Three Themes in The Great Gatsby: Love, Money and American Dream in the Jazz Age

0 / 5. 0

Three Themes in The Great Gatsby: Love, Money and American Dream in the Jazz Age
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald is one of the best writers of the 20th century. His novel The Great Gatsby remains popular since 1925, with the last filming in 2013. From the first sight, The Great Gatsby is a novel about love and wealth. But is this the only its theme? If it were the only one scope of the problem, the novel would be unlikely to remain topical and meaningful for such a long time. It looks like “The Great Gatsby” is not about twisted love only. So let us take a deeper look at its themes. The theme of The Great Gatsby is a multiple of three particular subthemes. The general one is a concept of the American dream. Despite the fact Fitzgerald does not name it exactly, he formulates the essence of the idea of the founding fathers (hard work, equality and good ethics for all). This is how Fitzgerald describes the “Roaring 20s” in its masterpiece The Great Gatsby. Therefore, it is hard to limit the theme of the novel to only one context. Particularly, The Great Gatsby examines the search of the Jazz Age for its own American Dream. The reader is submerged into the atmosphere of the “Roaring Twenties” thanks to Gatsby’s parties (Gibb,2005). According to Fitzgerald, this era started “when the police rode down the demobilized country boys” during the May Day riots of 1919; when it seemed that “maybe we had gone to war for JP Morgan’s loans after all.” However, the era ended in 1929, with more than half the population appeared below subsistence level. At the same time, the richest one percent of Americans owned incredible 40 percent of the nation’s wealth. (Churchwell, 2014)
The first and the most obvious theme of The Great Gatsby is love. Despite the fact that twisted and unrequited love is not what people desire, it is still able to change them for good. In the novel, Jay Gatsby is in love with Daisy Buchanan. He was affected with love to her since young years, and this was the reason he earned money. 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. Sometimes, too, he stared around at his possessions in a dazed way, as though in her actual and astounding presence none of it was any longer real. Once he nearly toppled down a flight of stairs. (Chapter 5, The Great Gatsby) The same love is shared between Myrtle and Tom. Myrtle is married to the poor man, George Wilson, and is not satisfied with what she has. This eventually led her to Tom, who is rich. An interesting fact is, despite Tom cheats on Daisy, he still loves her very much. Hence the love shared between Daisy and Jay, Tom and Myrtle, is not really returned, or returned not enough. However, it is love that enhances good in Gatsby, even though it leads to his death.
The second theme is about the transformation of the American dream in the Jazz Age (the 1920s), the American dream, based on wealth, happiness, freedom and individualism were interpreted totally differently. The ideals of material possessions, immorality and bigotry invaded society. However, thwarted love between a man and a woman, unprecedented prosperity and material excess could not lead to happiness. Understanding of happiness became equal to pleasure, which leaves no place for good moral values. This led to overarching cynicism and greed. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And then one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. (Chapter 9, The Great Gatsby)The 1920s was the time after the World War I, when is it became easier for Americans to get rich. At the same time, social values in the society became more relaxed. It was the time of prohibiting alcohol and the time if the rise of the stock market. Therefore, it was relatively easy to become rich for people with different moral qualities. Both poor and wealthy families could sell banned liquor and make money on the stock market. However, not everyone considered this acceptable. Generally, the 1920s were years of corrupted American dream, which turned upside down from pursuit to happiness and individualism to money and no social values.
The last, but not least theme is a lack of morality of the upper class. In the novel, Fitzgerald compares two different classes of wealthy people. “The old money” came from before 1919, and represented the old aristocracy, like Daisy and Tom from the East Egg. On the contrary, the West Egg represents newly rich people, “the new money”, such as Jay Gatsby. Fitzgerald describes the newly rich as vulgar and lacking social graces and taste. On the contrary, the old aristocracy is described as possessing taste and elegance.”They’re a rotten crowd,” I shouted across the lawn. “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”I’ve always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end. (Chapter 8, The Great Gatsby)The differences between classes are brightly described by describing of their mansions and homes. While Gatsby has the monstrous mansion, Daisy and Tom own an elegant house with a garden. However, the old aristocracy obviously lacks in heart, as they are represented careless and inconsiderate people, who never worry about hurting others. Ironically, it is Gatsby’s good qualities (loyalty and love)that lead him to death (he takes the blame for killing Myrtle rather than letting Daisy be punished). At the same time, the Buchanans’ bad qualities (selfishness) allow them to remove themselves from the tragedy both physically and psychologically.
Just to conclude I’d like to add that according to the three themes, three conclusions can be made out of the novel. Generally, every idea and every feeling can change people to good the same as appear twisted and unmoral. First of all, The Great Gatsby contains nor totally “good” neither completely “evil” characters. Secondly, love (any type of love, including unrequited feeling) is a great power, which can change everybody to good. And lastly, not necessarily money make people’s lives happy as well as not all representatives of the upper class are really elegant and moral inside as they might seem.

Works Cited
Churchwell, Sarah “The Great Gatsby delusion”. The Telegraph.08 Jun 2014 Web. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/10862625/The-Great-Gatsby-delusion.html>
Fitzgerald, Scott F.The Great Gatsby.Web.March 31, 2015<https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/f/fitzgerald/f_scott/gatsby/>
Fitzgerald, Scott F., West, James L. W. Fitzgerald: My Lost City: Personal Essays, 1920-1940. Cambridge University Press, 2005
Gibb, Thomas “Fitzgerald’s the Great Gatsby”. The Explicator. Volume 63, Issue 2, 2005 Web. March 30, 2010<http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/ >