Theme of the novel: The Great Gatsby

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To an average mind, the great Gatsby should look like the story of a man’s passionate love for a woman. But the novel is not such a simple narrative. The novelist weaves into an otherwise one-man story, a complex pattern of symbolism. Gatsby, at the symbolic level stands for twentieth century America, and his dream a set of moral and spiritual values and ideas. The failure and frustration of Gatsby’s dream is in fact the failure of the American dream. The idealism has degenerated into materialism, which the new generation considers to be their passport to happiness.

The great historical promise has been tragically replaces by attractive but worthless and cheap goals, in the ash heaps where the modern man is wandering like Cain, with no spiritual light to guide him. Fitzgerald had probably read T. S Elliot’s wasteland and seems to have been considerably influenced by the poem. The desolate valley of ashes is the modern wasteland. It is a place for the waste Landers and spiritually hollow men, such as those who have no sense of moral responsibility and no ideas or aspirations. It is a place for Tom Buchanan’s, Wolfshiem’s and other such men who swarm into Gatsby’s parties.

Gatsby’s dream is paradox: his dream by itself is noble, but the means he adopts to fulfill it are ignoble. Such a process is doomed to failure. His underworld transactions and dubious means to enrich himself are means patently wrong. He hopes to achieve good by wrong means, hardly aware that the evil means would corrupt the ideals themselves. The novel deals with the corrupting influence of wealth. In Nick we can find the voice of the novelist. Like a camera eye, Nick observes the corrupt and morally degenerate world of the East.

Long Island, sort of miniature East at the symbolic level is composed of two sets of society. Between the Long Island and New York lies the colossal valley of ash haps on which the yard high retina’s of Dr. TJ Eckleburg eternally stare. The East Egg is predominantly the home of the established rich, who look down upon the rest with contempt. Their lives are purposeless and they have almost nothing to do except indulging in trivialities and trifles. Tom’s remarks about the Nordic Races, and their superiority and the threat of the other races such as the blacks reveal his inherent pride, racial pride.

On the other hand, the West Eggers thrive on a different set of values. They think that wealth is the measure of all tings. Thus the people of lower classes try to look privileged under false pretence of ill-gotten money. Gatsby tries to realize his dream through devious means. The mask that he wears is soon torn, the new yellow Rolls Royce the symbol of the riches, carries his death warrant. Thus if the East Eggers are corrupted by their lack of moral sense and their carelessness, the West Eggers are corrupted by their love for material wealth, gorgeous life.

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