Failure and the Degeneration of America in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is a bold and damning social commentary of America

which critiques its degeneration from a nation of infinite hope and

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opportunity to a place of moral destitution. The novel is set during the

Roaring Twenties, an era of outrageous excesses, wild lavish parties and

sadly, an era of regret and lost potential. As the audience, they take us

on a journey guided and influenced by the moral voice of Nick Carraway, a

character who is “simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the

inexhaustible variety of life.” Nevertheless, when Carraway rejects the

East, returning to the comparatively secure morality of his ancestral West,

we realize that gaiety was merely a thin facade, and that behind it lurked

a hideous ugliness that penetrated to the essence of the human spirit.

It was during the Jazz generation that the common man, a man no

different to James Gatz, pursued the glowing icons of his age. As religion

gradually faded away, it was money that had become an object of veneration.

The desire to become wealthy was parceled in the form of the American Dream,

a savage ideal that was fundamentally flawed from the outset. The fallacy

of the American Dream cursed all who aspired to its promises while the

upper class enjoyed the luxuries that accompanied their status, exploiting

those below them as a means to reaffirm their superiority.

Consequently, James Gatz, under the influence of characters like

Dan Cody and Meyer Wolfshiem, underwent a self-transformation to become

Gatsby, a new man who was founded on his “Plutonic conception of himself.”

As the embodiment of idealism and innocence, Gatsby strives to cre…

…ut also the

destiny of human kind. It is a novel with a haunting tone that questions

the very essence of our pursuits in life and ultimately, the meaning of

life itself. It can only be hoped that we will heed this powerful message.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Berman, Ronald. “The Great Gatsby” and Fitzgerald’s World of Ideas. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1997.

Chambers, John B. The Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald. London: Macmillan/New York: St Martin’s P, 1989.

deKoster, Katie, ed. Readings on “The Great Gatsby.” San Diego: Greenhaven, 1998.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Simon and Schuster Inc., New York: 1991.

Higgins, John A. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Study of the Stories. New York: St. John’s UP, 1971.

Whitley, John S. F. Scott Fitzgerald: “The Great Gatsby.” London: Edward Arnold, 1976.

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