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Published: Tuesday 29th of October 2013
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald is a prominent American author. His novels and short stories are well-known all over the world and considered masterpieces of the world literature. Author’s father was from an old powerful Irish family. However, the father himself was quite unlucky and got completely broke. His mother, on the other hand, came from the most ordinary family who managed to get wealthy. Their background had become one of the most vivid examples of Fitzgerald’s childhood. Young Francis saw a clear difference between wealth and poverty, the American dream and its failure. These themes are fully revealed in one of the most distinguished Fitzgerald’s novels – The Great Gatsby.
The narrator, Nick Carraway, comes to Long Island after the WWI. He settles in West Egg not far from his cousin Daisy. Nick’s house is much smaller than those of his neighbors. One of them, Jay Gatsby, lives in a colossal mansion nearby. Nick gets very interested in Gatsby’s life at once. People say a lot of things about Gatsby. Some of these things are fascinating, others are terrifying – but no one knows which ones are true. Besides, Gatsby throws luxurious parties and invites an enormous number of guests. Of course, Nick accepts an invitation to become a part of this seemingly friendly society. Nick is an observer, and it seems that his actions are not important to the plot. On the other hand, readers can see that he trying to be as objective as possible has certain features that Fitzgerald disapproves of.
One of the most peculiar features of this novel is that Fitzgerald separates the narrator from the protagonist. They are not just two different people, which obviously does not happen in literature often. They are also separated by a wall of innuendos and different life experiences. However, they still manage to become quite close and start calling each other friends. Somehow, these characters match, and Gatsby starts revealing his story to Nick and, eventually, to the reader. Most myths get shattered once he shares his motifs with Nick.
Jay Gatsby is, of course, a dedicated man. No one could achieve what Gatsby achieved without resolution. He is wealthy, famous, and has a lot of friends. Though, none of these friends knows either what Gatsby does for a living or what his reason for these great parties is. They come, dance, eat, drink, and leave. They hardly even speak with Gatsby during the parties. However, he does not care. The only person he thinks of and the one he really wants to see there is Daisy; by circumstance, Nick’s cousin. Unfortunately, Daisy is married but this is not important to Gatsby.
This love is Gatsby’s major motivation, but it turns out to be disastrous for him. However, this is not the only theme in the novel. Alongside with forbidden love, Fitzgerald speaks about the American dream. Interestingly, the author does not romanticize this concept, as it has been done before and after him numerous times. On the contrary, he shows the distortion of this idea to its fullest. There are several aspects of the American dream, and they all let Gatsby down. First of all, it is believed that social background does not matter. Gatsby comes from a poor family and becomes extremely rich. Isn’t it the fulfillment of the dream? No, it is not. To begin with, no one knows that Gatsby was born poor; so, no one can truly appreciate his achievements. Besides, Daisy clearly shows that social status is quite important for her, regardless of how much money Gatsby has. Secondly, the American dream presupposes that one works really hard to become wealthy, not to mention the legal aspect. As it turns out, Gatsby has not been quite honest, so his wealth does not match American dreamers’ values. And finally, one should not just become rich but happy as well. Jay Gatsby is not happy. He has been waiting for this happiness for all his life, but it’s not meant to be. Even before Gatsby dies tragically, it occurs to him that this woman next to him is not the Daisy He Knew. The one he craves to be with is an unreachable ideal he lost many years ago. It may seem to the reader that, if Gatsby understood that earlier, it would be possible for him to escape death. However, the tragedy of the character is not in his love to Daisy; and not even in the shallowness and heartlessness of the society. It is deeply rooted in his personality. Today, we can call it perfectionism, if only perfectionism could be absolutized. The anxiety to live for his ideal leads Gatsby to dream about Daisy; but if Daisy did not exist, the ending would not change. He would find something else to live for, and this would kill him. This is a paradox of a tragic hero and Fitzgerald depicts it with masterly skill.
Fitzgerald’s protagonist is one of the brightest examples of a modern tragic hero. This person, who is good and kind in heart, makes a range of false steps, which leads him to a tragic end that he does not deserve. Not only Gatsby’s death is tragic. The absence of people at his funeral is terrifying. It shows the shallowness of social life and the vanity of our attempts to be liked. For all his life, Gatsby struggles for the major good – for love – but on a very small scale. That is why he fails spectacularly. This story also demonstrates that it is extremely hard to choose the right dream to follow. Some dreams should not come true as they are not worth it. Therefore, F. Scott Fitzgerald reveals that a lot of our inner conflicts are rooted in our life goals and ambitions, and this is one of the most important ideas of The Great Gatsby.