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The Great Gatsby -A critical analysis of The Great Gatsby

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The Great Gatsby -A critical analysis of The Great Gatsby

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  • July 30, 2004
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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...