.

Wealth and Money

Great Gatsby Party 

A study of The Great Gatsby must include a look at wealth and money.

  1. There are two types of wealthy people in The Great Gatsby: the established rich, who live in East Egg, and the nouveau riche who live in West Egg
  2. West-eggers are represented by Gatsby, who obtains immense wealth through bootlegging and other not-so-honest endeavors. His wealth is displayed gaudily through outrageous automobiles, amazing parties, and an incredible mansion.
  3. East-eggers are represented by Tom Buchanan. His money has been inherited. He's morally bankrupt--being an adulterer and a liar. He possesses only superficial knowledge, as evidenced by ridiculous regurgitations of hack scholars, and cares little about whom he destroys through his carelessness.
  4. East-eggers and West-eggers have corruptness in common.