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The Great Gatsby Summary: The Idea Of American Dream

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald is one of the greatest American writers, who entered the history of world literature thanks to his wonderful novels about American life in the 1920s. Fitzgerald brought to literature, not only his talent but also gave many people a part of himself through his art. He teaches the readers the mistakes of his life, mistakes of his generation, and they carefully heed this lesson. With his works, we can evaluate an entire generation, and through his talent of storytelling, we live together with the characters of each story or novel. The main theme of his works is the concept of the American Dream and the American life that fully reflected in his the most popular and recognizable novel The Great Gatsby.

The Great Gatsby Summary

The American Dream could not but became a subject of intense interest among the American writers. From the very beginning, American fiction generally was living with the idea that the Dream was betrayed. The works of such writers as Theodor Dreiser, Norman Mailer, and Edward Albee are filled up with a critical attitude towards the subject of the image – a single American or some aspect of American life. The writers introduced a clearly made-up idea of what life in America should be. At the same time, they were contrasting the ideal world to the harsh reality. Scott Fitzgerald also judges the American Dream and bourgeois America in his novel. Together with the other writers of “lost generation” that were disappointed in life and results of war, Fitzgerald persistently tried to discover something human in a human. The aim was to find the value that can resist civilization that sinks in dollar bills, in which there is no place for true feelings and emotions (Seymour-Smith and Kimmens 614).

Fitzgerald’s main goal in the novel is the destruction of the American Dream – this desire for success and becoming rich quickly. The most important thing for the people, who profess postulates of the American Dream, is that wealth and happiness are identical. It means identical possibilities for all people regardless of their social status and origin. The notion of this dream embodies the idea that America is the only country, where all these things are possible. In the USA everything is built on that dream and it became a reality for everyone. Both wealthy and poor have an opportunity to succeed. You need patience and perseverance, as the dream requires hard work and the desire for something better.

This very theory Fitzgerald disapproves in the novel The Great Gatsby and his other works. The author argues that a person, who puts his all efforts and whole life to gain wealth, does not become happier from it. Vice versa, he loses his own identity, his spiritual world and as a result – the desire to live a full life. The author shows the tragedy of a man, who all his life sought for wealth that eventually led to his death.

The Great Gatsby Characters

The narrator in the novel is thirty-year-old Nick Carraway. He was born in the Midwest in a family of respected parents, graduated from a prestigious university, was a member of World War I. In the postwar period he comes to New York to study banking, to “enter a closed social system, to penetrate the world of old money.” (Little 12) Although, in his heart, he still keeps the dream of becoming a writer. He is the narrator in the novel and tells the reader about the adventures, in which he took part. Everything started when Nick rented an abandoned house in West Egg – the suburbs of New York City, where were the houses of the richest people in NY. The protagonist of the story is Nick’s neighbor, who soon becomes his closest friend. He is the owner of a large mansion with towers and a marble swimming pool, expensive cars and a huge park with flowers and sculptures and an enormous library. He is a mysterious, eccentric, but lonely and, at first, a suspicious young man named Jay Gatsby – the “Great Gatsby”. Nick Carraway is an embodiment of Fitzgerald’s true thoughts and ideas of real American life. That is because Nick is an educated and open-minded man, thoughtful and ironic, tolerant to the others and is welcomed in the artificial world of rich and wealthy that “was redolent of orchids and pleasant, cheerful snobbery.” (Fitzgerald 155)

Themes in the Great Gatsby

In front of the reader of The Great Gatsby opens up a bright picture of the ugliness of the bourgeois world. Jay Gatsby, at the very beginning of the novel, appears to be quite a mysterious person. He lives in one of the most luxurious mansions in West Egg. Jay is incredibly rich and almost every day accepts hundreds of guests that visit his parties. But neither guests of mysterious Gatsby nor neighbors know the real purpose of such generosity, the sources of such Jay’s capital. Frankly speaking, it obviously does not bother anyone. These people are attracted to the rumors that circle around the figure of J. Gatsby. The mysterious behavior of Gatsby only strengthens, when Nick Carraway, together with the reader learns that Gatsby buys this house with a certain aim. He wants to settle down near the woman he loves all his life – Daisy Buchanan, hoping and waiting for her visit. And finally, the author introduces the reader with the real-life story of the protagonist.

Gatsby and Daisy loved each other for a long time, but could not marry each other. He, being then a young officer, who was going to war – appeared to be a simple and poor man. Daisy was a daughter from a respected wealthy family, who could not socialize with a poor soldier. Gatsby returned from the war as a hero, but as before, without a penny in his pocket. After demobilization, he does not even what to buy civilian clothes. Without waiting for a loved one, Daisy marries a wealthy businessman Tom Buchanan. But after a while, Gatsby gets lucky and becomes a millionaire.

All the same, the fate of Jay Gatsby is tragic, as it was the fate of the poor. Fame, respect, recognition, success and even celebration of love in the bourgeois world depend on money. As was mentioned earlier, one of the postulates of the American Dream is equality of opportunities for all people regardless of their financial status and origin. Here Fitzgerald seriously criticizes the society that perverts the human relationships and true pure feelings. He reveals the society that forces a person to commit a crime and creates the tragedy.

The American Dream in the Great Gatsby

We understand that The Great Gatsby is the story about an ideal American boy. Gatsby survived World War I, being a courageous, strong and perseverant soldier. A son of poor parents, since childhood, he had not only to shape himself as an individual but also to worry about his future and pave the way to society. He had enough confidence and determination to build his own career, to catch a moment in order not to miss a chance to gain success.

To achieve this dream, without hesitations and doubts, Jay decides not to use a gift of fate – an opportunity to study at Oxford, which the government provides to demobilized military men. Instead, he tries to get rich on bootlegging – the illegal sale of alcohol during the period of Prohibition. He starts to live in a world “that is material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, [drift] fortuitously about” (Little 23). The death of Gatsby, at the end of the novel, happened no because of the confrontation with reality, but because of destruction, ruin, the desolation of his American Dream.

To make a conclusion, The Great Gatsby is not just a dramatization of the collapse of the American Dream of success, not the destruction of the innocent dream in a fallen world. It is a historical nature of existing American identity, its idealism, attempts, despite the reality and the facts of history, to believe in a myth to believe in the idea of the American Dream. On the example of Jay Gatsby Fitzgerald wanted to show the consequences, which brings an obsession with the American Dream. Gatsby had pure feelings and intentions, but a cruel and purse-proud society had no interest in it at all. Nick Carraway was both a participant and an observer of the events. He made a correct comment: “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness.” (Fitzgerald 176) In such a way they also smashed the life of the Great Gatsby.

Works Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 2013. Print.
Little, Matthew. ” “I Could Make Some Money”: Cars And Currency In The Great Gatsby”. Papers on Language & Literature (2015): 3-26. Print.
Seymour-Smith, Martin, and Andrew C Kimmens. World Authors, 1900-1950. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1996. Print.


  • Who wrote the great gatsby? When was the great gatsby written?
    The Great Gatsby is a 1925 novel written by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald – a 20th-century American short-story writer and novelist.
    – What is the great gatsby about?
    The novel tells the tragic story of Jay Gatsby, a self-made millionaire, and his pursuit of a wealthy young married woman Daisy Buchanan, whom he loved in his youth.
    – When does the great gatsby take place?
    The Great Gatsby is set during the 1920s, also known as the “Jazz Age” in postwar America. The great gatsby characters live in the fictional towns of West Egg and East Egg on Long Island. The actions take place during the summer of 1922. The Great Gatsby movie shows it very colorful.
    – When was the great gatsby published?
    The Great Gatsby was published on April 10, 1925.
    – What is the Great Gatsby about short summary?
    The novel is about a reach man who tries to win the love of a married woman with whom he had a short romance when they both were young. Unfortunately, she only fell for his wealth. The characters were mixed in unpleasant events that led to the tragic death of the main character.
    – What is the main message of The Great Gatsby?
    The main theme of great gatsby is that wealth and money can spoil and distort the person. The American dream is reachable but may have consequences if you act unfairly on the way to success.
    – What happens in the end of Great Gatsby?
    Fitzgerald was known for building many of his novels and stories around people and events based on his own experience. That is why it is a belief that he may have developed the character of Jay Gatsby on a real-life bootlegger acquaintance name Max Gerlach.
    – What does the green light symbolize in the great gatsby?
    The green light symbolizes the future with Daisy that Gatsby dreamt about. He stretched his arm to reach it, but could not. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.
    – Why did Gatsby kill himself?
    Gatsby did not kill himself. He was shot by Myrtle’s husband (Myrtle is the lover of Thomas Buchanan, Daisy’s husband. Myrtle was hit by a car that Daisy was driving).
    – Why is The Great Gatsby a banned book?
    The Great Gatsby book was banned at the Baptist College in Charleston in 1987 because of language and sexual references in the book.
    – What are the symbols in the great gatsby?
    Green light, Eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg on the billboard, Valley of Ashes, East and West, Gatsby’s Mansion, water.