“What techniques does Fitzgerald use to convey the central ideas of The Great Gatsby?”
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is primarily a social commentary on the state of American society during the post-war period of unprecedented affluence and prosperity.
Fitzgerald depicts 1920’s America as an age of decline in traditional social and moral values; primarily evidenced by the cynicism, greed and the relentless yet empty pursuit of prosperity and pleasure that various characters in The Great Gatsby exhibit. He presents a society in which uninhibited consumerism, materialism and an all-pervading desire for wealth have perverted the previously righteous qualities of the American Dream, corrupting it in the process. This decay of the American Dream is the central theme of the novel and is conveyed by a plethora of effective techniques, most notably Fitzgerald’s utilization of symbolic characters and geographical locations to represent various aspects and facets of American society.
Over the course of the novel, Fitzgerald conveys his observation that American society, particularly on the East Coast where the novel is set, is largely under the false illusion that wealth and happiness are interchangeable. Thus central principle of the American Dream; that every American is entitled to the “pursuit of happiness” has evolved during this period of prosperity, abundance and social change that was occurring during the ‘Roaring Twenties’, into the unrelenting pursuit of wealth. Upper class East Eggers give the outward illusion of culture, moral superiority and respectability, contentment and happiness that seemingly stems from their wealth. But over the course of the novel, Fitzgerald, partly through Nick’s observations, but primarily through the characterisation of the violent, racist bigot Tom Buchanan, the dishonest and irresponsible Jordan Baker, but in particular through the character of Daisy, exposes this illusion to be radically false,