F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel ‘The Great Gatsby’ is renowned for its exploration of 1920s America and more specifically The American Dream, despite its more obvious depiction of unattainable love. Jay Gatsby is an affluent man, residing in West Egg, which symbolises “new money” and perhaps the undeserving rich, according to those of “old money”. However, Gatsby’s long lost lover, Daisy Buchanan, is situated in East Egg, a symbol of inheritance and aristocracy- the pure blood of wealth and the upper class. Perhaps this initial juxtaposition of dichotomies foreshadows the ill-fated events to occur. Fitzgerald charts the degradation of morality and traditional values, either in the name of love, lust or greed, as he seeks to expose the idealistic nature of The American Dream, within the fast-paced, prosperous life of the Roaring Twenties.
Whilst many readers hold a great affection towards the character of Mr Gatsby, I personally feel a deeper connection to the over-looked character and narrator of Fitzgerald’s novel, Mr Nick Carraway. With Fitzgerald’s extravagant portrayal and the solar system of action revolving around Gatsby’s dynamic life, it is seemingly difficult to detract focus from the enigmatic and endearing man that is Mr Jay Gatsby. However, Nick Carraway, a representation of reflection and contemplation, resounds most heavily with myself, as Fitzgerald’s depiction of such a character exudes the value of observance and thought. Whilst characters ranging from Gatsby to Tom and Daisy Buchanan consistently fight for the spotlight and the role of protagonist, in a novel seemingly geared towards displaying the pantomime that is Gatsby’s successful life, Carraway remains a dependable, rational narrator and loyal, well-grounded friend to Gatsby. Fitzgerald clearly indicates to the reader Nick’s tolerant temperament, despite the fact that it is most often over-looked by both reader and characters, further intensifying Gatsby’s ability to claim central focus.
Furthermore, Fitzgerald portrays Gatsby as a symbol of the ability to remodel the self and the contrivance of identity. Gatsby is seemingly a young, hopeful and naive man, in desperate pursuit of The American Dream, using Daisy Buchanan as the driving force of his aspirations. Does Gatsby ever achieve his Dream? Can Gatsby’s achievements in wealth ever really be classified as the attainment of his own Dream, when his aspirations solely lie with an unattainable future with Daisy? The wealth preceding his strive for Daisy is merely the aftermath of his blinded desire for love and the reputation necessary to attain it. It can be claimed that Gatsby’s extravagant lifestyle can never fulfil his real American Dream, as indicated by the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock, as a reminder that his dreams are so close yet so far away and that no amount of money can satisfy the void that only Daisy could fill (how tragic, I know).
However, the novel’s delayed reveal of Gatsby’s skeletons, allows the reader to slowly realise his scandalous actions, which lead to the obtainment of wealth. Upon Gatsby’s initial encounter with Daisy, he painted himself an affluent lifestyle, in order to present the illusion that he was of a higher social status, thus enticing superficial, upper-class Daisy. Therefore, Gatsby’s true drive for wealth may not simply reside with the desire for money, but the desire for love instead. Despite the implication of Gatsby’s discreditable attainability of “new money”, the reader is still rendered sympathetic towards the more subtly innocent and vulnerable man, who loses himself at the hand of love, hiding behind the facade that is ‘The Great Gatsby’.