The novel The Great Gatsby is regarded as a masterpiece of American’s literature. Every word and phrase the writer uses seems ordinary, but the implied meanings are worth thinking over.
The novel is about a rich man named Jay Gatsby, who pursues his American dream in the 20th century. Gatsby did not start out in life as a rich man. Instead, he was terribly poor, a young man struggling for survival. As a soldier in the army, he met the woman of his dreams, Daisy Buchanan, who was from an upper-class family. They felt in love but their relationship ended because of the social gap between them. Thereafter, Daisy married a wealthy man, Tom Buchanan, also from the upper class. Gatsby was heart-broken when he heard the news, and thought that only with enough money could he compete with Tom. Gatsby firmly believed in the concept of American dream – the idea that one can achieve whatever one wants through consistent effort. After five years, Gatsby became a millionaire and thought he could get Daisy’s heart back, but he was mistaken. Daisy was not the lovely and pure girl he thought her to be. Gatsby was eventually shot because of Daisy’s crimes.
The author characterizes the then social trend with superior accuracy. People were not focusing on what they should be doing, as in 1950s. They wandered all day, wasting their aimless lives. They were addicted to alcohol and partied all night. Rich people decorated their large houses with fancy ornaments such as flowers and ribbons. They led superficial and extravagant lives, yet their minds were barren as ever. They were spiritually lonely and wanted to seek only pleasure and the meaning of life. People became far more apathetic and nonchalant, which can be clearly seen with Daisy. She might have loved Gatsby, but she prioritized social status above true love. She gave up Gatsby and chose a man with money instead, despite the fact that she may not have even loved him. She could flirt with Gatsby just as they were holding hands and kissing when they were reunited, without Tom’s notice, or she could pretend to be indecisive when facing the pursuit of two men. She married Tom only for his money and social standing. At the end of novel, Daisy killed Tom’s mistress, running her over with Gatsby car. Because of her and Tom’s social standing and wealth, however, Daisy ran away from the murder charge as though it had been committed by someone else. This directly resulted in Gatsby’s death. After Gatsby’s death, Daisy ceased caring about her old love, Gatsby. No one cared a bit about Gatsby except the narrator, Nick. Daisy was in many ways vulgar and superficial, symbolic of people of that era. They were aloof and callous.
Gatsby knew clearly what his goals were. Once he set a goal, he set out to pursue his American Dream. However, he confused a satiated and fulfilled life with high social status and wealth. He did not see the underlying change going on around him, over time, while he was busy chasing his dream. These changes affected Daisy profoundly, and Gatsby could never win Daisy’s heart back by merely appearing wealthy. He was too concentrated with what he wanted to accomplish, while neglecting the constant change around him. Gatsby was almost asleep in his fancy and delicate dreams when the strong contrast between reality and dream destroyed him, and insensitivity to this contributed significantly to his downfall.
Finally, another profound element of the novel is symbolism. Fitzgerald depicts the green light three times and the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg five times. That reiteration is not meaningless. There are underlying inferences illustrating the idea perfectly. The author depicts the green light in the mist to be obscure and dim. Daisy’s house lay across from Gatsby’s, as if it was at the source of the light. On lonely late nights, Gatsby stood at the shore, looking at the green light, hoping to embrace it with all his might. It was an incarnation of Daisy. At the end of the story, the narrator once more recalled the green light in which Gatsby had faith. It was so close, just a snap of a finger, but it was also distant and out of his reach. He could only watch it from a distance. His dream began to fade away, because Daisy was not his after all. Another important symbol is the giant billboard Eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, which watch over the area known as The Valley of Ashes, where the doomed Myrtle Wilson and her husband live. The blue eyes represent the apprehensiveness of that era, and are lifelike, keeping watch over the place where the death occurs. The eyes symbolize hopelessness and disaster, and show the downfall and distortion of humanity to the reader. Fitzgerald composed the tragic ending with intriguing symbols for readers to explore themselves.
The Great Gatsby serves as an alarming reminder for readers. It closely illustrates the potential drawbacks and negative consequences associated with pursuing an inappropriate and unrealistic goal. Instead, we should set meaningful goals and achieve them one after another. We should be aware of what is constantly changing, and seek new methods to cope with it. We should be conscious of what we truly desire from our inner heart. In this way, we can find true happiness, and not misfortune or calamity.