Great Gatsby

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The beauty and splendor of Gatsby's parties masks the decay and corruption that lay at the heart of the Roaring Twenties. The society of the Jazz Age, as observed by Fitzgerald, is morally bankrupt, and thus continually plagued by a crisis of character. Jay Gatsby, though he struggles to be a part of this world, remains unalterably an outsider. His life is a grand irony, in that it is a caricature of Twenties-style ostentation: his closet overflows with custom-made shirts; his lawn teems with "the right people," all engaged in the serious work of absolute triviality; his mannerisms (his false British accent, his old-boy friendliness) are laughably affected. Despite all this, he can never be truly a part of the corruption that surrounds him: he remains intrinsically "great." Nick Carrway reflects that Gatsby's determination, his lofty goals, and ­ most importantly ­ the grand character of his dreams sets him above his vulgar contemporaries. F. Scott Fitzgerald constructs Gatsby as a true American dreamer, set against the decay of American society during the 1920s. This is the same world that produced what Gertrude Stein called the "Lost Generation"; this is the same world that T.S. Eliot condemned in "The Wasteland." By eulogizing the tragic fate of dreamers, Fitzgerald thereby denounces 1920s America as an age of blindness and greed ­ an age hostile to the work of dreaming. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald heralds the ruin of his own generation.

Since America has always held its entrepreneurs in the highest regard, one might expect Fitzgerald to glorify this heroic version of the American Dreamer in the pages of his novel. Instead, Fitzgerald suggests that the societal corruption which prevailed in the 1920s was uniquely inhospitable to dreamers; in fact, it was these men who led the most unfortunate lives of all. The figure of Dan Cody exemplifies the hardships faced by the dreamer. Cody is a miner, "a product of the Nevada silver fields, of the Yukon, of...
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