The Great Gatsby -A critical analysis of The Great Gatsby

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It is all useless. It is like chasing the wind." (Ecclesiastes 2:26). The "it" in this case, F Scott Fitzgerald's groundbreaking novel The Great Gatsby, refers to the exhaustive efforts Gatsby undertakes in his quest for life: the life he wants to live, the so-called American Dream. The novel is Fitzgerald's vessel of commentary and criticism of the American Dream. As he paints a vivid portrait of the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald defines this Dream, and through Gatsby's downfall, expresses the futility and agony of its pursuit. Through Gatsby's longing for it, he depicts its beauty and irresistible lure in a manner of which the Philosopher himself would be proud.

The aspects of the American Dream are evident throughout Fitzgerald's narrative. Take, for example, James Gatz's heavenly, almost unbelievable rise from "beating his way along the south shore of Lake Superior as a clam-digger and a salmon-fisher" (Fitzgerald 95) to the great, i.e. excessive, Gatsby, housed in "a colossal affair by any standard... with a tower on one side... a marble swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawn and garden" (Fitzgerald 11). The awe in which Fitzgerald presents his awakened phoenix clearly conveys the importance of improvement, or at least what one thinks is improvement, in the American Dream; it is not necessarily a life of excesses and wealth Fitzgerald defends as the Dream, for the audience sees clearly their detriments in the novel through Tom and Daisy, but rather a change in the style of life, reflecting the equally-American pioneering spirit.

Nevertheless, wealth does certainly play an important role in the American Dream. With wealth, supposedly, comes comfort, as Nick mentions regarding his home: "I had a view of the water, a partial view of my neighbour's lawn, and the consoling proximity of millionaires" (Fitzgerald 11). Wealth, states Ross Possnock in his quoting of Karl Marx, is the great equalizer of inequality:

I am ugly, but I can buy the most beautiful woman for myself. Consequently, I am not ugly, for the effect of my ugliness, its power to repel, is annulled by money... does not my money, therefore, transform all my incapacities into their opposites? (Possnock 204).

Gatsby's incapacities, generally of an emotional nature, inhibitions preventing his successful capture of his long-lost love, Daisy, are washed away with the drunkenness provided by the dollar:

However glorious might be his future as Jay Gatsby, he was a present a penniless young man without a past, and at any moment the invisible cloak of his uniform might slip from his shoulders... He took what he could get, ravenously and unscrupulously - eventually he took Daisy one still October night (Fitzgerald 141).

Once armed with the lucre, however, he is prepared to contribute equally to the relationship, making it truly an equal relation of love.

Love represents the other side of the coin of wealth: as opposed to material wealth, it refers instead to emotional wealth. Whatever its plane of existence, love plays a pivotal role in the American Dream, in Gatsby's Dream. Perhaps love is the most valuable of the aspects presented thus far of the Dream; "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 88). Such is his love for her; the bootlegging Gatsby values this emotional wealth to the extent that he essentially abandons the material for just a moment, losing himself in the winds of passion stirred up by the swaying of Daisy's dress as she inspects Gatsby's lookout tower for the green light. His emotional wealth is so suddenly multiplied that "none of it [his possessions] was any longer real. Once he nearly toppled down a flight of stairs" (Fitzgerald 88).

Sharing the same side of the coin is the need for social acceptance. Gatsby prides himself on his openness; his lavish parties where strangers "came and went without...
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